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Win - Win relationships always win

“I’ll get as much as I possibly can out of them”!

Many years ago that was the phrase that really emphasised how much I love working with customers, and all for the wrong reasons. I remember where I was stood, who said it and why they said it. It was nearing the end of the month, targets were being chased and an indirect report said this to me, referring to a customer's contract renewal, obviously thinking they were the words I wanted to hear. They most definitely were not and it showed me very quickly I had some work to do in changing the culture where I worked.

The rep in question was actually a good sales person. Very accomplished and took pride in the ‘science’ behind a good sales process. In fairness, by their own admission they were better suited to New Business than Account Management, or Customer Success, but I still questioned the theory. It was very, very ‘old school’.

My personal view is that we have to genuinely create win-win relationships with customers. We have to understand what success looks like for them and why they bought into our product or service. What problem are we addressing here and what is their ‘Why’? If we go down the ‘short-termism’ route and try to ‘get as much out of them as possible’ then we all know the inevitable conclusion. They’ll not see the value and they’ll leave. We might have got an additional few pounds worth of revenue but long term it’s customer damage, bad reputation and just not right.

The successful teams I’ve been around all have the same ethos in common. Really understand what our customers are trying to achieve, document it and work towards it. Use project plans to achieve and understand the next steps. Check back in and monitor progress and ensure value is being delivered. Don’t be afraid to ask what we can do differently and how happy they are as a customer, after all, if they’re not, then again the inevitable will happen.

At scale, with a large customer base, there is sometimes pushback that we can’t understand what every customer needs and wants, and that is correct to an extent. However, there are tools to automate communication and we can trend and understand our customer base so that we deliver collective value to them, rather than looking for the short term fix.

Even in terms of key milestones within a business, if it is pre investment or building for a trade sale, the principles need to be the same. If your customers are successful using your product then they will continue to use it, and in turn you will be successful. It goes without saying the opening line should be alien to all organisations, yet from experience I worry it’s still too common. One way to avoid this is to ensure compensation and bonus plans are not just dependent upon renewals and the associated value, but to encompass a whole host of factors. The best way however, is to ensure a culture where everyone believes in a ‘win-win’ policy. Transparency with customer objectives and their needs, along with customer advocates talking to your team about the value they provide will help infuse this across the business.

I’m sure the rep in question has now changed their view on customers, but I still think of that conversation to this day and use it as a constant reminder. Customers and a business win together or fail together.

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