By Lori Berry
We all have vendors, and if we are lucky enough we have partners. The difference: the partner truly cares about a mutually-rewarding relationship, where a vendor is single-minded in their pursuit of the next deal.
So how do you ensure your customers see you as a partner, and not just a vendor? It sounds simple, but to take your customer relationships to the next level you have to ask the right questions and more importantly listen to their answers!
Our friends at HTG recently introduced a tool that is transforming the way we do reviews with our partners. It is a simple exercise called Four Helpful Lists, and if used correctly it can turn a boring QBR or annual review into a game changer. (Four Helpful Lists is a part of the Strat-Op Process that comes from the Patterson Group.)
The reason for doing this is to deepen customer relationships, but it is also a safe way to find opportunities to provide value outside of the day-to-day expectations of the customer.
You should leave this exercise with a good picture of your partnerships’ best attributes and ways to improve on both sides of the relationship.
Asking customers what is right with their business or your relationship is a great way to get them comfortable with the exercise and in the rhythm of providing feedback. Have them throw out as many things that are right as possible and drain them of those thoughts before moving on.
These are the things that aren’t working either in their business or in the relationship or are risks to the business.
Things that are missing should be fairly simple to identify. These items can sometimes be processes, training, resources or boundaries.
You’ll know it should fall into what’s confused if you can phrase it as a question. Having it phrased as a question will also help narrow down what is confused. For example instead of saying that the shared email inbox is confusing, you would ask: How quickly should emails in a shared inbox be responded to? or Who is allowed to respond to emails in a shared inbox? That ensures you are capturing specific confusing elements.
You need at least an hour of undivided attention, and you’ll start by asking the group you’ve gathered to identify what is right. After you have a good list, open it up to the rest of the questions. The final column is core issues. You should set aside the last 10 – 15 minutes of the session to identify two to three core issues from all the lists. These are usually large or encompassing issues that were common threads throughout the discussion.
Here are a few other best practices:
Finally, the key to making this exercise successful is taking all of the perspective from the four lists plus the core issues and agreeing on an action plan. This is not just up to you to do, so make sure to keep your customer engaged through the process and don’t drop the ball on the follow-up.
If you are interested to see the four helpful lists activity in action, we’d love to take your team through it with GreatAmerica.
Read the full story here – 4 Questions to Take Your Customer Relationships to the Next Level
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