English: An interchangeable Varem plate heat exchanger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You’ve got to be one or the other. But only one will help you grow your business. And while you know which one that is, you may not know how to go from being considered just another supplier to becoming a partner to your clients.
What makes you interchangeable? Perhaps the biggest problem, counter intuitively, is if you are doing a good job for your clients. Because that might easily lure you into a false sense of importance. Sure, you get them decent results at a fair price. When they make requests, you try your best to do what is needed. And when there is a setback, with timing, or delivery, you apologize and let them know how sorry you are. You even give them very nice pens with your logo on them.
The concern, however, is that that’s how most of the people they work with handle things. And you can’t stand out from the crowd if you act like everyone else.
So how do you make yourself indispensable? There are lots of ways. You don’t wait for your client to ask for something. Instead, you anticipate their needs. You give them studies on how the industry is doing. You alert them to relevant research. You provide competitive reports. You have a network of people you know and trust in various professions, so that when a client needs help on a project outside your expected area of expertise, they know they can rely on you to provide reliable referrals. You contact your contacts to see if there is something you can do, rather than wait for their emails.
Ideally, you want achieve a level of trust so that they wouldn’t think of having a meeting without inviting you to participate. You become a “partner,” not a vendor.
Think of it as the barbershop syndrome. If there are a bunch of them, each charging around same price, and in the same neighborhood, how do you stand out? And once you have managed to make the first sale, how do you build on that to form a relationship deeper than an ordinary one?
Got the idea?