Everyone has customers, both in the workplace and in the marketplace. The concept that everyone is a customer of everyone else, just like “do unto others,” should be a second skin we wear effortlessly, naturally. It’s not a shallow phrase we pay lip service to. Or a flavor-of-the-month concept that we apply-as-needed.
Serving our customers, and treating everyone we come into contact with as a potential customer, should be second-nature to the way we are hard-wired. It should become part of our personal core values.
Why is this such a difficult concept for so many of us to wrap our minds around?
Your customer includes everyone you come in contact with during the course of your workday, including yourself. When you think about it, your interactions with your customers, both internal (coworkers and colleagues) and external (revenue-producing entities that purchase or rent your company’s products, goods, or services), represent a continuous business development process.
Perhaps some of your internal customers are the folks at your company with whom you do not want to be associated! (But you need to work with them in order to accomplish project objectives.) Then there the internal customers, your colleagues, with whom you do your best work. The same holds true for your customer base: you enjoy creating deliverables for some of these folks while the relationship and process of working with other customers is right up there with root canal.
How can you create opportunities so your workday and responsibilities involve engaging more with those individuals and on those projects for which you produce your best output? And how can you gradually shift the balance of your workload away from the status quo order-taker colleagues and clients, so that you increase your level of innovation, collaboration and value?
How you define “customers” becomes your delivery of your vision and your professional expertise, and your ability to create value for your organization. It’s how you move from being perceived as an order-taker to serving your customers as an innovator and leader.
Think input, output and throughput. And for you sales professionals, think of a 4 x 100 meter relay race: from whom are you receiving the baton, what is the function of your particular leg of the race, and to whom are you handing off that baton?
Everyone is a customer of everyone else. It is just that simple.
Yet it is difficult to take this position with impending performance reviews, still more downsizing, and the tendency of some of our illustrious colleagues to treat the workplace with their own sense of entitlement (which translates into ‘do something unto someone else before they can do something unto you’). Not very professionally or ethically uplifting, I’d say.
If we perceive and treat our professional relationships as a matter of stewardship and paying forward to our colleagues and clients, our productivity and profitability might take a turn for the better.
We all are in this together. Think about how you can alter your role in the status quo so that your colleagues – even the ones you don’t care to work with – cannot help but have a positive outcome based on innovative collaboration.
Once you change your approach, the domino effect starts. It’s unavoidable. And you start to lead by example. The opportunities you start to create (or you perceive as “coming your way”) align more directly with your core values and capabilities.
You get on your customers’ A-list and they, in turn, are on yours.
It starts with moving yourself 1 millimeter outside of your comfort level and their status quo. It starts with your collaborating with your technical and non-technical colleagues, rather than competing with them (save that strategy for your marketplace competitors).
After all, the fulcrum for leveraging innovative business development is collaboration between technical and non-technical professionals.
What role will you choose to take?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.