How do you gain an edge in this everchanging business environment? Have you ever considered how to become the trusted advisor for your best clients and potential customers? I have an easy way to create significant value for your clients while adding little cost to your products or services. How can trust build a bridge to your best clients and partners?
Now that I’ve got you thinking I thought it might be helpful to understand why trust is so critical in today’s global markets. For many entrepreneurs it is critical to add trust to the products and services you offer your clients. Because of the rate of change and impending global competition, many mid-market organizations need to go back to the roots of what made their business successful in the first place, the intangibles of their business. Since I don’t know what your business is I can’t be certain what these intangibles were. I will still bet that among the reasons your first, and for many businesses their best, customers became loyal, repeat customers came from working directly with you and your team.
As business begins to grow, most business owners get pulled in a number of directions and forced to become more engaged in activities that don’t include working with the customers on a regular basis. Once the trend starts, in no time you lose touch with your market and customers. If you think about it, this intimate understanding of your customer’s situation allowed you to grow with your early customers. They knew you and you knew them. It was much easier to just pick up the phone when problems occurred and quickly understand what changes might be occurring in the clients business.
For many years, the business relationship was a partnership and both partners gained from the relationship. Over time, as both businesses grew, there were more layers of management put in place to allow for faster growth. Over time, both organizations lost the critical connection that allowed for candid discussions to take place on any number of business issues. Both parties knew the other was looking out for their mutual interests. When you saw a potential change impacting your client’s business, you could provide advice that would help them become more successful in those markets. You made sure that your clients knew they were getting leading edge ideas to help their business grow and prosper.
During the same time, new competitors entered your marketplace with a different model of how to do business. They were fast to cut costs and provide a similar solution to yours utilizing lower cost labor and materials. Clients began to evaluate your services based only on price. In the past, you might get the call from your client to discuss what was happening but today a new purchasing manager is in your client’s business and their responsibility is to cut costs by 10%. In many cases, your sales team has not continued building your trust-based partnerships over time. Many of these new sales professionals do not know about the depth of your relationship and how true partnership works. They have new business quotas that they must meet. They may not even earn a commission on the sales from this long term client. The system you created was more in your head than as an active strategy for client retention. As you begin going through your sales team’s projections you notice that your partner is no longer included in new business development activities.
Now here’s the question you must ask yourself, how did your business get into this situation? Can you do anything to salvage this long term relationship? What can you do to reestablish your position as trusted provider of great products and services? These are the questions you must consider as you begin deciding what you must do to regain your customers trust.
Starting next week we will begin talking about many of the challenges you face as a market leader and how to begin using a new set of tools and processes to help you create a stronger business, including trust building strategies to become the partner of choice with your clients and customers.