Regardless which side of the table you’re sitting on, there are seven cues that let you and others know how your business relationship is going. You can be in negotiations, providing or seeking support, on the phone, in person or at a conference talking with other people listening in.
These seven things let you know how well the business relationship is really doing. People listening in on the conversation will hear the same things you do and be making decisions regarding their own business relationships with you based on what they hear.
Some of these, I’ll admit, are Business 101. Others you might not be aware of and I’ll share them all as they build off one another pretty closely.
#1 – Unmet Expectations
Strangely enough, business engagements most often fail when the service or product provider feels the client hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain. Clients tend to stay in less than satisfactory relationships because the time and cost of seeking out, vetting and going through initial negotiations with a new provider is too high. Providers, however, will cut expensive clients loose in a heartbeat because it directly affects their bottom line.
#2 – Admiration
A signal that the business relationship is going strong is that provider and client openly share humorous, mutually ego-boosting anecdotes about working together. Anecdotes where the client shares how the provider helped are obvious case studies, anecdotes where the provider shares that the client taught them something are gold in the minds of prospects because they indicate providers that truly pay attention to client needs.
#3 – Criticism
It is rare that a provider will openly criticize a client although a client openly criticizing a provider is an obvious danger sign. It’s not just the criticism, it’s the degree and what that criticism is aimed at. Mild reproof means providers need to see to client needs immediately. Disdain at marketing statements indicate the client is looking for alternative providers. Scorn? Do what you can to make the divorce as painless as possible because it’s going to be as painful as the client can make it.
Is the provider criticising the client? While some clients might be worthy of criticism, prospects pay close attention to what and how things are said. Minor corrections to the client’s engagement story signal providers who manage relationships closely, but too closely perhaps? If the client accepts and approves the correction, providers are managing the relationship well and it’s appreciated. Does the client signal back “Shut up. This is my story and I’ll tell it the way I want”? Then providers aren’t given the client the room they need and it’s time to be more judicious in the contact scheduling.
Next week’s post will cover items #4-7.
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