In my 17 years with Hall Kinion and Kforce, I often think how blessed and lucky I am to be surrounded by hard working teammates, excellent mentors, and committed customers. This mixture of people in my life has allowed me to excel and to achieve things I didn’t think were possible – especially for an extremely competitive guy with a bizarre sense of humor. So I ask myself, “Why is this? Karma? Luck?”
Growing up, my parents and coaches instilled in me humility and the importance of accountability, not only as an individual, but also as a teammate as well. I am convinced that my life experiences around adversity and hard work dramatically helped me become the person I am today. Again I ask, “Am I just lucky?” “Is Karma really on my side?” The answer is no. Well – maybe it is. The real answer is that I’ve always focused on Winning the Relationship – NOT the Deal! How can you win the relationship? How will this help you? I am here to simplify this with a few key things to win relationships.
Our parents, grandparents, their parents, their grandparents – you get the drift – have always preached to us to treat others the way we want to be treated. Right? Stop and think, isn’t that phrase the cornerstone of customer service? I believe so. To be successful, we have to provide excellent service to our teammates? How about our support staff? Yes and yes. It seems like basic common sense; yet, how come we see people in our everyday work and personal lives choose otherwise? This is the 1st step to Winning the Relationship. You have to be genuinely interested in seeing others succeed. I am not saying that you can’t have aggressive goals and be competitive because that is exactly the way I am wired. You just need to remember that you will NEVER reach those goals if you can’t build strong relationships and ensure that is the main driver in anything you want to achieve in your life.
Do you always take pride in setting expectations? Do you follow through on the expectations you’ve committed to? Or do you only do it sometimes? The answer should be that you set expectations and follow through all the time! Once you fail to deliver on expectations you’ve set both internally and externally, the trust is broken and judgment has been made – at least initially. If your clients or colleagues can’t trust that you will follow through on commitments, why would they want to work with you? Again, this is basic – right? I continue to see people setting false expectations because they don’t want to disappoint a teammate or customer. Individuals forget that giving someone bad news is much better than promising good news in the hope that the bad never happens. You’ll be surprised how much clients and colleagues will appreciate that you are not afraid to deliver the bad news or let them know you can’t meet a deadline.
For example, I recently had an opportunity to work with a key customer on a large project. After thoroughly reviewing the requirements and details of the project, I realized the risks far outweighed the benefits of the reward – closing the deal. I had worked on building a strong relationship with this customer for two years and the last thing I wanted to do was over commit and take on a project that could result in failure. As much as I wanted the deal, it was more important to me to Win the Relationship and set his expectations on why we were passing to compete on the project. By showing vulnerability, my client expressed how refreshing it was to have a vendor be honest; whereas other vendors continually say “yes” to win the deal. Even though I did not win revenue, I won the relationship by properly setting his expectations. In turn, I have found that this type of behavior and communication will yield long term revenue opportunities. There are other times where you will have to deliver bad news, which isn’t always easy, but it is the right thing to do. The key when dealing with this type of communication is to ensure you stay ahead of it, have a plan to provide a solution, and quickly resolve the situation. By following this on a consistent basis, you will continue to develop the skill of vulnerability which I believe is key in every leader. Being able to show that you too make mistakes allows many doors to open wide so that strong relationships can flourish.
How do you define the ability to listen? Does it mean talking to your key client, while texting your co-worker and responding to that important email? If you answered yes, then you might want to go back and look up the word listening. One of the key skills that most talented sales people have is their ability to listen intently. If you want to Win the Relationship, listening requires solid eye contact as well as the ability to listen beyond the surface level of a conversation. If you are actively listening then you are able to provide “real” and “genuine” answers to your clients and colleagues. For example, every meeting that I attend with a customer, I make it a goal to learn something unique about them and their family. Did I learn about my client’s 8 year old’s baseball game? Did I make a note that my client just got back from family vacation? Whatever I learn, I make sure that I document that information in real time as that is the only way that you or I will retain that piece of information – which in turn – will help you Win the Relationship. Once you are prepared for the day or the situation, meaning you’ve planned – then all you should be focused on is listening.
Not selling, but listening. If you make the conscious choice to intently listen to your customers and colleagues, you will be amazed at the response you will get back. In today’s fast paced, technology-driven world, people forget or don’t focus enough on building long-term relationships. The only way you can accomplish this effectively is by listening, being genuine, and most importantly – being yourself!
When you talk to your customers, are you really “you”? Would your friends and family recognize this person if they saw you? How many times have you purchased something from a salesperson and left saying “Wow, he or she was so down-to-earth and easy to work with”? Sure, we all have experienced this, but it doesn’t’ happen enough, which is why this will be a huge differentiator for you as you strive to Win the Relationship. One of the best business books I read was “Get Naked” by Patrick Lencioni. Seriously – I’m not joking. My best friend told me about this book, and I was actually scared to search for it given the results that might come back. A key lesson I took from this book teaches people the ability to be comfortable in your own skin. For example, in the technology consulting business we often hear phrases or new technology acronyms. When you hear these terms, are you someone that pretends to understand these technology words and nod your head yes to your client? Or are you comfortable enough to ask your client “What does JAVA mean?” or “I’m sorry Mr. Client, I am not familiar with that term, can you please explain or give me an example so that I can better understand the technology?” No one is perfect and no one knows everything. Drop your ego and be you. Don’t be afraid to ask a question to learn. I am sure that you all have at one time asked your wife, your friend, or your coach to further explain something – right? So, why doesn’t this transcend over to the business world? That is the question you need to ask yourself constantly to ensure the true “you” comes out which will help you Win the Relationship much quicker.
Are you entitled to success? No one is. This is a huge issue in today’s society as your answer should’ve been that success is earned. Over time…not overnight. I briefly went into four key and basic ways for you to Win the Relationship. First, treat others the way you want to be treated; second, set expectations – all the time; third, be genuine and ensure that you are always intently listening so that you are able to over deliver; and lastly, show vulnerability and leave your ego at the door. Don’t let yourself stand in the way of achieving all of the great things you say that you want to achieve. Trust that if you follow the above rules that I focus on constantly, success will happen. It just takes time.
Thank you all of for your time, and I wish you the best of luck in Winning the Relationship!