Monday, January 24, 2011

But Do They Trust You?

Tyler Gitou stood at the front of the conference room pointing to a list of the client’s executives.

“Does this list accurately reflect all of the people within the client that you work with daily?” he asked.

Verdi and Virginia, the two executives sitting at the conference table, nodded.

“Yes, and most of the time we are working with Carol, the chief procurement officer,” said Verdi. “She negotiates most of the deals for the client. We have tried to be more collaborative and less positional with her, but so far it has not worked.”

“How good is your relationship with Carol?” Tyler asked.

Virginia answered first. “It’s very good. We do a lot of work for their company and have been a materials supplier for about 10 years,” she said. “Carol always calls me when there is a bid open for more work.”

“That’s good,” Tyler said. “But the fact that you have had a lot of business transactions with a client does not define the relationship. It simply means they have found your services satisfactory. Separate the transactions from the relationship. How would you describe the relationship?”

“Very positive,” said Verdi. “We talk a lot about our families and how things are going. I feel we’re on the same page with her.”

“Being able to have a friendly conversation is always a good thing,” Tyler said. “But I can have those types of conversations with the guy at the coffee shop. Let me put it a different way: do you trust her?”

“Trust?” Virginia asked. “Well, I don’t know if I’d use that strong a word. She has integrity but she has to look out for her company’s interests first.”

“Fair enough.” Tyler said. “Does she trust you?”

Virginia and Verdi paused. “I think she does…” Verdi started.

“What have you done to earn her trust?” Tyler asked.

Another pause. “What do you mean?” Virginia asked.

“A Deal Whisperer builds a collaborative relationship with another party by first building a foundation of trust.” Tyler said. “Collaboration requires the parties to open up and provide transparency into their businesses so the other party can see what options might improve the value of the deal. Without trust, the parties will never get to the level of candid and open discussion required to maximize the value of a deal.”

“So how do we build trust?” Verdi asked.

“Develop a trust action plan,” Tyler said. “Bring your team together and coach them on behavior that focuses on mutual success, not just success for you. When you make commitments, keep them. When you make mistakes, acknowledge them. Build a track record that demonstrates you are striving to be a trusted business partner, not just another supplier. The higher the level of trust you have with those with whom you negotiate, the higher the level of collaboration and return you will both get from the deal.”

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