Collaborate (verb): to take part or aid in a joint effort to accomplish an end (www.Merriam-Webster.com).
Listen first and talk later.
Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.
I’m sure you have heard these sayings before, but how often have you seen them applied in business interactions? My guess is not often enough. In TIE’s Path to Partnership, the core process to which we have built the business on starts with this very concept. Who knows your business better than you?
Before coming to TIE, my work history included a major telecommunications company and another that was primed for sale soon after. I saw two different approaches to sales working for these 2 companies. The major corporation used every inbound call as an opportunity to sell everything possible to the person on the phone. Maybe you can relate to that? Calling in for repair? They would try to sell you call forwarding. Calling to install a basic phone line would result in them trying to up sell you beyond your means or needs for that matter. No one took the time to listen or truly care about the caller because they were more worries about the quota they had to make. I always thought is backwards to have a quota on sales and not on service.
The second of these companies took the time to be face to face with their customers but not enough time listening to their needs. I am sure some customers were oversold to line pockets with commissions with hungry sales people who did not take the time to ask the right questions.
After joining TIE, I was impressed at the approach taken by the sales team. They were encouraged to listen and collaborate with their customers. Sell them only what they need with some room for growth and not the moon! I was fortunate enough to be a part of that experience my first year at TIE when I was asked to work with a national non-profit company. After interviewing the National office and the local locations I began to understand more about how they handled business from a 10,000 foot view all the way down to the front lines. Those that were interviewed told me about their challenges and pains with how they went about their day-to-day activities. I feverishly took notes about all of it including the vision and goals of the company as a whole as well as the purpose and functions of each role within the organization. We looked at their carrier invoices and the red flags that came up as well as how the locations talked to each other. We discussed the seasonal nature of their fundraising and how they were handling those technology needs. I even listened as they talked about their processes of opening new locations, moving and merging, and in some situations closing locations.
It was a lot of information to take in and digest. It was exciting at the same time because I knew we could pull together and help them. At the time, I had no idea at that time that this stage of collaboration would later help us to save them millions of dollars each year to reinvest into the good works that they performed (to read how we overcame some of these challenges, visit the case study found on page 2 here http://www.tienational.com/pdf/Audit%20&%20Expense%20Management.pdf).
Listening is such an important part in what we do. If TIE had not taken the time to actually listen, and just tried to fit every customer into a cookie cutter, one-size fits most mold of services, we would not have nurtured a long relationship with that customer. Oftentimes businesses rely on their experience too much that they instead force their opinion before hearing the need. I do not believe that every customer really realizes the full breadth of their need until they really talk it out.
TIE considers themselves to be the Nationwide Technology Partner for their customers. I believe the first step in TIE’s Path to Partnership, Collaboration, shows such an intimacy in understanding the business of the customer, that calling themselves “Partner” is a realistic notion.
After taking time to listen, and to understand the challenges, TIE’s collective experience then truly shines as we enter into Step Two: Design. Our team represents decades of experience from all over the telecommunications and information technology (I.T.) industries. Next time we will explore how we take everything we learned in Step 1 and apply our industry knowledge to further develop our partnership with each customer.