I think most of us are on the same page in recognising that we’re living through unprecedented times. We don’t have the answers to many questions that are being asked. We’re all learning as we go. Though there is much content out there right now, I felt compelled to put finger to keyboard and summarise my thoughts on a topic that is important to me. This being, managing Client Partnerships. I hope you enjoy the write up and take something away from it.
I guess I should start by introducing myself. I am a Partnership Manager within QUT Executive Education and I partner with organisations across the Health, Ageing and Disabilities sectors in respect to professional development. To name a few areas, my background lies in sales, marketing and communications, Human Resources and project management. Essentially, stakeholder engagement and managing successful partnerships are key focuses for me. It’s also important to add, as is the case with most businesses, that revenue generation is a necessary part of my role.
The reason I mention the revenue component is that there are many people working in direct sales roles who will be feeling anxious about how the current pandemic will impact their ability to meet revenue targets. Businesses are experiencing palpable tension between generating sales during a period of severe economic turmoil and acknowledging the reality of the situation in loss of life and employment that have shifted consumer priorities. For those of you who are feeling this type of tension, it’s important to have frank conversations with your employer. The reality is, many organisations will not meet their targets. It’s about what you are doing now though, to prepare for life when it returns to “normal”.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, many businesses have seen strong growth over the last few months. The reality is, as we adapt to a new way of living, our buying habits (amongst other things) shift. For example, I was having a conversation with my Director the other day and he raised a good point about there being some retail businesses who are seeing a huge boost in profits. Rebel Sports is an example here in Australia. With gyms having to close their doors temporarily and there being restrictions on outdoor classes, people are looking for alternatives. One alternative is home exercise. People are now rushing to buy home gym equipment. In fact, I believe many sports retailers have run out of stock and are frantically searching for new products to meet consumer demand. Another example is technology retailers i.e. Harvey Norman and JBHIFI. With many of us now working from home, they’ve seen a huge growth in profits as people scramble to buy PCs and alike. We can’t hide the fact that the economy will be hit hard during this time but it’s important to recognise those sectors that are thriving too and where possible, adapt our operations to meet the shift in consumer behaviour.
Regardless of whether you’re a business who is struggling or thriving, we should still treat Clients the same. We should be showing compassion, communicating frequently, and above all, being a true and trusted partner. After all, Partnerships are for the long haul.
So what does being a good partner look like?
- Show empathy – we’re all navigating our way through unchartered territory; we’re each fighting our own battles. Show understanding at a very human level. Humanise the way you do business. Show this via a multitude of ways, including, phone, emails, virtual meetings, social media.
- We must be available. If Clients have questions, we should be there for them in a timely manner. We should work with them to create an action plan that summarises a way forward.
- Communications, communications, communications – as we’re all operating in a time of the unknown, people want to be communicated with more frequently than they have ever done so before. Additionally, with many people now working from home, it’s important that we stay connected. Emails are definitely still needed but a virtual meeting where you can pick up on body language and tone, can really help maintain the relationship and let your Client know you are truly for them.
- Give them a voice – encourage feedback and work with them to find solutions. The solution finding process should be shared.
- Good will gestures – whatever your service might be, I’m sure there is a way you can add value without money being exchanged. Here at QUTeX, we’re delivering complimentary webinars and publishing some wonderful blog articles on a wide range of topics – feel free to join our QUTeX LinkedIn page.
- Adaptability – your partner’s requirements might have changed and the likelihood is that your service offering has too. Educate your clients around such changes to operations; what this means to you and to them. In QUTeX’s case, we are shifting many of our programs online. We can still meet their needs, albeit it via a different medium.
- Think long term – our current way of working won’t be forever. What can we do now to help our Clients for down the track? What can we do to help them rebuild? By thinking to the future, we’re showing them that we’re there for the long haul. We’re also creating a much needed sense of hope: we will get through this; there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Thank you for reading, I hope you’ve taken something away from this article. I’d welcome your comments on how you’re working with your Clients during this time; experiences you’d like to share that can help others.
If you would like to improve your capability around managing stakeholder relations, QUTeX offers a 2-day course: Enterprise Leadership Program: Managing Stakeholder Relationships. This course will help you develop the right tools and techniques to maintain good stakeholder relationships, manage expectations and understand what drives the individuals involved.