I shared the first 3 of 7 things to pay attention to when clients and providers are talking about their relationship, whether in private or in a group in 7 Things Clients and Providers Managers Need To Pay Attention To, Part 1. Some are obvious and all have subtleties that reveal how business relationships where things are really going.
The first three elements were 1) Unmet Expectations, 2) Admiration and 3) Criticism. Here I conclude with items 4 through 7.
#4 – Willingness to Talk
Willingness to share engagement experiences are a key indicator to prospects and potential providers about how easily business relationships will be. Clients who share engagement experiences openly are letting everyone know things went either very well or very poorly — there is no middle ground. Providers sharing openly are indicating the same thing about the client.
But there’s a subtlety here that is often missed; How relaxed is the sharing? Clients who are relaxed about openly sharing negative experiences are telling everyone who listens that they’ve already found or are in negotiations with an alternative provider. Relaxed and openly sharing positive experiences? Go to the bank, put them on a pedestal, this is provider paydirt.
Providers who are relaxed when sharing negative experiences have already cut the client loose (even if they haven’t told the client yet). Providers who are relaxed and sharing positive experiences are indicating the contract just got extended, expanded or otherwise modified in a positive way.
#5 – Teaming
Perhaps the strongest signal to prospects that providers are worthy is existing clients talking of providers as if providers were, indeed, members of the client’s internal team. Whether positive or negative (well, not too negative), indications that providers are “internal” to the client’s team signals prospects that providers are valued and necessary.
#6 – Challenges
Clients and providers who talk about overcoming challenges are good, but stories of challenge after challenge after challenge — regardless of successful outcomes — tell prospects that solutions need to be customized before they can be successfully applied and tell providers that clients are high-maintenance and will be expensive-keepers.
#7 – Learning
The client who tells prospects “Yeah, there was a lot work involved/steep learning curve/slow adoption process” but concludes with a positive “…and we learned a lot (about our business/about our customers/about expanding our markets/about…)” is very strongly signaling that the business relationship was a necessary investment financially, business-wise, psychologically, personally, … . Again, this is gold and worth mining for.
Providers sharing that a client was challenging but worth the time are telling prospects that clients are viewed as partners and that long-term, growing and contstantly developing relationships are business goals. Prospects get a strong signal that such providers are worth investigating further.
So here are seven obvious things — Unmet Expectations, Admiration, Criticism, Willingness to Talk, Teaming, Challenges and Learning — that signal to you and to others how well your business relationships are going. The devil, as they say, is in the details. The seven cues may be obvious but the subtleties are what can make or break future relationships and engagements.
Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.
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