Early in the life of our company, a management consultant sat across a conference table from me and drew an organizational chart with me in the top box. From my vantage point, however, I was at the bottom supporting those above me. It’s a perspective that remains true today. Management should be a two-way street.
At our company, we live by three guiding principles: Do the right thing (which starts with integrity and honesty), friends first and work hard. That philosophy extends from the executive leadership team through every department. Taken together, these principles make up a singular belief: Do right by your clients, create client relationships that transcend the deal and work hard to ensure nothing damages, detracts or deviates from the relationship. The following seven strategies reflect this belief and have helped our business growth from start-up to market leader.
1. It’s not about the sale. Sales are an opportunity. Relationships build bonds for the long term. We hear the line all the time, “What can I do to help your organization?” When was the last time you posed that question to a client or candidate — and really meant it?
2. Hire right, empower your people and invest in tools and relationships. At our company, each employee has the audience to suggest changes and improvements, even during their first week on the job. We’ve invested millions of dollars in cutting-edge technology and tools to better support our people in helping our clients.
3. Know your clients. Demonstrate a sincere interest in their challenges and decision-making process. When appropriate, request a seat at the table where those decisions are made. If you’re confident in your ability and your partnership with your client, tie your compensation to their success.
4. Really know your clients. Forget the fancy restaurants and morning-meeting diners. Visit their locations. See what they do. Even consultants or vendors can perform a little “management by walking around.” Learn their pain points, strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared to offer solutions, even if it’s a suggestion you may not profit from or it’s your product or service. Be comfortable leaving money on the table.
5. When clients are successful, so are we. We constantly invest in and partner with our clients. Last year, we invested in a longstanding client by opening four branches to support its growing business. Those branches are now supporting our clients’ needs, as well as our expansion in those communities. It was a calculated investment that reflected our commitment to mutual growth.
6. Reward, recognize and retain your team. Incentivizing and rewarding employees for individual success is important, but equally important is getting them to buy into the fact their success is tied to teamwork. We put a lot of emphasis on team and make it a point to get together as a group outside of the office regularly so that employees can build internal relationships with each other. As a result, when outsiders first see them, our team looks like a group of friends — because they are.
7. Keep it simple. Don’t overengineer relationships with your clients, and don’t be pushy in proving your love for client candidates. Keeping it honest will keep it real. Candidates and clients like that.
I have always believed that success in sales should not be focused on closing the deal or making quota. It’s about seizing the opportunity to create and build relationships.
It’s not complicated. It’s silly, simple, street-smart stuff that has been proven to work — no matter the perspective from which you’re viewing your business. It’s all about the relationship. Focus on that and the rest will take care of itself.
Jay Cohen is president and CEO of Signature Consultants, a national IT staffing firm based in Fort Lauderdale with offices in Orlando and 14 other locations throughout the country. This year the company was named the No. 1 Best Staffing Firms to Work For in the United States by Staffing Industry Analysts.