I had an interesting conversation with a C-level executive today. Unsolicited, he said: “My biggest fear is that my strategic partner will get complacent.” I pressed him for more.
Complacent around my customer’s needs
This executive (and many more like him, I’m sure) wasn’t concerned as much about complacency around serving his needs as they exist now. What he was concerned about was his strategic partner failing to recognize the forces that affect his business, particularly the demands of his customers. This is further down the value creation chain, and it’s where the highest level of value creators play.
His fear was that they wouldn’t recognize the trends and issues before he did. He worried that they wouldn’t be quick enough to adapt to their service offerings to his customers changing demands, and that he in turn would fall behind his customers. He feared being blindsided by something would cost him business and would be more expensive to correct later.
No executive likes surprises.
Note that he wasn’t afraid of his competitors (nor should he have been, since he works for a global giant). Note too that his expectation was that his strategic partner would be out ahead of him on understanding what was next and should be leading him to it. This is why moving to strategic will move you up the levels of value creation and away from price.
Complacency around sharing
This C-level executive also had another thought on complacency worth noting. He said that he believed that many of his strategic partners served other companies like his. Because they work with other companies, he expected that they would know things about what others in the industry were doing, what they were thinking about, and that his partners were probably aware of even more ideas than he was as an industry player.
His concern was complacency around his strategic partner sharing that information with him. He wasn’t after confidential, private, or protected information. He’s after the big issues, the big trends, and the big ideas. He’s right to believe that we as salespeople see more than he sees. The question for us do we deliver the information that he would find meaningful, or do we simply seek opportunities that would benefit us, failing to recognize how much value we create and what it means for our position within our clients.
This is how you compete for and win mindshare. Mindshare precedes wallet share.
I have always thought of this obligation as “helping your clients to see around corners.”
This executive, and I would argue all others, wants information. He wants ideas. He expects the salespeople of his strategic partner to bring him information and ideas. He fears that they won’t. He fears complacency.
What does it mean to be proactive for your clients?
What are their expectations of you as their salesperson?
What information do you need to proactively share with your clients to be a source of competitive advantage?
How do you share that information?
How important is mindshare?
Why does your client fear your complacency?