In order to grow a customer's business, you must get inside it. Unless you know it, you cannot grow it. No business can be grown from the outside. By being an insider, you can be in business together with your customer instead of just doing business as an outside supplier. The opportunities to be in business together are found in the customer operations, where you can affect outcomes and where growth can take place if you are able to improve them.
Contributing to customer results shows up in one survey after another as one of the top three critical success factors in customer satisfaction. Few customers say that they need better products. Many products exceed customer needs, such as Digital Equipment's "fastest-on-earth" Alpha microprocessor, whose price had to be cut back periodically to compete with the lower-priced, slower systems of Hewlett-Packard and Sun, whose performance was "good enough." What comes across is that customers need supplier performance—not product performance—in three categories: more knowledge of customer operations, more understanding of customer competitive situations and more strategic ways to deal with them, and more proactive contributions to customer profit improvement that are made without having to be asked for.
Customers are the genesis of your business. For this reason, you must both be in the same business. This means that the customer must come first, by making customer profitability your combined prime objective and managing your business as being of your customers, by your customers, and for your customers.
Every business has natural partners. Who are yours? They are other businesses whose growth is dependent on you. Selecting your growth partners is the single most important act of Consultative Selling.
Good partners meet five criteria:
They want to grow.
They want you to grow them.
The growth they want from you is within your norms.
They can grow you in return.
Their growth by you will convert additional good partners.
If you know who your natural partners are and what they need from you in order to grow, you can dedicate your Profit Improvement Proposals to them from the outset. Your business positioning can be a natural response to theirs. Also, your system capabilities can be exactly receptive to their needs. Furthermore, your database can contain knowledge of their growth problems and opportunities. Your entire business can be the reciprocal of the businesses of your partners.
You have two types of natural growth partners. One is composed of businesses that are currently growing because of you. The other is composed of businesses that you could grow but are not currently growing.