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Sunday, December 30, 2007

From sales pitch to trusted partnership

Charles Green's Trusted Advisor Blog provides many useful insights into the Trusted Partnership concept.

From Stephen Denning's The Secret Language of Leadership:
Given the risk of incurring long-term costs by employing less-than-truthful practices aimed at short-term gains and sales, some firms are exploring the possibility of reaching a more stable plane -- to shift from making sales pitches to becoming trusted partners. These companies aspire to become reliable collaborators with their clients, so that clients look to them for advice and dialogue about issues of common concern. Here the conversation aims less at achieving immediate sales and more at ensuring that the firm's products and services will receive positive consideration when the time comes to make decisions about purchases. The object is higher margins, more repeat business, lower price sensitivity, and shorter sales cycles. In assessing what's involved in moving from "sales pitch" to "trusted partnerships" these companies are having to reflect on what is involved int he phenomenon of trust. What kinds of behavior lead to trust, as opposed to behaviors that lead to distrust?
Here, the construction industry and its allied professions have a significant advantage over other businesses, in that the actual working relationship between client and customer is usually long relative to other industries. Think of the typical consumer or business-to-business purchase -- you request a product or service, and either it is delivered, or provided in a manner that requires little direct interaction once the transaction is completed.
With construction, design teams must spend months working with their clients; as does the general contractor. Even subs are often on the job for weeks, perhaps returning more than once during the project life cycle. Everywhere along the line there are connections, moments of potential conflict, issues to resolve -- sometimes with great urgency -- and trust to either earn or lose.
While I advocate strongly that most construction businesses should focus more attention attention on marketing, I also believe that 80 per cent of marketing success in this industry is defined as the work proceeds. You can start out by guiding clients about your processes (as Sonny Lykos does in his document, the Process). Then make sure to live by your standards; returning calls, cleaning up the site, ensuring drawings are correct and accurate before releasing them to your client or contractor, and so on. These may be common-sense steps; but failure results in lots of the wrong kind of talk behind your back. And that kills your best marketing efforts.

4 comments:

Sonny Lykos said...

Mark, Denning is 100% right on. I learned many years ago the value of the Japanese business philosophy of building a business forever. Far too many in the constructoin industry worry about profit or loss per project. I was only concerned with profit or loss on an annual basis.

One cannot Brand themselves unless they are first trusted by the potential customer. And once that trust is earned, it must constantly be validated. as the project continues and after it's completed Trust is the foundation of Branding. Trust is also the foundation of any relationship, be it between spouses or a business and it's clients. And as professionals to each of our respective customers, we never stop playing the role of "advisor". And "advisors" continually research and innovate better ways to serve their customers.

I refuse to do business with any company, with whom I cannot trust. In fact, I often tactfully let potential customers know that I expect trust to be a 2-way street between us, because without it the relationship becomes one of adversaries where one-upmanship becomes it's basis.

Mark Buckshon said...

Sonny, this is absolutely true. An interesting thing about branding is it is both immediate but extremely long term in orientation. A key element in branding success is to break free of the trannsactional mentality of "get the job done and be done with the client" -- results can be impressive short term (often in surprising ways) but the real business value is measured in years and decades rather than days and weeks.

Sonny Lykos said...

"A key element in branding success is to break free of the trannsactional mentality of "get the job done and be done with the client" -- "

I love that, Mark. You hit it right on the head.

"Transactional mentality"

It's the same thing with a marriage. Once the "I do" is said, the "project" isn't viewed as though it's complete. The relationship continues. Maybe that's why Barb and I still married to the same "customer" after 44 years.

Mark Buckshon said...

Sonny, the marriage comparison is really true. Of course, considering my age of marriage, we will be very very old by the time we reach our 44th anniversary. Then again, from the initial date, and "lets be friends" it took 13 years to marry Vivian; a classic example of perseverence and patience (we've just celebrated our 14th anniversary).