Partnering Alliance Collaboration

Five Partnering Success Articles

Ed Rigsbee was an early author on the topic of partnering success. His first book, “The Art of Partnering” was published in 1994. His second, “Developing Strategic Alliances” was published in 1999, and his third, “PartnerShift” in 2000. He has continued to write on the topic, deliver keynotes and workshops, and consult with corporations and non-profits.

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Partnering

The Art of Partnering by Ed Rigsbee

Article #1 of 5

Total Organizational Partnering for Your Success

Are you tired of adversary business relationships draining your energy? If so, it’s time to consider a new way of conducting business. In this, and in future articles, my goal is to share with you the Power of Partnering. Partnering, as I define it, is the process of two or more entities coming together to create synergistic solutions to their mutual challenges. To adopt Total Organizational

Partnering as your management strategy, you’ll need to understand the Partnering Pentad (group of five). To give you a visual, see in your mind a five-leg star and each of the areas below represent a leg.

  1. The Synergistic Alliance is what many consider Partnering and simply stop here. This is the leg of your business where you develop external alliances with others. These could include: purchasing, R&D, manufacturing, employee sharing, distribution, marketing, advertising and the list continues.

By sharing your core strengths with others and theirs with you, both can create an environment of synergy.

  1. Partnering with your suppliers is essential for companies wanting just-in-time manufacturing (JIT) and electronic data interchange (EDI). I frequently here suppliers making this comment about their customers, “They’re talking marriage but acting one night stand.” Whether you’re a dealer, distributor, or manufacturer, you had better start developing long-term relationships.
Developing Strategic Alliances by Ed Rigsbee, published by Crisp Publications 1999

Developing Strategic Alliances by Ed Rigsbee

  1. Partnering with your customers is the leg of outward focus. You must be customer/market driven rather than product/service driven to understand what your customers want. Your customers will spend if they feel they’re receiving good value. This is crucial if you are interested in Integrated Supply.

  2. Partnering with your employees, to many businesses is a non-issue, meaning that they don’t. If you want your employees to have Emotional Ownership in the success of your business, you must create a climate of empowerment for them. Empowerment means giving authority and encouragement.

Then, employees will accept the responsibility.

  1. You, the Owner or Executive as the Optimal Partner. This is the final and arguably, the most important leg. Not from the perspective that all revolves around you, but rather that you determine your company’s culture. The coveted center of the star you are visualizing is reserved for the relationships that bind all the legs of the Partnering Pentad.

Article #2 of 5

The Ten Critical Qualities in Selecting an Alliance Partner

PartnerShift by Ed Rigsbee, published by Wiley & Sons 2000

PartnerShift by Ed Rigsbee

If you think partnering success might be for you, selecting the right alliance partner is generally the difference between alliance failure and success. Be certain your alliance partner exhibits most of the following qualities.

Wants to win. There is no reason to partner with a looser. A weak relationship will only bring you down. You and your partner must have a desire to win, to want to do better, to be useful in creating a synergistic relationship.
Know they are ultimately responsible for their own success. Look for partners who understand the value of synergistic partnering relationships. While accountability goes both ways in partnering, in the end, we are each individually accountable for our own success.
Is an active listener. To keep an alliance healthy, active listening is important. This helps each partner to know what the other needs. Alertness from both sides equals mutual success.
Understands and cares about what drives their partner’s businesses. Each partner must do things that consistently give value to the relationship and their partner. The only way you can effectively add value to your partner’s business is to know what your partner considers valuable.
Responds well to, and acts on feedback. To move forward, leaders must be willing to accept counsel. None of us know it all. Just think how special your partnering relationship would be if your partner never acted on your ideas.
Flexible, especially when events or circumstances are not what was expected. If you, or your partner, don’t have the ability to change direction when the road ahead is washed out, failure is certain.
Trust and integrity. Once the fabric of trust is ripped apart, although it may be repaired, the blemish will always show. You will always have it in your mind that it is not if, but when, they will do it to you again.
Seeks win-win arrangements and solutions. You and your partner must believe that you are working toward a bigger pie, not just a bigger piece of the pie.
Understands that partnering is a relationship of interdependence. It’s not about dependence or independence? Visualize your partner and yourself as partially overlapping circles.
Great chemistry. If you like each other, you’ll work hard to overcome conflict and make your alliance work long-term.
Now grade your potential partner in each area on a 1 to 10 scale, add it up and now you have a baseline potential partner grade. By the way, they should do the same on you. The greater the circles of interest overlap, the greater the value each sees in the relationship.

Article #3 of 5

Partnering Pitfalls, Land Mines & Roadblocks

Alliance mortality rates hover at about half. Be realistic with your expectations of others and your total partnering success. As with a spouse, partnering alliance members don’t change with time. If you suspect core problems at the onset, you probably are accurate in your assessment. Do not try to build relationships on a foundation of quick sand. Watch out and try to avoid the downside of partnering. Let’s look at some partnering killers you’ll want to avoid:

  • Underestimating the complexity of coordinating and integrating corporate resources, and overestimating your partner’s abilities to achieve the end result.
  • Situations where a customer is the driving force behind a partnering arrangement. Be sure to examine each proposal in the context of your company’s overall partnering strategy.
  • Not having access to the employees of your alliance partners. The closer the planned relationship between the two companies, the greater the importance of the linkages between them.
  • When a large company partners with a small, the interaction between companies becomes a challenge. Representatives of the small are usually top executives, but representatives from the giant must take a proposal up the chain of command. This policy can become frustrating for the small company.
  • One partner not completely embracing the principles of partnering at the top level or even in departments, divisions or regions while the other does.
  • Partners have different core values like trust and integrity or there are corporate culture clashes, employee turf protection, and resistance of some employees to new ideas, these issues can wreak havoc.
  • Partners internal reward structure. In partnering with customers or suppliers traditional reward for buyers comes with wringing out concessions from the seller and by showing that their efforts had achieved cost reductions. On the flip side, sellers usually reward for sales performance.
  • Having a third party that is not willing to playing ball. All the members of a partnering agreement will have to “give a little” for the agreement to work.
  • If a partner receives unfavorable media coverage you are pulled into the picture. Real or perceived, image and reputation are critical to a company’s success.

When sitting down at the partnering success table a partner might find the partnering seat uncomfortable. It could be that your partner has a different level of emotional and physical comfort, or sometimes it is simply a change in corporate strategy or a restructuring which leads away from a partner’s product and/or technology causing the partners distress.

After making a partnering success commitment, a partner may have a hidden agenda or decide they don’t like or want to follow through with that which they committed, or does not have the capability to do what is necessary.
Contracts with an overseas market, for instance, often take a long time to finalize. By the time you get going, in the technology industries, your competition may have already started.

There can be difficulty in communicating across various time zones. Solving problems quickly when your partnering factory is located halfway around the world is hard enough when you speak the same language. Add the increased difficulty of language barriers, and major challenges can emanate from the alliance.
The disloyalty that can occur when you try to partner with a potential or current customer and have them renege on the promise of purchasing from you after you have delivered complementary or introductory training.
When unequal dependence in a relationship occurs, the partner with the least dependence could be less likely to compromise and expend energy into the relationship.

Complacency is an insidious partnering success relationship-killer. Continuously ask questions in a way that encourages partners to relate problems and shortcomings. Ask, “What have we not done lately?”
Meanings assigned to words by different cultures can cause serious problems. Does quick delivery mean today, this week, this month or this year?

Unrealistic expectations of any partner’s capabilities these areas include: technology, research, production skills, marketing might, and financial backing.

Article #4 of 5

Shall We Start The Partnering Process?

For partnering success, both external and internal partnering are necessary in developing a complete management strategy. I call this Total Organizational Partnering. The Partnering Pentad (alliances, suppliers, customers, employees, and management) is the conduit, and will assist you to accomplish your partnering goals. Follow these steps to partnering success.

Step 1: Monitor.

Study your business, observe, and identify areas for improvement. Also, take inventory of core strengths that might be valuable to a potential alliance partner. Specifically, define what it is that you want and help others to define what they want and help them to achieve it as quickly as possible. For partnering success, study other industries that have embraced partnering along with the individual companies that have been successful with partnering. Study what worked and what did not.

Step 2: Educate.

Learn about companies you might consider for partnering success arrangements. Look for arrangements that create a win-win result for all who participate. Ask yourself and your management team these questions: What are their strengths and weaknesses? What effect would they have on our business and vice versa? Be sure that the company cultures are complementary and that the people who will be in charge of the relationship can get along.

Step 3: Select.

This is the critical step. All your future efforts will be built on your selection. Search for the strongest alliance members for your partnering success foundation. Customer-oriented culture is critical to the success of the partnering alliance. The greater the sophistication of a company and its officers, the more likely a company will enter into partnering. Keep this in mind when making your selection. Embrace long-term thinking. Partnering is rarely a quick fix, but a sound long-term business strategy. Target companies, large or small, that can aid you in rapidly and efficiently, reaching the goals of research, technology, production and marketing.

Step 4: Organize.

Now you’re to the point of identifying, understanding, and putting together the possibilities for your alliance. Work with internal and external personnel to develop not only your partnering structure, but also your road map. Success in blending of cultures is pivotal. Take great pains to insure this achievement. Access is crucial! Create a convenient communication system for all partners, especially decision makers. Plan procedures to keep relationships between key people of partnering companies open and constantly alive.

Look into the future, plan for the long-term relationship and encourage strategies that will sustain the relationship through to its conclusion. Phasing in the partnering relationship could be a preferred strategy, as this method will allow partners to have a “get acquainted” time. This can assist in the identification of reaching milestones, successfully or identify the need to reassess before moving on to a higher level in the relationship.

Step 5: Charter.

This is the agreement, whether it is a handshake or actual contract. Even so, I strongly urge all partnering alliances to put their agreements on paper. Having each alliance member’s commitment to the other on paper will smooth a path through the potholes of partnering. Also, your charter should explain conflict resolution. Being ready for conflict will make resolution more timely and amiably.

Develop a clear agreement on what your goals are and make sure they are measurable for partnering success. Have a formal mechanism for alliance members to identify the goals, milestones, and turning points crucial to the success of the relationship. Devise some form of evaluation that will measure how well plans have been implemented. Additionally, consider having the partnering agreement include forms of dispute resolution for more formal arrangements, along with exit strategies as partnering safety valves.

Step 6: Post Agreement.

Regularly review your partnering efforts through value updates. Discuss the value you receive, the value you believe your partner receives and vice versa from the relationship. This will help in determining if relationships should be upgraded, maintained, or downgraded. Discuss opportunities for improvement and ways to enhance performance.

What you really want to build is Outrageously Successful Relationships (OSRs) in all five Partnering Pentad areas. Again, this is Total Organizational Partnering. The benefits generally outweigh the pitfalls if you’re careful. The ability to successfully adopt the partnering paradigm philosophy is the first challenge of partnering. And, Partnering is only for the mature.

Article #5 of 5

The Necessary Core Values To Build Outrageously Successful Relationships (OSRs)

Outrageously Successful Relationships (OSRs), for partnering success in business are based on the desire to create synergy between multiple entities. Five Partnering Core Values support the foundation of such relationships. To build OSRs, integrate the following five core values into your paradigm of operation and you will experience wizardry for yourself and others!

1. Trust

This is having confidence, reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of another person or thing. It’s also the glue that binds a relationship. For successful business relationships, trust is necessary to move from inertia to action. Trust is that wonderful, mystical and cherished virtue hoped for and shared among practitioners of what I call the Partnering Paradigm.

In trust, you’re continually putting yourself at risk. It’s the process of taking risks necessary in building relationships. At times you are certain to be disappointed, but hopefully these disappointments will be few, compared to the availability of beneficial experiences.

2. Tolerance & Understanding

It’s unfortunate, but the words tolerance and understanding, have become a cliché that too easily rolls off the tongue in business conversations. For business OSRs to work, this core value must be cherished and practiced by all. When you can accept the value of an idea rather than be concerned by whose inspiration it was conceived, you would truly exhibit tolerance and understanding.

3. Cooperation & Growth

In my relationship seminars, I lead an exercise where several people are standing in a circle, facing center, blindfolded, and holding a rope. Then I tell them to make a square. I use this exercise to show how much more is possible when participants work together rather than separately. This is only possible when they adopt an attitude of cooperation. During the rope exercise, it is always interesting who shows up as the leader to make the square. It’s not always the person who signs the paychecks. Growth is the natural outcropping of this exercise because participants see each other in a new light.

4. Caring & Commitment

Caring about a business relationship is essential in making a commitment to its success. This is what will usually smooth out the potholes on the road to OSRs. It’s this element that allows others to voice their opinion and remain safe from criticism. Additionally, there is also the commitment that is necessary to the function of leadership, and at times, the ability to follow when another is currently leading.

Another important aspect of caring is to welcome and accept responsibility. Rather than saying, “You really should . . .” in OSR building it would be better to say, “This is what I think we need to do.” Then say, “If it is ok with you, I’ll take care of it.” In many businesses, idea people are a-dime a-dozen, but those who can implement are immeasurably valuable.

5. Synergy & Mutuality

OSR building must be an institution of trust, tolerance, understanding, cooperation, growth, caring, and commitment. This results in synergy and mutuality, similar to that of a successful marriage. Business OSRs have much in common with the institution of marriage. Both require all of the above, and both offer benefits that outdistance the possibilities available singularly. Build your OSRs and enjoy the partnering success benefits.

Get even more ideas on partnering success by watching Ed’s interview at the Cisco.

Recently Merged Organizations

Success Strategies for Recently Merged Organizations (546 Words)

Recently Merged Organizations

In business today, it seems that recently merged organizations are as commonplace as reorders. If a merger has not affected you, I’d be surprised. With the blending of two cultures, generally come challenges and opportunities. To better focus on the opportunities, and not the challenges, follow the recommended process below.

1. Decide Synergistic Expectations. Be clear on what you are looking to have happen, resulting from the recently merged organizations. Top on many lists is economies of scale that generally result is cost savings.

2. Inventory the Expectations of Employees, Management and Executives. Job security will most likely on the minds of middle management and workers. Executive compensation parity will on the mind of many.

3. Inventory the Core Competencies from Each Company. When products and services from each differ, but serve a similar market that’s synergy. Yet, when products are similar but have different markets, which also can mean synergy. Have a strategic plan about how economies of scale will be achieved, through sales, through purchasing, or hopefully, both for recently merged organizations.

4. Inventory the Cultures and Policies of each Company. Varying levels of formality can prove to be an Achilles heel if not addressed. Also, words used by both recently merged organizations may have taken on different meanings. Each organization must give a little in the area of policy. Don’t be married to the past and, the “This is how we’ve always done it.” With DalmerChrysler, the German’s beer breaks have been interesting for the Americans to accept. While the Germans have difficulty with the casual atmosphere of the Americans. Look at where Chrysler is today…

5. Decide where Circles of Interest, Expectations and Inventories from above overlap, and where they do not. The more the circles of interest from each faction overlap, the more reason each has to make the marriage work. This was a problem with the failed merger of Price/Costco in the mid-nineties.

6. Uncover Expected Roadblocks to the Blending Process Before you merge. As with Price/Costco, today simply known as Costco, it was the ancillary issues of office buildings and mall development that they couldn’t on that kept their focus off the core competencies and developing synergistic economies of scale. As you might guess, there are several areas of potential roadblocks for recently merged organizations to deliver success. The not-invented-here mentality is common.

7. Publish the above Findings for all Employees of both Companies. Otherwise they will fill-in the blanks for themselves, usually with erroneous information. Factual merger information will go a long way to sooth fears and help all concerned understand the strategic plan and all the challenged in its implementation.

8. Help everybody, from Entry-Level employees to the Executive Suite to have an Emotional Ownership in the Success of the recently Merged Organization. Developing how-to road maps will go a long way in helping both recently merged organizations with the change. Make the first official day of the newly merged organization a celebration. DalmerChrysler did this, calling it “Day One.” They had a celebration and gave all their over 400,000 employees a merger “kit” and Swatch watch bearing the new company name.

Sure, it is much work, and it takes more than the above eight steps, opportunities abound. For those who are willing to be flexible and open to possibilities, being part of a newly merged organization can be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Relationship Tie Breaker

Rigs on Biz…Relationships, Your Secret Tie Breaker (491 words)

Relationship Tie BreakerSecret Tie Breaker…have you ever wondered, how come the other guy got the business? Great Biz Relationships are the answer.

You know that, your product is as good, your service is as good and your price is as good as the other guy’s. But, you didn’t get the business—Biz Relationships again. Today, ya gotta have a tiebreaker to get the business, and outstanding Biz Relationships is a magnificent tiebreaker. Let’s look at this from the perspective of you being the customer.

So many business owners have told me, “When it all goes to crap, that’s when I know who my real suppliers are.” They continue to say, “That’s when relationships really matter!” Don’t you feel the same way? Sure suppliers can fill the pipeline, but what about when supply is disrupted?

If you know, understand and like someone, you are more apt to make an effort to work out challenges, be they a supplier or customer. Better yet, if you trust someone, when things go into the dumper—you absolutely know that you’ll be protected, that they’ll make things right. Isn’t that what you want from your suppliers? Isn’t it also what your customers want of you? You know it is.

To get the Biz, ya gotta build better Biz Relationships

  1. You already know that you have to keep your word and follow through.
  2. You already know that if you break your word, you can’t be trusted. After all, Business is about results, not excuses.
  3. But, did you know that communication is the most important element in developing and maintaining outrageously successful Biz Relationships?
  4. When was the last time you sat over a beverage (away from the office, work site or factory) with your customer and asked, “How can I serve you better?”
  5. Over time, many companies have developed “score cards” or “report cards” to more formally communicate with their customers. A number have also done this to better communicate expectations with their suppliers. I believe these reporting methods extremely valuable conduits of developing open communication with customers, and suppliers. This tool can easily become your tiebreaker in the marketplace. If you develop this tool for yourself, focus on the following two key areas: First, It is important to ask, “How are doing?” and second, “What do we need to do to get a higher score or grade?”

The great benefit to you in developing better communication with your customers will be a greater understanding of what “extra” services and activities your customers perceive as being valuable to them. It really doesn’t make much sense doing extra things for your customers that they do not hold as being valuable, now does it?

It will serve you well to build better Biz Relationships through a regular reporting or scoring system with your customers. I believe you will also find this to be an important tiebreaker that you have over your competitors. Do more, sell more and have more!

Keynote Speaker, Ed Rigsbee

How to Hire Your Next Professional Speaker (745 words)

The right professional speaker can make your meeting while the opposite can happen with the wrong choice. The two most important initial decisions in hiring a professional speaker are: first, in hiring a professional speaker, determine if you want a speaker with content or one for primarily entertainment value. Next you will want to decide if you want to work through a speaker bureau or if you will want to work directly with the speaker.

Content Professional Speakers vs. Entertainment Professional Speakers

While there are hybrid speakers that deliver a bit of each, you would be well served if you get very clear as to which is your primary desire. While most of the professional content speakers are entertaining and lively, they are not humorists and will generally not have your audience laughing and in stitches throughout their speech. What they will do is deliver the content of their expertise in an engaging manner. Be honest with yourself and decide between entertainment and content as the overarching reason for which speaker to select.

Speaker Bureau vs. Direct Booking

Some insight on how speaker bureaus work: most bureaus in America work on a commission and most bureaus in Europe work on an add-on basis. American bureaus take 25-30% commission on the speakers established fee while most in Europe add the amount of money they want to make onto the speaker’s established net fee. The benefit of working with a (good) bureau is that they have access to a large number of speakers which will save you time searching the Internet and will execute the contract with the speaker, again saving you time. However, if you are looking to negotiate concessions from the speaker, the bureau route is probably not your best choice.

The down side of working with bureaus is that they have a tendency to have their preferred speakers and push them regardless of the correctness of the speaker for the event. Additionally, be sure to do financial due diligence on a speaker bureau as over the last decade there has been a significant number of occurrences where bureaus use money from their separate or speaker fund account (a best practice suggested by the International Association of Speaker Bureaus) to fund their daily expenses and either do not pay speakers or pay speakers very late. This is an ongoing issue and can become troublesome for the meeting organizing organization.

Communication with Professional Speaker is Paramount

To get the kind of speaker you want, you really do need to speak directly with the speaker at some point in your search/hiring process. You want to be honest with the speaker as to your expectations of them and the realities of the audience members to whom they will present. If there is a current industry or company crisis, the speaker must be informed. Poor communications of the primary and secondary meeting stakeholders’ expectations of the speaker will surly spell disaster.

Communicate clearly with the speaker what it is that you are looking for as to the results of your event. What is it that you expect the speaker to deliver? Be absolutely certain that the speaker understands your expectations.

In the case, and this does frequently occur, that there are opposing desires of the speaker’s performance from various stakeholders within the organization, be sure the speaker is well informed of the dichotomy.

Changing the Scope of Work

Do not assume anything. If you change the scope of work on the speaker after the contract has been executed, just like in most other industries, expect the agreement pricing to also be adjusted. As an example, you contract with a speaker for a speech and come back after and want permission to video or audio record the presentation; expect to pay an additional fee. If you change the speaker’s presentation time without prior approval, you may have a problem. If the speaker has another engagement that would be affected, you might have to pay much higher travel costs or the speaker might not be available.

Right Speaker, Right Event

To assure that you get the best speaker for your event, at the best possible fee, first be crystal clear as to what kind of speaker you want and what kind of a presentation you want. The quickest way to a disaster is to think all speakers are created equally or that any speaker will do. The better you know what you want, need, and desire from a professional, the better chance that you will hire the speaker that will deliver on your expectations.

Supplier Partnering

Supplier Partnering—Keep Your Profits Up & Costs Down (1401 Words)

Supplier Partnering Means Better Profits for All

Supplier partnering challenges American business conventional wisdom. Throughout most of the twentieth century, American business had functioned based on the paradigm of adversary transactions. Squeezing the lifeblood out of all, that fall unknowingly victim. When I entered the American workforce as a salesman, in the 1970s, I learned that many small manufacturers called this the Sears Syndrome.

Decades ago, this syndrome was prevalent in situations where small companies supplied large national companies. While today, it might not be fair to degrade the name of a respected American retailer, decades ago this was conventional wisdom in the supply sectors. Fortunately today, we are seeing a major business philosophical shift happening before our eyes! The cost of doing business is steadily increasing yet only in a few industries are profits increasing to keep pace. A new belief or model—a new paradigm, has become absolutely necessary. This paradigm is collaboration.

Collaboration is Supplier Partnering

Partnering, especially supplier partnering, is a current buzzword for collaboration. Partnering is the process of two or more entities coming together for the purpose of developing synergistic solutions to their challenges. Supplier partnering is more a journey than a destination. No matter how well you think you’re currently engaging in partnering—you can always do it better! Partnering is both a mind-set and it’s an activity—a place where management, marketing, and philosophy meet.

Supplier Partnering Benefits

Many benefits from supplier partnering are obvious and some are not. Listed below are a few of the important reasons for you to embrace partnering:

  • For technological contributions or a competitive edge.
  • Competition from non-traditional sources has created a need to become more competitive.
  • Develop a market advantage and to increase distribution capabilities.
  • Risk sharing and financial stability.
  • Inventory control and automatic fulfillment for product sales and manufacturing materials.
  • Greater consistency in service and product quality and availability.
  • Better productivity and quicker response times.

Supplier Partnering Challenges

Along with the benefits of partnering, also come the pitfalls or land mines. Identifying these early will greatly increase your prospects of achieving effective partnering alliance relationships. Some of the more common partnering pitfalls:

  • Not making an organizationally complete partnering commitment, especially from executive suites.
  • Alliance partners having incongruent core values.
  • Alliance partners having unexpected inefficiencies or poor management, causing reduced partnering capabilities.
  • Resistance from employees on new methods of operation.
  • After entering into a partnering relationship, one partner unexpectedly pulls out leaving the remaining partner or partners in need.
  • Culture clashes among partners.
  • Complacent attitude or expecting others to complete the difficult or unpleasant activities.
  • Hidden agendas or unrealistic expectations.

In understanding the possibility for these calamities to arise, you can plan and organize your partnering agreements to hopefully eliminate these potentially dreadful occurrences. One of the best ways to guarantee failure is not to know your partner’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge of your partner is imperative for successful long-term relationships. In today’s unstable economic environment, you want the least amount of surprises possible. Depending on where you fit into the supply chain, as a manufacturer, wholesale distributor, or dealer/retailer, your needs and possibilities will differ.

Steps for Effective Supplier Partnering

Five steps for developing your buy/sale partnering relationships:

  1. Monitor. Study your business, observe, and identify areas for improvement. Also take inventory of core strengths that might be valuable to a potential alliance partner.
  2. Educate. Learn about those companies you might consider for partnering arrangements, arrangements that create a win-win result for all who participate. Ask yourself and your management team about their strengths and weaknesses? What effect would they have on our business? This is the time to study value based purchasing and to understand the difference between cost of an item and total cost of procuring the item.
  3. Select. This is the critical step because all your future efforts are built on this foundation. Select with knowledge, understanding and commitment. Surely there is little security built upon a flimsy foundation. Search for the strongest materials for your partnering foundation.
  4. Organize. Now you’re to the point of identifying, understanding, and putting together the possibilities for an alliance. This will be your not only your partnering structure but also your road map, plan it well. This is where you must determine if you are rewarding the correct behaviors in your organization. Are you making the mistake of rewarding your purchasing agents for obtaining the lowest item cost and not for the lowest total procurement cost?
  5. Charter. This is the agreement, whether it is a handshake (which I advise against) or contractually. I strongly urge all buy/sell-partnering alliances to put their agreements on paper—it’s so much more clear six months or two years later. Each party’s commitment to the other, on paper, will smooth a path through the potholed road of partnering. Also your charter should explain conflict resolution, as Murphy’s Law is sure to emerge. Be ready for it and the conflict will be resolved timely and amiably.

Qualities of Supplier Partners

Selecting your trade partners well will serve you and your company for years to come. To aid you in the search, I’ve identified many of the necessary qualities of a person, management team, or corporate culture with which to successfully build your alliance.

  • Wants to win. There is no intelligent reason to partner with a loser. This kind of relationship will only drag you or your company down to an unacceptable performance or production level. You and they must have a desire to win—to want to do better, to be useful in creating synergy with your partner!
  • They understand that they are still ultimately responsible for their own success. They understand the value of synergy and acknowledge that accountability goes both ways. Be careful not to always assume your partner is looking out for your best interest.
  • The leader and or contact must be an active listener. To truly keep in touch with the heartbeat of an alliance, active listening is critical. This helps you to know what you need to do extra and when the other side is falling behind in their commitment to you. Alertness from both sides equals mutual success.
  • Understands and cares about what drives their partner’s’ businesses. Because successful partnering is about synergy, you must consistently give the correct kind of value to the relationship. Regular Relationship Bank deposits are always required before withdrawals are possible. You can only offer value to the relationship by knowing what your partner’s business considers as being synergistically important.
  • Responds well to, and acts on, feedback. The only possibility for forward and beneficial movement occurs when leaders are willing to accept counsel. None of us are smart enough to know it all. Notice I didn’t mention criticism—it was intentional.
  • Flexibility, especially when events or circumstances are not what was expected. If you don’t have the ability to change direction when the road ahead is washed out. You’ll find yourself wishing for rescuers as you uncontrollably float down the stream. Flexibility is absolutely necessary because things will never be exactly as we expect.
  • Trust, integrity and respect for others. I found this to be the common thread weaving through an organization’s consciousness—from the factory floor to the executive suite.
  • Seeks win-win arrangements and solutions. Earlier, I stated that you must look after yourself, but if that is all you do, you’re of little value as a long-term buy/sell partner. You must win for the sake of your business. At the same time your partner must also win. This will develop a desire within them to want to continue in the relationship. The partnering advantage becomes stronger the longer the relationship lasts.
  • Understands that partnering is a relationship of interdependence, not dependence or independence. Visualize your partner and yourself as partially overlapping circles. The overlapping parts of the circles are your areas of mutual value. This overlapping area is also your area of interdependence.

Buyers and Sellers

Buyers and sellers, working together for mutual improvement is the great benefit received from partnering. Be careful of unrealistic expectations on one another. Too often one’s perception of disloyalty from a partner can in really be an unrealistic expectation. Communicate your needs, as both benefits and pitfalls are inherent in partnering. The benefits usually outweigh the challenges. Be careful and methodical in the search for alliance partners. Take care in carefully structuring the arrangement. Do this, and you will succeed for years to come. Remember—partnering is not instant gratification but rather a long-term paradigm for success.

Real Cost of Mediocrity

The Real Cost of Mediocrity (1548 words)

Try Harder, Overcome Mediocrity

Have you ever wondered what the real cost of mediocrity within your organization might be? Has there ever been a time when a mess-up by someone internally, proved to be quite costly in both money/resources and time/energy? Has there been a time when a mess-up by someone in your organization caused a huge toll on an outsider, i.e. supplier or customer? Training, ego and attitude can be the answer

In the world of selling, the real cost of mediocrity can be extreme

In selling, there are generally two categories: hunters and farmers. The hunters are the sales people, both inside and outside, that specialize in going after new business—their thrust is the hunt, bringing in new customers. Farmers on the other hand specialize in nurturing house accounts and business that the hunters have brought in. Too often, organizations will settle for farmers that are mediocre, or careless and don’t tend to their crops. The prices businesses or organizations pay for allowing this kind of behavior are truly unnecessary.

My first real job in outside sales, other than selling encyclopedias door-to-door, was in selling to retailers. The owner of the business, Ray Kahn, once told me, “If you lose an account because you were out sold, it’s okay. But, if you lose an account because you weren’t paying attention to that account—you’re out of here!” He understood the real cost of mediocrity. Several years later, I saw first-hand that he meant it. Ray fired a hunter/farmer salesman, Mike that had been with him for a decade. Unfortunate for all that were involved, Mike got complacent and lazy, losing a major account because he wasn’t paying attention to the needs of the customer.

When a farmer doesn’t pay attention, it is an absolute travesty

Mike was an okay hunter, but not a great farmer. This situation is not unusual. If you manage sales people and you tolerate a farmer not tending to their crops (accounts), I believe that you are just as guilty as your farmer sales person. It is you, after all, to whom they are accountable.

Not long ago, I traveled to the American East Coast to speak on selling at a chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA), of which I am a member in Los Angeles. This NSA chapter had been meeting at the same suburban area hotel on the same Saturday of each month for the previous three years. This particular Saturday in January was to be different.

The “you know what” hit the fan late Friday night

Following dinner that evening, my contact with the group dropped me back at the hotel where I was staying and where the meeting would be the next day. In passing, she asked if I knew that I’d be presenting the next morning in the hotel’s restaurant…during regular service hours…to the public? Their usual meeting room had been booked out from under them. Well, that was a surprise that was to me.

Three days earlier, when the NSA Chapter’s program chair called the hotel to check if everything was in place for their coming Saturday meeting, the hotel sales contact, Lois, told the program chair that they had no reservation for the group for the coming Saturday. And, Lois told the program chair that the room they usually use, along with every other meeting room and space in the hotel was also sold out. Wow, what a predicament! Even worse, Lois offered no possible solutions to a long-time customer.

The meeting chair asked Lois how this could be? Especially since the group had been using that meeting room the same Saturday of the month for the past three years and had an on-going relationship. Lois answered by stating that she thought it was odd that the organization had not signed a contract for the coming year. Lois continued by stating that since the hotel’s customers “call them” she didn’t give it a second thought. Excuse me! If I was Lois’ boss, I’d do to her what Ray Kahn did to Mike—fire ‘em! There is no excuse for this kind of behavior.

That farmer, Lois, definitely was not tending her crops (accounts). Can you believe it? Worse, the sales person was ignorant enough to state, “Our customers call us.” She sold the room out from under this group. Perhaps because the group to whom she sold the room was generating higher revenue? Perhaps she was only mindful of her commission check? Perhaps it was her way of telling this NSA Chapter that they were no longer welcome at that property? This clearly demonstrates mediocrity.

The Real Cost of Mediocrity

What do you think might be the real cost to the hotel from Lois’ debacle?

To the credit of the hotel’s General Manager, late that Friday evening, I worked with him and food & beverage (F&B) manager for over an hour looking at possibilities to make the next day’s presentation work, even though it was to be in the hotel’s restaurant, during service hours to the general public. The hotel general manager explained to me that he, and his staff had been working on the problem for the past three days. They had even called other hotels to try and move the meeting—but without success. Further exhibiting the real cost of mediocrity.

Let’s take a rough look at the real cost of mediocrity to this hotel:

A hotel general manager making around $100,000 a year, working a six-day work week equates to about $333 per working day. If we take into account that the general manager, food & beverage manager, sales staff and others had been dealing with the issue for three days and just add up the general manager’s pay, that gives us about $1,000 cost to the hotel. I’m sure Lois’ commission on the sale of the room and F&B was nowhere near that much.

Now let’s add in the damage to both the national brand and that particular location. This group happened to be a gathering of local-area professional speakers. Since many are intimately familiar with hotels, their expectations tend to be a bit higher than most. What will they say to local meeting planners about this hotel? I doubt it would be complimentary. If the approximately 50 professional speakers mention the situation to only one meeting planner over the following year—that’s potentially 50 local meeting planners that have received a poor report about this property. What’s the cost of that?

If only one of those 50 meeting planners decided not to book a meeting at that property based on what they heard, how many thousands of dollars would that property not receive in future revenue because of Lois’ behavior? Let alone the tarnished perception of this particular brand nationally could cost the chain dollars. Surely it would be more that Lois’ commission on that particular room, on that particular Saturday.

The Rest of The Story

This had been the second time that this property, or should I say Lois, had pulled this kind of situation on that particular NSA Chapter. As such, the board of directors immediately decided to start looking for another property at which to hold their monthly meetings. By the next month’s meeting, the chapter had already found a new home for their monthly meetings. That adds even more to the real cost, as the revenue from the chapter was valuable to the hotel during slow times.

Gosh, because that farmer, Lois, was too unorganized, oblivious, lazy, apathetic, ignorant or greedy, the real cost to the hotel’s productivity and revenue was, and will continue to be, substantial. What does this mean to you? In selecting and/or maintaining the wrong people to represent your organization’s interests, you will pay dearly for their impoverishment of skills.


The TEA Master Key should prove helpful. The three key areas necessary to explore in serving your customers well are: Training, Ego and Attitude.

Training your employees well is a given, the subtleties are in their understanding the DNA of your organization’s culture and an advanced understanding of how to most effectively use the “tools” that you have made available to them. Understandably, this takes time, but few companies devote the necessary hours to this endeavor. And, if your employees are not continually learning, you must re-examine the limited value they deliver to your organization.

Ego is good, when kept in check, allowing one to be confident, yet not arrogant. Unfortunately, too many employees let their ego get in the way of their performance, i.e. too much ego that they never admit a mistake. Mistakes are good, if one learns from their mistake. Years ago, Ray Kahn would say, “If you are not making mistakes, you are not learning, and I don’t need you. But, if you do not learn from your mistakes, I don’t need you either.” Other ego issues revolve around one’s need to be right! In serving customers, it is more important to get things done, than to focus on being right.

Attitude can make, or break, an employee and a customer’s perception of your organization’s value proposition. Employees with an attitude of apathy are like termites eating away at the fiber of your organization and one day that fiber that holds your organization together will give fail. On the other hand, employees with the attitude of service, not servitude, flourish and with them so does your organization. Give your employees plenty of reasons to have superior attitudes—it will serve you well. Embrace TEA to avoid the cost of mediocrity.

Positioning Your Business

Positioning Your Business-9 Key Questions (936 Words)

Positioning Your Business for Success

Vendors are a dime a dozen but partners are hard to find; positioning your business for success is crucial. This statement is continually in the minds of your customers. If you would like to develop a business strategy based on quality relationships, take a look at how your customers currently perceive your business. Ask your customers what they think of you through surveys or simply by word-of-mouth. The conversation they have with themselves about you is their reality.

Positioning for Influence

You can greatly influence your chances of success in an uncertain economy if you position yourself as a partner to your customers. Learn to get on their side of the table. Learn what they perceive as valuable to them and what is not. When you are clear about how you want the market to perceive you, you can then drive this positioning strategy throughout the many silos of your business. As all the areas of your business drive the same consistent message in both word and deed, you will own that position in your marketplace.
Before I consult with an organization, I generally ask the management team to answer the following positioning questions. Answer them for yourself. Do this and your chances for success will dramatically increase.

1. Who are my customers?

This positioning question sounds quite simple but this is a critical first step. To better understand the question, explore these sub-questions:
a. Who do I want them to be?
b. What must I do to get them?
c. Who has chosen me?
d. What are their demographics?

2. Where are my customers? 

a. Geographically?
b. Industry segments?
c. Social/economically?
d. What publications do my target customers read?
e. What media format are they likely to frequent?
3. How do my customers find me? 

a. Word-of-mouth, drive by or walk by traffic, snail mailings, e-mailings, phone solicitations, yellow pages advertising, local cable station/national networks, radio, newspapers, specialty magazines and cross promotions are possibilities.
b. Maybe they’ve heard of you through a media interview or article?
c. How about the Internet? By now, your organization should be somewhat web-centric.

4. How do my customers perceive value (benefits) when selecting a supplier/vendor with which to partner? 

Technological capability, knowledge, overall service/unbundling of services, integrity, selection, price, geography and a cadre of other factors will affect their selection process based on your positioning. Additionally, there are the positioning supply/procurement considerations:

a. Traditional brick and mortar.
b. Mail order/catalog.
c. Click and brick.
d. Click only.

5. How do my customers prefer to do business? 

a.Do they walk the partnering talk or just talk it?
b. Can I live with their reputation?
c. Can my company survive the potential pitfalls?
d. Ethics is a big consideration. Additionally, ethnic and cultural concerns are critical factors in today’s diverse society. Are you willing to “walk the extra mile” to understand and fulfill your diverse customers’ desires and needs?

6. Who is my competition? What’s their positioning? 

Generally, any business that can pluck dollars from the pockets of your potential customers is absolutely your competition! Specific to your situation, who has similar products and/or service capabilities? Who is willing to make a stronger commitment to offering the greatest total value package?

a. Explore your direct competition.
b. Explore your indirect competition.

7. What are the benefits that my competitors’ customers believe they are receiving from my competition? 

Spending time thinking about solutions to customers’ problems and challenges from your competitors’ point of view will serve you well in developing your positioning strategy. Know how your competition thinks and acts. You can learn from them! To win customers, you must know your competition better than they know themselves. That is how Pepsi gained shelf space from Coke in grocery stores in the 1960s. Pepsi changed the rules by offering 8-packs and one-liter bottles. Be careful not to select copycat positioning—rarely is it successful. Adapt rather than adopt.

8. What is it about my company that really gets me excited? 

Find your company’s uniqueness and passionately sell through that window with all your positioning energy. Can’t find it? Either you’re not looking hard enough or you’re in the wrong place! Those with purchasing power will seek out specialists who can solve their customers’ problems by truly fulfill their customers’ needs, wants and desires—physically and mentally. Decide to position your company in this select group and then make the necessary commitment to get there.

9 What is my personal uniqueness?

a. What is it that you bring to the table?
b. Is it your personality traits, the area in which you excel or the one thing about the way you do business for which customers are always complimenting you? Find this and you’ve struck gold!
c. People prefer an original whenever possible—can it be you?

The answers to the above nine questions will assist you in defining a positioning strategy upon which you can successfully increase sales and build your business. This may well be a new strategic direction or simply an adjustment to your current sales and marketing strategy.

Entire industries are giving way to new technologies resulting in a new or dramatically changed paradigm for their industry. Where fragmented industries once existed in comfort, consolidators and roll-ups are devastating the playing field. As an example, you will not find the number of local independent stationary stores, bookstores and drug stores that once spotted your city streets—just big boxes that look, smell and feel all the same. Regardless of your specific industry, it’s changing whether you like it or not. It is happening before your own eyes. Can you see it? Communicating a clear positioning message to your market will put you far ahead of your competition.

Get to Know Me

Get to Know Me is What Your Customers are Saying (710 Words)

Your Suppliers Are Saying, "Get to Know Me"

Your Customers Are Saying, “Get to Know Me!”

Get to Know Me

It was at their first-ever vendor summit that, get to know me, emerged. Hosted by a large holding corporation of about 75 very successful companies, Mr. Big, the CEO, is speaking from the lectern to the audience of several hundred, mostly suppliers and he says, “Please, get to know us!”

His entire talk was around this idea. He said to the vendors, in many different ways, “Please, get to know us!” Why would such a large, successful, and privately held organization put so much energy into simply saying, “Please, get to know us!” to their vendors? Because they wanted to even grow bigger and be even more profitable. That is what world-class organizations do—get better.

Get to Know Me Champions

What about your organization? An interesting question for any business leader to ask of their own organization is, “How well do our venders know our culture, our mission, and our vision?” If your vendors do understand and embrace your culture, mission and vision, they can be an unstoppable force in helping you to get where you desire to go. This truly does serve the vendors too, as the better you do, the more you’ll most likely buy from them.

If your vendors do not have a crystal-clear understanding of the above, the next logical question to ask is, “What’s blocking them?”The answer could be as simple as, “They do not want to be my partner in success.” Or, the answer could be as complex as, “Unfortunately, my organization is vendor-hostile.”

More than likely, the issue is not that your vendors don’t want to partner, but rather how you perceive and treat your vendors. This is where the get to know me idea is so crucial. If you want to move away from a vendor-hostile culture, you’ll have to first ask, “How does my organization reward the procurement people?”If they are rewarded based on getting yet another five-cent/five-percent discount, you are rewarding the wrong thing. To move away from vendor-hostile toward vendor partnering, you must reward the total success of the buyer-seller partnering relationship.

Partner, Get to Know Me

What can you do to help your vendor’s see/enjoy the value of developing high-level partnering relationships with your company? Explore the following:

  • Express trust in your vendors through both word and deed.
  • Communicate frequently both your current and anticipated longer-term needs.
  • Include your vendors in strategic planning and brainstorming sessions.
  • Regularly drive the vendor-friendly paradigm, like a laser beam, into the hearts of your employees, managers and executives.
  • Consider entering into long-term contractual relationships with your stellar vendors.
  • Rather than squeeze your vendors for discounts or concessions, help them to take costs out of their product and the supply chain.

I know of no businesses that prosper without the help, assistance, and support of their vendors. Back to the Mr. Big mentioned earlier. I was invited to present the opening keynote at the vendor summit. Interviewing Mr. Big weeks before the summit, he mentioned to me that he wanted me to challenge both the vendors and his people alike. He also wanted me to instruct them in new and innovative reasons for building alliance relationships.

Get to Know Me for Alliance Success

As I took the stage at this summit, I could sense the tension and apprehension in the room. The vendors were braced for a keynoter to tell them why it was in their best interest to give bigger discounts and partner with the holding corporation and their 75 plus units. Instead, they received a presentation where the mirror was placed up close to both the sellers and buyers behaviors. Following the presentation, there were a number of comments from the vendors about the “balanced” presentation.

What has always been clear to me and make so even more, following my keynote presentation was this: Treat them fair and with integrity—and your vendors will bend over backwards to try to help you. So why was this article titled, Your Customers are Saying, Get to Know Me rather than titled, Treat Your Vendors Well? I titled it with the latter; you most likely would not have read the article. Your vendors can only get to know you better if you let them. By the way, are your customers saying to you, “Get to know me better?

Keep Customers Returning

The Boomerang Effect In Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty (1658 Words)

The Boomerang Effect In Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

The boomerang effect is getting customers to return, takes skill and practice. Today, your customers want more than just service. They want to be satisfied that they received a great total value package from you. This idea applies to all levels of the distribution channel from procuring raw materials to purchases by consumers and end-users. Do this, and you’ll earn their sustained loyalty. By employing my P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S. model, you too can create customer satisfaction at such distinguished levels that loyalty will be the natural outcropping of your efforts. Essentially, you want to become your customer’s partner to enjoy the boomerang effect. This is because vendors are merely a dime-a-dozen, while partners are precious.

P is for Performance Standards

This is the underpinning of the model for achieving the boomerang effect. You must identify, describe and express to your staff exactly what you expect of them. You must not just communicate by word that which you want from your employees, but also in deed. You must first model the high level of customer service by living the performance standards you demand of your team. Along with the need to establish performance standards, there is the need to measure the level of service rendered to your customers is equally important. If you measure it, you most likely will manage it.

A is for Anticipating Customer Needs

This is crucial to the boomerang effect in delivering the kind of service and value that keeps customers returning regularly. To create customer satisfaction, you must know what your customers want before they themselves know they want it. You can do this through customer focus groups, attending trade shows, and reading those trade journals that are piling up in your office. This is also the area where your superior product knowledge will serve you well. Additionally, spend the time to train your staff well in the features and benefits of that which you sell. Great salespeople are those that do an unsurpassed job of assisting their customers to obtain all the goods and services that their customers need, want, and desire. These salespeople are also the ones that are so appreciated by their customers that they are rewarded with repeat business.

R is for your Rules to Distinguished Customer Service

For the boomerang effect, always give value-added service. The idea of giving more than is expected or always giving a little extra at no charge has proven successful to many over the ages. In fact, the baker’s dozen, 13 rather than 12—giving one free, when a customer purchases a dozen is the result of this idea and is an excellent customer retention method. Second, everyone in your business must understand and subscribe to the belief that a customer has earned the right to your respect simply by virtue of walking in your front door, calling on the telephone or e-mailing an order. Third, everything you do has a stone-in-the-water effect. All your actions as an owner, manager, or executive will have an effect on your customers. This applies to actions toward customers and employees alike—if you treat employees poorly, they will similarly treat your customers poorly. Additionally, remember that happy customers tell a friend or two, conversely, unhappy customers tell anybody that will listen just how poorly you deliver value, or the lack there of. Fourth, Never promise that which you know you or your company cannot deliver. Over-promising is the surest way to anger and lose a loyal customer.

T is for Transitioning Your Angry Customers into Happy Campers

You can generally accomplish this element of the boomerang effect through a simple four-step model: First, you must intently listen to the customer’s complaint or gripe without getting defensive. Listen completely; take care not to be like the one-minute doctor who offers a prescription before doing some sort of diagnoses. You do not want to be guilty of customer service malpractice. Second, you defuse their anger through the process of asking open-ended questions. These are the questions where your customer must talk rather than grunt an angry yes or no. Get them explaining the situation rather than just complaining. Third, clarify the problem through responses. Feed back to the customer what you understand is the problem. If you did not understand or they did not explain it well, this is an opportunity to better understand. Fourth, offer a solution only after you are completely clear on what the real problem happens to be. If you do not clearly understand your customer’s problem you will most likely offer an incorrect solution and further anger your valued customer.

N is for the Need to learn about Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

This is today’s forefront science in serving and selling to others. Whether you like it or not, selling is part of customer service. NLP is the science of how your brain learns. Everybody has a basic preferred learning strategy: Visual (seeing), Auditory (hearing), or Kinesthetic (feeling). Each learning strategy is used in various situations yet; most people do in fact favor one strategy. Detect your customers preferred strategy by listening to the kind of words they use. Do they use seeing, hearing or feeling type words? Communicate with them in their favored strategy. As an example, the customer who says things like, “I wonder how this will look on me?” Might this person be a visual? The key word is look. Talk to that person in visual or seeing terms. Say something like, “Just picture yourself . . . ” This method of communication is called direct or matched communication. You are mirroring the other person’s learning style. Had you said, “Feel this fabric . . . ” You would have had a mismatch.

Like the construction company digging a tunnel from both sides of the mountain—If their communication between the two crews were poor, instead of digging one tunnel, they would most likely dig two! Rather than building two different tunnels, or levels of communication, you want to build a communication bridge with your customers. If you do this, your customer’s brain will simply say, “This person is like me—I like me—I like this person.” Now you are on the way to building the kind of high-level rapport that keeps your customers coming back. Two great books on NLP for business are: NPL At Work by Sue Knight and The Power of Business Rapport by Dr. Michael Brooks.

E – Empower Your Staff to deliver on the expectations of your customers

Important to a successful boomerang effect…cutting a special deal, resolving conflict, and smoothing ruffled customer feathers should be among the powers your employees should have. Customer expectations must be understood, and delivered upon for your business to survive. The behavior in your employees that you chose to reward is the behavior that they will likely repeat. If you tell your team, “You are now empowered!” but then rip their head off for making a decision you didn’t like, they will surely not take that risk again. My grandfather was an electrician in the 1950s and 1960s, working at a shipyard in San Pedro, CA. He would repeatedly say this about life at the shipyard, “There’s the right way to do things, there’s the wrong way to do things, and there’s the Navy’s way. We do things the Navy’s way!” Take caution not to play “Navy” with your employees. If you would like more information about rewarding your team for taking risks, please visit:

R is for Reward Customer Loyalty

Loyalty is a double-edged sword. If you want your customers, in the boomerang effect to be loyal to you, then you must be loyal to them first. Giving deals to new customers only, and not to established ones, can easily offend. Actually, this mocks your valuable customers who have been loyal to you. I’m sure you would agree that it costs much less to keep a customer than to bring a new one in the door. If you are experiencing the “Turnstile” effect in customer loyalty, take a close look at your customer retention policies and practices. Don’t be lured by the erroneous belief of unlimited customers. In reality, competition today is more brutal than ever before in our history and getting more so daily. Your customers have more choice than ever before. Today, the secret to success is to retain every customer and serve them so well that they truly become your best advertisements. Frequent consumer programs are a much better strategy for sustained success than are new customer introduction offers.

S – is for the Satisfied and Blissful state

This is the place in which you want your customers when they think or talk about you, your staff, and your company. Your customers must believe that value and satisfaction is always Job One at your company. Customer service is the means, not the goal. You must stay focused, like a laser, on your necessary goal of customer satisfaction through perceived value. Just because a customer is served, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are satisfied. Have you found yourself in a similar situation lately where you were served, but not to the level of your expectations? You may very well have left the situation dissatisfied. Keep in mind that more customers will just simply walk away with their expectations, realistic or otherwise, not met and will never say a word to you. What they will do is become the squeaky wheel and voice their complaints only to their friends and colleagues—the kiss of death to any business.

Now you have all the pieces of the P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S. model—quite easy to understand it at an intellectually level, but at the crucial emotionally level—that’s another story. Like learning the necessary skills to make the boomerang return, you too must use the pieces of the above model to help your customers become loyal and always return. The challenge here is for you and your team to emotionally own the ideas and live them daily. Your actions are speaking so loudly that your customers cannot hear a word that you are saying. Let your actions show that you truly desire to become a precious partner to your customer.

More Customers

Customer Perception Equals Market Domination—Seven Steps (1113 words)

Listen to your customers for market domination

Market Domination Implementation

Want market domination? Have you ever implemented an improvement project at your organization that turned out to be ill-imagined, too costly or simply off the mark? Unfortunately, and to their embarrassment, many companies have. As the economy becomes more uncertain, many organizations (including your competitors) will be looking for ways to shore up lost sales, market share, and profits.

Do you want to stop wasting time and valuable resources, fixing the wrong business issues? Do you want to dedicate the bulk of your resources to areas for improvement that will give you market domination…drive increased sales and profitability while decreasing cost and eliminating time wasting? Do you want to stop recreating a wheel that you never needed in the first place? Simply put, do you want to start fixing the right stuff?

Below, I have detailed for you a simple formula for market domination through a deeper understanding of your customers and marketplace. The formula starts with a simple survey and takes you to having the informed knowledge of what needs to be changed, adjusted, eliminated, built, and challenged in your organization. You must have an extreme understanding of your customer wants, desires, and needs in order to dominate your market in lean times as well as in good times. Let’s get started.

  1. Ask your people for market domination

    Conduct an informal survey among your organization. If you are a small to mid-sized organization, this might be done in-person or over the telephone. For a larger organization an intranet email or hard copy survey generally works best. In this informal survey, two questions, basic and open-ended, are asked. First, you ask for three things the employee believes your organization’s customers would offer as your organizations strength or what the customers like best about the company. Next is three things, your employee believes that your customers dislike about your company or wish your organization would improve.

  2. Build a formal survey for market domination

    Based on the information you received from your staff and management, build a survey of about 15 questions that will cover the key items mentioned. Start your survey with the first two questions somewhat benign. This will allow the respondent to have the necessary comfort zone as they begin. Sprinkle your most important questions throughout the survey and sandwich them between lesser important questions. The best way to organize your answer request is on a one to five scale, agreeing or disagreeing with the statement. For example, XYX Company delivers on time. The respondents will, within a range, agree or disagree with the statement.

  3. Survey your people for market domination

    You will want to have your organization complete the survey first. This is because you want their perception of what your customers have to say before they hear what the customers actually said.

  4. Survey your customers for market domination

    Use the same survey, the same method for grading, and this step will be golden. My recommendation for the most effective method of conducting this step is to hire an outside organization to make the telephone calls for you. Take the high road and telephone query your customers rather than employ the cold and impersonal method of an email or a snail mail survey. A competent telephone researcher will be able to get your customers to relax, as they ask the questions on the survey. Your customers in return will give their true beliefs and feelings. This is the information you truly need. If you try to have one of your staff persons do this, the respondents will not open up as freely and your results will naturally be flawed. For most small to mid-sized organizations, actual survey results from about 50 of your customers should be adequate; larger organizations will want a larger sampling.

  5. Study your survey for market domination

    The survey now becomes an important tool for helping your organization to improve its performance. The key here is to study the similarities and dis-similarities of responses. You will want to know where the people in your organization were correct in knowing what your customers have to say about your organization. And even more important; knowing where your employees beliefs were erroneous. You cannot fix what you do not know. Be open to learning here. Just because you really believed your customers would say one thing, but said something else; do not fall into the trap of stating, the survey is wrong! The survey is not wrong, but rather your perception of reality.

  6. Develop a priority list for market domination

    Now that you have a much more accurate idea as to your customers’ perception (good and bad) of you, you can now make informed decisions. No organization can effect too much change, too fast. Encourage your executive team to have an emotional ownership (which I believe is far better than buy-in) in developing the priority list for improvement and policy change. You do this by allowing them to participate in the process of developing the list. The benefit to your organization is that they will move mountains to make a difference in this total effort toward improvement. It is this effort you need for market domination.

  7. Implement the changes for market domination

    In order to achieve market domination, you must own the hearts and minds of that market. You must position your organization in your customers’ hearts and minds as being THE supplier of choice, regardless of your location in your industry’s supply chain. As the people in your organization move away from their complacency toward excellence, the perception of your excellence in of the marketplace grows. Implement your changes and improvements in a manner that allows small successes early. From these earlier, sometimes considered insignificant successes, come the stepping stones and later the foundation for your movement toward excellence and market domination. Simply put, fix the right stuff—before it’s too late. You’ll own your customers, for as long as you continue fixing the right stuff—as soon as you can.

As you decide on using the above formula to assist your organization in moving toward market domination, there are variations that can be employed. The above method is structured to help you develop a market domination strategic plan for your organization based on knowledge rather than disinformation. Variations of the above survey methodology include comparing the knowledge of customer perception among the several silos within your organization for better interdepartmental cooperation. Additionally, market perception variations can be explored based on geography, customer size, customer buying capability (percentage you get of their procurement dollars), and potential customers or prospects.

From the above survey, the most obvious purposes might be for market domination in sales increases and improved customer service; however, you might also consider using the survey to determine new products or services for development, possible strategic alliances to develop, and organizational productivity.