Building Relationships with Service Providers

Relationships. They make the world go ’round. I’m reflecting on this right now because I’m mulling over a fight. Not a fight in a traditional, fists up, arms swinging kind of fight. The kind of fight you put up when you want something really bad and you put all your effort into getting it. In the world of sales, relationships make or break you. I’m someone who pours my heart and soul into my job, and I’m also someone who believes in the team and services I’m selling. When I can see a potential customer who desperately needs what we can provide, I will put a lot of time, effort, and energy into the sales process to make sure they have the information they need from me in order for them to be successful. In my field, this sales process might be as short as a couple of weeks but it can also take a year. In those instances, it can be a grueling process of providing education, demos, quotes, adjusted quotes, presentations, case studies, references, and phone calls – sometimes at odd hours – in an effort to earn trust and prove value. The validation in winning business after a long-fought battle is something I thrive on, and yet not something I take lightly. Relationships are serious business and winning the first bid is just the beginning. The best business relationships are a two-way street as over time, each organization helps the other to thrive and be successful.

Don’t overlook the obvious

Too often, business relationships are overlooked. Management will request the dreaded RFP and the lowest cost deal will always win, regardless of value. For some service providers, it’s about making a quick buck and landing the biggest deal. To each their own, but if you are searching for consultants or partners to help you with your business, it’s worth taking a deeper look beyond the almighty dollar. I can tell you from experience that the customers that squeeze their providers for every dollar might get a few hard-fought extra hours out of their provider at no additional cost, but I can also promise you that the customers that take care of their consultants will get far more than a few hours. I’ve seen good consultants think of a customer when reading an article and send it their way, just because they know it will matter to them. They’ll go the extra mile in a project to make sure the customer gets exactly what they want. They’ll arrive early and stay late, even when it’s not required. As a customer looking for services, what you may not realize is that (at least in IT) – the best consultants don’t work 8 to 5pm. They work the hours they need to work to get the job done, and when it comes to you and your business – who do you want in the trenches with you?

Trust allows you to work more rapidly

Relationships are especially important when you are rolling out a service like Office 365 and SharePoint. Gone are the days where software can be rolled out, trained on, and left to run for a few years until the next round of updates are released. We live in a world where the cloud is king and agile rules. These days, we look at change as being the only constant and rapid adoption of new technology as a requirement, or your business might be left behind. Good relationships with service providers can help you keep pace in a fast-changing environment – outside views can also foster creativity, provide new ways of approaching old problems, and if trust is involved, you can work more rapidly to implement the solutions for those problems in a shorter time.

What to look for

If you are looking for a service provider to build a relationship with, you should look for a provider who:

  • Is willing to work at your pace – you don’t need to commit to a two-year plan upfront. Try a little before you buy a lot and don’t be afraid to work in phases.
  • Comes recommended from a trusted partner or vendor – those that have built successful relationships with others are more likely to build a good relationship with you too
  • Is willing to have an open and honest conversation about what they do and don’t do well. If they say they can do anything you ask for, you should be concerned.
  • Finally, and most importantly, find a provider willing to work as part of your team. The best providers don’t replace your team, they fill the gaps! As a consultant, their goal should be to help your team look it’s best

Who will *you* rely on when it comes time to implement the change your company needs? Are you looking for the lowest cost? The best deal? Or are you looking for a provider to build a trusted relationship with? Fill the gaps in your organization with a service team that’s ready and willing to work as a true partnership. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, to ask for references, and to look for providers willing to meet you in the middle. You just might find that you get exactly what you’re paying for….and more.

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