“Walk in my shoes” – Vendor/Stakeholder Relationship Strategies

We have all heard the expression about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, but how often do we demonstrate this concept when dealing with customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders?

First impressions are important but the enduring aspect, which is arguably more important for a long lasting and successful partnership, is the understanding that is created between suppliers, vendors and customers.

shoesAs with any relationship, success is based on trust, open communication and an the agreement that all parties have something to offer and gain from the relationship.

In the modern world, this normally translates into IT enabled projects that meets specific business objectives or solves a business problem for the customer while generating revenue for the suppliers and vendors alike. As in nature, this symbiotic relationship is fundamental to the coexistence of all associated parties.

R “Ray” Wang from Forrester, is writing an interesting set of  5 related posts (Monday Musings: It’s The Relationship, Stupid! ) in which he explores various aspects that can place this multi stakeholders ecosystem at risk.

The Five common conventional wisdom strategies that destroy relationship value often include:

Part 1: Commoditizing the client facing workforce at the expense of the client

Part 2: Slashing the quality of support and maintenance while failing to deliver value 

Part 3: Pushing products that clients don’t need in order to grow revenues

Part 4: Under-investing in R&D and then repackaging existing content as new innovation 

Part 5: Living in denial by ignoring stakeholder concerns and requests 

Having been involved in software sales and consulting in consultancies and vendors for many years, I definitely can relate to the following comment.

… effective relationships can turn out to be THE ONLY major differentiator in selecting a solution or extending contracts. How often have we heard it – “People buy from people!” It is so true! Metrics are key -it is not only about the obvious monthly/quarterly quota attainment. Metrics need to be consistent from the C levels to the customer facing teams.

I had a top tier training/consulting firm tell me that in their many years of experience it is the organizations that consistently decide to recycle their field rep organization that continue to struggle to maintain their client base and grow their business. Easily the more effective strategy has been to invest in educating management on how to maintain clients and grow relationships. But they see it over and over again where companies will clean house in the field because the near term numbers aren’t in line. Only to see these same organizations continue to struggle.

Another metric could be measuring the quantity of support calls vs “training” calls over time coming from a client. Professional services organizations need to work in lock step with the sales team. How about measuring whether clients actually install the software! How often have we heard the nightmare stories around “shelfware!” An effective rep (along with the services team) can certainly influence whether or not the software actually gets deployed if it is recognized by management as a priority.

If you have the time, have a look. I am sure many vendors, suppliers (SIs, Management Consultants, VARs etc.) and end users will recognise some, if not all of these situations and be able to relate them to past experience.

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