Let’s talk about the “love” between vendors or organizations and their clients or stakeholders.
A very sage, savvy and experienced client once said to me that the relationship between a supplier and customer can be likened to a romantic relationship.
There is the “woo-ing” phase, whereby the potential vendor “courts” the prospective client. They have many meetings (“dates”) finding out about one another to see if there is a good match. Each party asks questions of the other, hoping to find common ground to continue the relationship.
If things progress along well, the prospective client might give the potential vendor a “chance” or sample job (“bring home to meet parents”) to see how they live up to what was promised.
If THAT goes well, then they have established a business relationship (“marriage”).
After that comes the “honeymoon” stage. The new vendor is excited about successfully getting the prospect on board as a client; the client wants to continue to feel happy and justified in entering into the relationship. The vendor goes out of his way to make sure all deadlines are met, the quality is great, and communication is wide open! The client gives ample praise to the vendor, gives plenty of notice for jobs, and makes sure the vendor is getting paid promptly. It is business nirvana!
What happens next is usually controlled by the vendor. The relationship can go one of three possible ways.
First, as in many relationships, communication begins to break down as each party begins to take the other for granted. There are no more “high fives” from the customer; no more super high touch quality control from the vendor. Things show up late, client misses payment deadlines. Soon, the client begins taking calls from competing vendors and begins the “woo-ing” process all over again, with someone else. What’s next? “Divorce!”
Second, also as in some relationships, things kind of drift along, not bad but not great either. Communication lags, no one feels particularly great anymore about the relationship. The client might seek a “backup” supplier because the vendor is “too busy” to treat the client like gold. What’s next? “Complacency!”
Third and finally, in those rare cases, both parties decide to keep the honeymoon phase going! They each go out of their way to compliment each other (“referrals” or “testimonials”). Constant proactive and two-way communication is the key. Promises are kept, mutual respect is given. What’s next? A lasting, long-term, mutually satisfying business relationship that is profitable for both parties.
THAT should always be our goal!