“The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” I recently read this quote by Simon Sinek, and it struck a chord. My first reaction was that this may be a little idealistic. Is it even possible? As I considered it a little more deeply, I am convinced that it is truth.
I have found over years of providing services to clients that one of two things happen. We start doing business together, because we are a match and see things the same way. Or, we start walking down the path of doing business together, and we find enough in common to get started. As we work together, the customer finds value in our approach to business and IT management, and we respect and find value in how they do business as well.
We have all tried to do business with customers that do not match. These relationships are not very much fun. Often, we can see the lack of a fit in the sales process, but we continue anyway in pursuit of the sale or of a new customer. In reality, the sale will come, if it is right, and we focus on developing common belief. We ought to focus on whether we can help the prospective customer, will they allow us and do they see enough value to pay us to help them.
In thinking about Simon Sinek’s quote, I found myself considering again what those common beliefs are. What makes us match up with a customer and how can we identify a fit early on?
Here are a few things that I look for in doing business with others:
People First – Have you ever met with someone on a sales call who never had anything good to say about the people they supervised or employed? I can recall many times where things have been said like “if they can do it wrong, they will”, or “the people that work here are not the brightest bulbs”. How much better to believe in the value of people. All people are important, valuable, want to be valued, and have a desire to succeed. It is our purpose as leaders to draw out that value, to encourage, build-up, and develop people.
Value Over Price – Several years ago, I met with a prospective customer that was a breath of fresh air. We had never worked together before, and we were discussing doing several projects for them. As we worked through the process, they never once asked about our hourly rate. At that time, this was often the first question we got for this type of work. As we were about to close the deal based on estimated pricing, I finally said to the owner, “You have not asked for my hourly rate. Would you like to go over that?” He replied to me “Your hourly rate really does not tell me anything. You may work twice as fast as a company who is cheaper than you.” We had gained enough trust in the sales process, that he was confident we would provide value. Price is always important, but its importance fades alongside real long-term value. And, that value often includes the not-so-evident components of productivity, security, and relationship.
Continuous Improvement – One of our best customers right now came to us because I asked another customer to make an introduction to them. I asked for the introduction, because I could tell from their website that they were a company we would like to work with. One of the things I noticed was that their blog had many articles focused on improving process and improving people. I could identify with their focus on improving process. It was evident from their blog that they invested in helping their people grow and improve. Our common beliefs have formed a strong relationship and made this company a pleasure to work with.
Doing Things Right – We recently engaged with a company who I have known and respected for a long time. They decided to make a change in their IT and after quoting and negotiating for the work we got started. As we were working through the project, an issue came up that involved security of their network. We recommended against doing things the way they had been doing them for years. To correct the issue, they would have to buy a fairly large number of laptops. It was refreshing to see them make the right choice and invest in doing things the right way. We have so many customers like this, and it is great to work with people who don’t want the band-aid or to just get by.
Strong Values – We have always had a strong value culture at CTaccess. We were founded in some part because my father-in-law was frustrated by the values of a previous employer. As we have grown, we have worked hard to define that value system, so that we could make sure it continues as part of our fabric. I find that companies we fit with often have very similar values. Ours are: Be Kind, Do the Right Thing, Think Like a Customer, Lead the Way, Create Connections, and Do Great Things Together. We strive to do more than put these values on our wall. We ask the team to recall them before each company meeting. We work to tie them to what we do every day. We hope that companies we work with see them and they resonate in our daily operations.
Outward Focus – There are so many companies out there who are focused on giving back in some way. I find it refreshing to meet with a business who has a strong focus on sharing what they have been given, and I firmly believe that giving back is part of our mission. The words of Jesus, spoken over 2000 years ago, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”, are still truth. Companies that see their responsibility to give and to support people in less fortunate circumstances are companies I find myself drawn to whether I am looking for someone to provide me with services, or looking for a prospective customer that I can help.
Process Oriented – Companies with strong systems make good partners. I am looking to have some work done on my house, and as I interview contractors, I always get nervous if they appear to drop the ball during the sales process. It is surprising to me how often this happens, and yet, I recognize how easy it is to do so. It makes me wonder how things will flow when they actually start working. It is so important to follow through on our commitments. If we say we will get back to someone by next week, or provide a quote, to do it. Part of doing what we say is personal accountability, and the other part is process. We are often not perfect, but having a system or process in place aids us in keeping those commitments.
Believing the same things is a great foundation for doing business together. Hopefully as we engage in business and personally, our beliefs stand out. Then as we talk, it will be evident that there is a match. And, we will, as Simon says, “…do business with people who believe what you believe.”