More Promising and Valuable: a Partner or a Customer?

Still in the early years of your business and riding the revenue roller coaster? Yeah, me too.

Things are Really Fat for several months (maybe even longer…), so you focus on project delivery and all of the work that entails. Make those clients happy!!!!  Things lighten up a bit, so you take a TEENSY breather (maybe a couple of actual days off in a row….what a concept…).

Things continue to back off, you realize that you’re experiencing the business equivalent of “the pig in the python“, and you’re staring at a mostly empty pipeline. This is not good. You redouble your efforts on business development, lay out some ads, reach out to some referral sources, revisit your business Facebook page (wow….when was the last time you DID that!?), hit those chamber of commerce lunches, contact some leads, and engineer an email campaign, but getting meetings is hard and they all seem to be too busy or in “let’s talk in about 60 days or so” mode.

Again, not so good.

Take a step back. What’s your mindset here? You’re not QUITE in full Panic Mode (not yet, anyway….), so you can certainly afford some pondering time. Take a hard look at how you are thinking of and approaching these leads. Are you focused on the transaction that gets you that next project or sale, or are you nurturing a relationship that builds trust and enables you to work with this business owner as a peer and partner?

The saying goes that it’s much easier to keep a client that get a new one. That isn’t to say that you build a short list of, say, ten businesses you work with, and then level off there…..oh, no. But, what foundation do you set? How do you interact with them from the beginning onward and grow?

Every business is interested in growth and revenue….yours AND the person you’re meeting with! If you’re only focusing on the transaction, the “Client” relationship, you’re really only focusing on your interests, not theirs. Don’t you think they can tell that in the conversation? How do you think they react to that and what the likely outcome may be?

What does it feel and sound like if the discussion and relationship starts out with building trust and focusing on a peer partnership? It turns more on what the Business and Personal Financial/Non-Financial goals are for the person and the business. Does it become more about how we work to achieve those together? Does it become less about “The Sale” and more about “The Enablement and Achievement” of those goals? Who wants a workman or a vendor when they could get a Real Expert Partner to help them really get there? The latter is going to invest more effort and insight, both targeted and overall, than someone who can only hand-off a set of discrete deliverables that may or may not provide the foundation, the engine, the flexibility, and the wise navigation needed to reach that vision….together.

As you’re preparing for that next meeting, think about the hallmarks of a healthy relationship: interest in equality, realization (in a business context) that you’re better together in reaching those goals, mutual respect, honesty and authenticity (including the special permission to deliver bad news while at the same time deepening the relationship as a result, since the trust is stronger than the bad news…), and listening for the thoughts behind the words spoken. This takes a familiarity that is built over time and takes work.

Are you willing to to all this to gain that kind of business? I want to work with real partners, not just have a list of customers.

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