I am sitting in the audience waiting to speak at a sales kickoff meeting. Right now, a couple of their clients are on the stage, and they have been asked what makes someone a good strategic partner. Almost everything they say is something that would require a confident salesperson who is willing to “go there.”
First, they talk about how to handle a failure. They want the salespeople from the company to tell them what happened, to be transparent, and tell them what they need to do on their end while the failure is being resolved. They also say that they expect challenges and they want to have conversations about how to prepare for the unimaginable event, the Black Swan. They don’t understand why no one is willing to have that conversation with them. Salespeople mistakenly believe that talking about negative issues will cause them to lose credibility and so they avoid these conversations.
Second, they say that there is no way a salesperson is going to move their proposed initiative into the one or two spot as it pertains to their priorities. Both of the speakers agree that the systemic challenges they are dealing with have much larger price tags and success there would outweigh even a multimillion-dollar ROI. They both suggest that you could make it the number three on the priority board if it is something truly valuable and that that might get it funded. This is another conversation that can help you grow trust and credibility.
Perhaps the most interesting thing either of the speakers disclosed is the fact that they make decisions very slowly, much slower than they want to—and slower than they need to. The company’s client said “We move very slowly until we decide, and then we need you to move fast. If you can help us move faster by providing us with resources, you need to come and tell us what we can do.” There are probably ten conversations you could have with your clients right now to get them ready to move faster—if you frame it as wanting to help them go fast when they decide.
If you want to know what clients think, ask them. If you ask them what they want, they’ll tell you—and the answer will provide you a key to creating value and establishing a relationship as a strategic partner.