Plavecsky's Ponderings By Jim Plavecsky
by Jim Plavecsky
August 7th, 2019

Forming Business Partnerships and Flexing Your Muscles

Many salespeople want to spend most of their time trying to capture new accounts. However, unless you represent a start-up company, then the biggest chunk of your business growth in any given year will come from the growth of existing customers.

So how do we focus not just on keeping our existing customers but instead working harder alongside of them to help both organizations to surpass organic market growth? The answer lies in business to business partnerships.

We must be more than just suppliers to our existing customers. We must be business partners. What does this mean? First and foremost, it means that we must seek to understand our customer’s business as if it were our very own. Secondly, we must then flex our muscles to offer product and service solutions that will enable each of our key customers to outclass their competition. Remember, if our customer gains market share in his tier of the marketplace, then we also gain market share in our tier. If his business grows, our business grows. If he is successful, then we are successful. If he is successful because of us, his loyalty solidifies. If he is successful in spite of us, then he has an opportunity to be even more successful without us. If he hasn’t figured this out yet, he eventually will.

So how do we understand our customers business as if it was our very own? The answer lies in spending time learning as much as we can about their business. Spend time with your customers learning all aspects of their business – marketing, sales, customer service and operations. Find out what challenges they face. Forge relationships between key individuals of your company and key individuals of your customer’s organization. In other words, bring your marketing manager in to meet their marketing manager and your operations people in to visit with their production manager. Link these people together to share ideas and form bridges that will result in real synergisms. As the salesperson managing the key accounts, you are the orchestrator here. So just do it. It might be hard to arrange a day when your vice president of operations can afford to leave your plant for a few days to travel with you and visit customers, but in doing so, this investment can pay huge dividends.

Once these bridges are built then your organization must flex its muscles. What does this mean? It means that your company must use its core competencies to bring your key customers new products or services which will give them a distinct competitive advantage. If your customer is gaining market share because of something unique that you are providing to him then you will both be winners. He grows faster and so do you. One thing is for certain. Doing this means being flexible, So, if you have a key customer that needs you to tweak some aspect of your product or service, then do it. The companies that say, “this is what we offer and that is how it comes” are not flexing their muscles. They are laying down. They will be passed up at some point by other companies that are not just interested in selling products that are easy for them to produce, but instead are forging stronger relationships as business partners and doing things differently to help their customers succeed.

So, what if you as the salesperson are trying to forge these relationships and build these bridges but you are not getting cooperation from within the company that you represent?

We all know creative and resourceful people who are talented entrepreneurs who are talented at managing a new business venture. Well, there is also such thing as an “intrapreneur.” This is someone who can excel at making things happen within an existing organization. So, try being an intrapreneur by working within your organization using your access to its people and resources. Challenge the key people in your company to tweak things in such a manner that it may help your customer become more successful. It might mean developing shorter lead times on key components that will help your customer achieve better delivery times. Or it might mean enhancing your products in such a way that will help your customer offer a better product to his customer base at the same price thereby adding value. Or it might mean providing sales training from experts in your company to your customer’s sales team to help your customer’s salespeople better understand the value that your components add to his product line. Such training can help your customer’s sales team to better leverage these advantages and to gain market share.

Most would agree that the fenestration industry is strong with the prospect of decent growth opportunities down the road. But growing our businesses in a profitable manner is not without its challenges. In order to achieve more aggressive market share growth surpassing organic market growth, successful companies must engage in strategic partnerships with their key customers. This means forming deeper and stronger relationships to better understand each aspect their business. Then go to work as an intrapreneur and get your company to flex its muscles!

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