Spending time with our customers doesn’t mean sending emails, it doesn’t mean talking with them on the phone, and it doesn’t mean having lunch meetings or seeing them at trade shows. It means spending time with them in ways that purposefully, incrementally, and steadily grow the levels of trust that exist between the respective individuals, teams, and companies.
Hitting the 500+ mark on LinkedIn can be an accurate reflection of a strong and valuable network. It can also be an accurate reflection of entirely different things. As our digital communications more and more resemble news ticker information updates, let us in parallel seek opportunities for real personal conversations. It’s one thing to know lots of people.
It’s another thing to know lots of people.
We can become so problem- and solution focused that we entirely miss the real people standing behind the problems and solutions, almost entirely blocked from our view. Or not in our view at all, if we only “know” them through the bits and bytes we ping back and forth through the ether. Comparing the words we use to describe great products with the words we use to describe great relationships probably says it all. We want our products to be faster and cheaper, but we want our relationships to be slower and richer.
There is a predictable, organic pattern to growing a new relationship. We are first invited into their past, where we learn about past victories (and failures, if things are going well). As trust grows, we are invited into their present, where we learn about their current problems and challenges, and are invited to help deliver solutions (increasingly larger solutions, if things are going well). But when trust is full grown, we are invited into their future, where we learn about their goals and trajectories, and are asked to actively help shape their future. That is a valuable relationship, both for them and for us.