“Before you satisfy ‘the client’ understand and satisfy the person.” – Harry Beckwith
We all think we probably know our client’s business. After all, we have been talking to them for quite a while and they are a well-known name! So what else do I need to know?
If we really want to understand the Customer, their Notion, and what they are trying to achieve, we need to know their business; not just by looking at their website, but by understanding how their business works from soup to nuts. We need to know what’s involved from supply chain to delivery, their objectives, and how they measure success. It’s not always just revenue and profit! Many companies have a sophisticated balanced scorecard approach, wherein lies the secrets of how we could add value to their business.
So how do we get closer to understanding their company? Asking the right questions often provides a lot of the answers. But to get to those questions, we need to understand a little about the business. Good sources are easy to find, and yes, the Company annual report is a good start. But what are we looking for? Who do we meet and what is their role, background, experience? What’s the revenue, stock, profit situation? Who do you know that knows them? What appears to be their challenges? Sources are existing connections, as well as LinkedIn, web browsers, Wiki, Glassdoor, Hoovers etc.
The word Partnering is used a lot now. As with many words, such as awesome, literally and hot, used a lot means it is so popular it is often misused. True partnering with clients means positioning yourself as an extension of their company and looking for ways to add value to that company, as well as to individuals. The only way you can truly partner is to understand our potential partners business and their situation. We need what I call the Ultimate Engagement. Ultimate Engagement is ‘walking the partners’ talk based on actually spending time in their shoes. This means either working in the company’s premises or operations. I am sure you have heard of and probably seen the TV series Undercover Boss. In this program, a company boss works incognito somewhere in his or her company to find out what works and what doesn’t. We need to do the same, but without the undercover part. We are less of a threat in working in the Partner’s warehouse or in their restaurant, if we are not part of the company. But we can find out a lot about their challenges.
During part of my career working on the McDonald’s business with Coca-Cola, we used to work in a McDonald’s restaurant several times a year. Wow! What perspective that offered. I learned how the crew was fanatic about quality, focused on service and fastidious about cleanliness. I grilled nuggets, assembled ingredients for Big Macs and found out how extra pairs of hands miraculously appeared from nowhere to help pull the fries when the buzzers told me they were all ready at the same time.
Another way of getting close, is being embedded in the company’s offices. This expression became popular when CNN started using it when referring to one of their reporters being placed in the battlefield in Iraq, bringing real time reports of combat.
Many years ago, while I was with Coca-Cola in the UK, one of my senior managers charged me with getting closer to Beecham Foods (as they were known then) who was our distributor in the grocery trade. Left to their own devices for many years, Beecham Foods was using Coca-Cola as door openers for their own brands on which they made better margins. I was charged with taking leadership and getting more allegiance to our brands. I needed to understand their business first. So I virtually camped out there. After 6 months they provided a desk for me and my own extension number in their Head Office.
Nearly 30 years later I was working for Creata, still on the McDonald’s business and I was once again embedded by being provided an office space in the Global Corporate HQ offices in Oak Brook, Illinois. This ultimate engagement means you are seen as an extension of your client’s business. You are invited to meetings you would never normally be part of and you have easy access to people and resources providing numerous opportunities to provide real value and build trust and respect for you and your company. But the real benefit in being embedded is that you get to understand your customers’ business.
These ideas and more are covered when I consult for you! Let me know if you have any other ideas that helps to know your clients business!