A few weeks ago Scott and I hit the wall – literally. After an unrelenting series of winter storms here in northern New Jersey, we assessed the damage to the retaining walls on our driveway, which is built into a hill. Clearly, one of the walls needed to be torn down and rebuilt. And we needed to get this done fast.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of contracting companies in this area. But selecting the right contractor was a job in itself. One didn’t have the right expertise and several more didn’t return our call for almost a week. It was looking bleak for getting the work done before the wall came tumbling down. We were overjoyed when we finally found a contractor with the right expertise, who seemed as interested in working with us as we were in working with him.
But the story gets even better. We not only found the right contractor, we found a contractor we now regard as a partner in this project. The owner made excellent suggestions that have already saved us time and money, and we’ve also worked together with his staff to successfully resolve several unexpected issues. Based upon our experiences so far, it’s highly likely that we’ll call on them for future projects.
Aside from getting a sorely needed wall and discovering a contractor we can partner with, this experience got us thinking about how it relates to our executive clients whose organizations are increasingly invested in having their own customers see them as valued partners.
They understand that unless they’re viewed as a valued partner, they’re not able to seriously compete in today’s market. Credibility is essential for this.
As a starting point, we’ve had a tangible demonstration from the customer’s perspective that there’s a huge difference between a company that says they’re a partner and a company that is a partner. For instance, our contractor never advertised that his company “partnered” with their customers. So why do we regard them that way? It all comes down to customer perception.
So how do you know if your customers perceive you to be a credible partner? While they won’t often tell you so in plain language, they will signal it through a combination of what they say – and especially in what they do.
Are they willing to confide in you? Do they tell you things that are on their mind that aren’t public knowledge, and are important but sensitive? If they view you as a credible partner, they are more likely to trust you with delicate information.
Do they ask for your opinion and then incorporate it into what they do? The frequency with which they seek your advice is directly related to how credible they perceive you to be.
Do they actively consider your “push back”? Do they act like they believe that your expertise and concern for their best interests make it worth considering your viewpoints, even when they differ from theirs?
Do they work with you to come up with new ideas and ways to reach outcomes? The more they actively engage in collaborating rather than simply complying or passively accepting your recommendations, the more they are signaling that they consider you to be a valued partner, and not just a supplier, vendor or contractor.
Were you able to answer most of these questions with a “yes?” The more “yeses,” the stronger the likelihood that your customers view you as a credible partner and will continue to value your relationship over both the short-term and the long-term.
What if you didn’t get a lot of “yes” answers? Look at the gaps. Are they consistent across customers or just with a particular customer, or type of customer?
Finding a trend will guide you toward areas for improving your partnering credibility. You’ll build more power and value in your partnering relationships.
Want to know what you can do specifically to position yourself as a credible partner? We can help you do that more easily and strategically. Contact us today.
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