I’m not in the camp that suggests ‘everything will change’. Not everything needs to change. But I fully believe some things will change. Your customers will be at least slightly different, in a way material to you. You’ll need to adjust.
In ‘The Infinite Game’, Simon Sinek contrasts businesses that operate with a long term view vs. emphasis on finite wins (the sale/the quarter/profit). His research tells us that future-oriented businesses match the resilience of their customers, and earn loyalty as a result. Shared resilience proves that your relationship matters more than today’s sale. This is a good time to prove it.
This type of change occurs in our personal lives. It takes only nine months – fewer actually – for the lifestyle of good friends to change as a baby changes their world. Your friends have become new parents, and this new situation changes their day-to-day behaviors and decisions. Often, they drift to new friends who share these new things in common. Your customers might do this too.
I know a company that provides high-end foods to grocers and restaurants. This 30 year B2B firm added B2C in only three weeks. They now sell direct to homes. Will their vendors bring value to this new situation? Packaging, couriers, technology, supply chain, and customer service all play a role in this new normal. Will their vendors risk losing a historical business relationship if they’re not as resilient?
Your clients will be different in some way. They may pivot in permanent ways. Natural innovators have already evolved. Are you ready to learn how they’ve changed and deliver value to their new reality?
What is your new Value Proposition? A new relationship can thrive if you are prepared to:
- Offer resources and services that fill a customer’s new gap
- Adjust pricing and invoicing to meet the customer’s situation
- Adapt your product(s) to new strategies, priorities, capabilities
- Introduce your capabilities to new contacts and decision-makers
Where can your new Value Proposition help them most?
- Fully understand their current situation: Be curious and empathetic. Let them know you don’t assume that business is usual. Ask them to prioritize the most important changes to them.
- Confirm their desired state-of-being amidst the new norms: Short and long-term. What does success look like to your contact and customer – personal and business. What new value can you offer to help them achieve success?
In our personal lives, we recognize our best friends as those that adjust as our lives adjust. The brand new parent can rarely spontaneously visit or go out on-the-town, and tension builds if a friend places undue pressure on keeping things the same. The new parent finds other friends. Don’t be that friend.
And don’t be the business partner that assumes all will be the same. Make it easy for your customer to adjust. Recognize that it’s actually a new normal for both of you.
Most good relationships will make it through, but remember this: If your customer was resilient enough to adapt, how will they feel if you’re not able or willing to adapt along with them?
In these times, when it comes to business relationships, staying in place just may mean falling behind.