Think for a moment about the word “relationship.” What does it mean to you?
The dictionary defines relationship as: “Connection, association; involvement; dependent on something else for significance…”
When I think about the strongest relationships I have with my suppliers, two words come to mind: trust and predictability. I trust them to have my best interests in mind whenever we do business; I trust them to treat me fairly; I trust them to deliver, on time, on budget, doing what they say they will do when they say they will. Because I trust them, I can predict their behavior; I know they will come through for me. I trust them to maintain our good relationship.
Here’s another way to think about relationships: In this day of product and price parity, the one thing that you have that competitors can’t duplicate are your relationships. Your relationships with key customers are unique.
Good relationships help us win the close ones. They help us recover from minor mistakes. Good relationships don’t help when our price is twice our competitors. They don’t help very much when the competitor is the customer’s brother or cousin. They don’t help if we make repeated huge mistakes in quality or delivery.
In this economy, many supplier/customer relationships are the same way – it’s about the close ones. The difference between success and failure is often very slight. Strong relationships can make the difference between winning and losing.
Are your relationships strong enough to help you win the close ones? What can you do to earn more trust from your customers? Do you know how to strengthen the relationships with your most valuable customers?
Gary Gerds, Managing Partner