Any business leader worth their salt believes in their company's products and services. They know they've got the right offer, at the right price, for their target customers. If they don't, it might be time to seek a different line of work! Often, though, choosing partners and vendors comes down to something deeper: trust. And trust is about vulnerability, one of the scariest human emotions. Many of us run from it instinctively: it's a hard world, and the strong survive, right? That's exactly right, depending on how you measure strength. I suggest that real strength lies in a person's ability to be a real human being, even when it carries the potential to expose weaknesses. At my company, Nelson Container, we've learned this lesson firsthand over many years of experience.
Nelson makes corrugated packaging, and we specialize in creative custom solutions. It's an industry ruled by the penny, with purchasing managers acting as vigilant sentinels who guard their resources with great care, so building real relationships can be a challenge. For us, it all comes down to not being afraid to be vulnerable. When we can be candid with our customers about what we can do, it opens the door for them to share their own challenges and for us to devise the best solution – together. Mistakes happen occasionally as well, but most can be overcome when the focus stays off the blame game and on fixing what happened. No one is perfect, and no one needs to. Here are five things to keep in mind as you build your business relationships.
Believe in yourself: Spend time talking about what you “can” do… positive affirmations! Have faith in your own and your company's abilities. Work hard and recognize that there's an opportunity hidden in every challenge. Believe in yourself and the people you surround yourself with. Set high expectations for both. Others will see it and be drawn to you. When you achieve this, there is nothing you cannot accomplish.
Be real, and that means being considerate: You know you do good work, and that you have what your prospective customer needs. There's no need to be so focused on the “close” that anyone not ready to buy today will avoid your calls. Take time to get to know about your customers' business – both their current situation, and their future plans. Help them connect to resources that will help them grow when you can. Return phone calls and emails promptly – yourself. Be patient, pleasant and communicate clearly.
Respect others: In business, we take for granted a level of mutual courtesy. Real respect goes deeper – it acknowledges and accepts the differences between personal and professional cultures, processes and viewpoints. It's not necessary to agree with a customer or vendor on every level, or even to understand them beyond what it takes to do business together. It is necessary to respect the choices of others, and to show your respect in appropriate ways.
Show, don't tell: You can talk about your work all day: your results say much more. Show samples of your work, have honest testimonials handy, invest in creating a couple of case studies. When your prospective customers can SEE the great work you do, they can feel confident in your ability to solve their problem.
Deliver on your commitments: Don't commit if you can't deliver! When your customers know they can count on you, not just for what they've ordered, but for service they had not considered, you've broken through the “vendor barrier” to become a true partner who can be relied on to get the job done.
Tom Nelson is the president of Nelson Container. He has a strong commitment to continuous learning and is active in several personal development organizations. In addition to business, Tom has a passion for bicycling and skiing. He has been a certified alpine ski instructor for more than 30 years and an alpine ski racing coach for more than 20 years.