When we announced that McGraw-Hill was publishing our book, Winning the Customer, of course we had to have a little fun with it, so I threw out to the social media universe that we would give a copy of the book to the person who provided the “best” topic for me to write a post about. I received about 50 suggestions via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and emails. All were very good topics. There were many suggestions regarding the NFL Lockout, which I have a very definitive opinion about. I thought that many of the topics had already been covered by others, so although there were many great suggestions, the “best” one was absolutely going to have to be subjective. I decided that long-time pal and client, John Holloran, had a topic that I could put my specific take on, and at the same time, hopefully help others with their efforts, which is the primary reason I write this blog. So here’s how I feel about how you should treat your sponsors or clients, and what it could mean to you.
Let’s pick this up at the point of a fully executed contract. Your company and your new client come to a meeting of the minds on what you can provide them to help them do business. The contract is negotiated and signed. Here’s where both parties should put the contract in a drawer and never take it out again, until it’s time to renew the deal. I am a firm believer that once a client becomes a part of your family of partners, nit-picking about the contract should not be a part of the process. Yes, you should have a list of deliverables that you are obligated to provide, that goes without saying. But to me, that’s where the deliverables begin, not end.
Too many folks get caught up in, “You bought these assets or services” and blah, blah, blah. Guest what? You sell services and assets to recognize revenue, but the reality is it’s your job to make sure your client is accomplishing their goals and actually doing business. So if that means doing things outside the scope of the deal, then you should make damn sure you are doing just that.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to spend a lot of extra money or give additional valuable assets that prevent you from making money for your company. What needs to happen is that you must create a real working partnership to help your clients achieve their goals without negatively affecting yours. To do this, you need to create a fluid situation where you are working together to make things happen. Sometimes, that may mean giving a little extra time, services and assets. Other times, the something more that is needed will have an additional expense to it, and your client has to realize some extras do cost a little more. The key here is open communications and a complete trust that you will do everything in your power to accomplish their goals, and if something occurs that causes costs to increase, they know you are being straight with them. Trust and credibility are crucial between you and your client. If you create this fluidity within a deal, it shouldn’t only benefit your client, it should also positively affect you in multiple ways.
This reminds me of a time when I was with the Patriots and I reached out to one of our many sponsors with whom we had this type of relationship. I called this particular partner and stated to him that we were kicking off a new initiative and I needed his support. Now, his brand was already a top-level sponsor spending seven figures with the team. There was no legitimate reason to spend extra dollars with us. In fact, this particular new initiative made little business sense in and of itself to the client and their goals. I absolutely knew this and didn’t pretend otherwise. I began the conversation, “Hey Tim, we are kicking off this new initiative that is important to the team as we expand into this area. It will not help you achieve any of your goals, but I could use your support and $100K.” I’m paraphrasing, and I’m sure I went into more detail, but the point is that without hesitation, Tim (not the actual client’s name) said, “You got it.” No hesitation, no question, he was in. He was in because he knew that we would be there in the same way for him and his brand in a moment’s notice, just as we had been in the past, remembering us keeping that contract in the drawer.
This is the ultimate goal for your relationship with as many clients as possible. I am pleased to say we had that relationship with many of our sponsors and clients. Not all, but as you have probably encountered, some folks just don’t get it and are contract technicians. I promise you, if you are a “contract referrer” (i.e. “let’s see what the contract says”), regardless of what side you are on, then you are not getting the concept that I am laying out for you in this post, and are not getting the most out of the deal and your partnership.
I know if we called “Tim” right now and asked him if the extra $100K was worth it, without hesitation, he would confirm it was. We strived to build fluid deals like the one described above, in which we all worked together to accomplish each other’s goals. The best way to initiate these types of relationships is to be upfront and direct with your clients. Then, to make these relationships come to life, you must do the right thing and not focus on just the deliverables in a contract, but deliver on helping your partner actually do business. This all starts with putting the contract in a drawer once it’s signed and never looking back.