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StrategyJan 20, 2014

It’s All About Relationships Part 2: Viewing Clients as Friends

Morgan Eseke

The idea that “it’s all about relationships” is something that extends past the four walls of our Credera offices. Not only do we believe it is critical to build strong relationships within our firm, we also believe it is imperative to pursue great friendships with our clients and prospective clients.

Earlier this year I had the privilege of teaching the business development (BD) section of the onboarding course to our newly hired college graduates.  The entire purpose of the course is to redefine their view of business development. It is never about “sales” or chasing the dollar, but about finding valuable ways to help our friends.

Scott Covington, vice president with Credera, explains this well:

“As a strategic advisor, I’m simply a professional – striving to listen well to my clients and I love to help them paint the picture of their vision and plan a path to realize the vision, together.  It’s why I enjoy getting up early and staying up late…it’s the people, the heart, the passion!  It really comes down to the relationships and the craftsmanship and being willing to bring high-speed, innovative teams of professionals to walk through fire to help people achieve big vision.  It’s the challenge and creativity.  It all boils down to people and I find great joy in building those great relationships.”

By the way, Scott is one of our firm’s leaders in business development. He typically has eight to ten meetings per week that could be classified as “business development,” but to Scott, these lunches and coffee meetings are simply friend-making opportunities or chances to develop an existing friendship. If a business opportunity comes from one of those meetings, then that is simply a bonus.

In most cases, business opportunities that result from a genuine desire to help others typically lead to a long-lasting partnership. This is because they are based on mutual respect and a common goal. This has been Credera’s experience with clients like PepBoys, 7-Eleven, and EmployBridge; all of which have been long-time clients and great friends.

But it is critical to note that this desire to build friendships cannot be faked. The moment the motives behind helping someone become about an end goal, the relationship becomes manipulative and self-serving. It is no longer a true friendship and this is never our goal.

So what are attributes of a friendship and how do these apply to your clients/customers?

A friendship is a selfless relationship.

A friendship is a selfless relationship; one where the needs of the other are placed above your own. Friends sincerely desire what is best for each other, and Credera’s approach to serving our clients is similar. This is the main reason we choose to be “technology agnostic,” meaning we actively avoid creating a particular allegiance to any certain technology software or platform. This way we are able to make recommendations that are truly best for our friends and their organizations.

How can you adjust your offerings/services to develop deeper relationships with your clients/customers?

 Friends are honest with each other.

Lip service has no place in friendship. The role of a consultant is to advise our clients toward success and sometimes this means sharing difficult facts. Censoring feedback or avoiding tough issues out of self-protection or for fear of losing the business is not an attribute of true friendship.

How can your open and honest dialogue enrich your clients/customers?

(Shameless plug: Patrick Lencioni’s book Getting Naked shares more about this idea of “embracing uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of the client.” If you are in the professional services industry, I encourage you to read this book.)

Friends share common goals and interests.

Our desire is always to help our organizations grow and achieve their visions. If we cannot get behind their vision 100%, we have no business helping them. One of my favorite stories of Credera’s leadership team is the time they turned down a $1-million project because the client requesting our assistance had a business model that was not aligned with our firm’s core values.

Do you understand your client’s dreams? How can you measure and leverage common goals and interests?

Friends have fun together. 

They laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. I love hearing stories of the great friendships that have developed during projects. EmployBridge is one of my favorite examples because of their great sense of humor. Last year, they sent a singing gorilla (yes, you read that correctly) to our office to serenade one of our technical leads as a thank you for his hard work on the project! But the stories don’t end there. So many laughs and great times were had during Credera’s three-year stint at Interstate Batteries that tears were shed from both parties as the initiative came to a close.

How can you weave play and fun into your experiences with your customers?

I encourage you to view your clients as your friends. Get to know them, find out what they need, and take time to understand their dreams. Then figure out how to help them, even if there is no benefit or financial gain for you. It is easy to manipulate an outcome; it’s worthwhile to make friends.

In the spirit of friendship, I invite you to become friends with us via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

This series consists of five blog posts. Continue reading by selecting the links below:

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