Many of you have seen my tagline "Market with Courage!" This emerged as a saying of mine back in the 90's and has stuck ever since. The Market part started with my love of marketing. The courage part came from several life changing business events. These events set the groundwork for how I work with clients today, and how I expect them to work with me, and are what I believe keep our client relationships long lasting.
Marketing vendors (agencies, PR firms, consultants, list brokers - you name it) have for decades, and occasionally still today, been treated by some with disdain - a necessary evil. Many companies simply try to extract their pound of flesh with every contract. The best marketing service providers, however, rarely suffer this pain. That said, some folks still need a lesson in change. I was reminded of this last week when a young gun manager of demand generation turned on me with a rude, "I just got a quote from your competitor that was 30% lower than your price. I want a discount." It was an opportunity to share one of my "courage" stories.
I had started my career as a $7.00 per hour software support engineer at Modicon, and soon enough I was dabbling with sales and marketing, which led to me closing the largest ongoing contract the company had at the time with Mars (as in M&M Mars). When we showed up in Hackettstown, NJ to negotiate the contract, the first thing I noticed, besides the wonderful smell of chocolate, was a sign in the lobby referring to The Five Principles. These were the five guiding concepts that Mars ran their business by and expected all of their associates to follow. These were: Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency, Freedom. Being a young and brash sales guy who was admittedly a bit intimidated to sit face to face with the same guy that negotiates peanut and chocolate contracts all over the world, I immediately honed in on the word "Mutuality." Next to it was the following paragraph:
"Mutuality: We believe that the standard by which our business relationships should be measured is the degree to which mutual benefits are created. These benefits can take many different forms, and need not be strictly financial in nature. Likewise, while we must try to achieve the most competitive terms, the action of Mars should never be at the expense, economic or otherwise, of others with whom we work."
My nerves subsided in seconds. They wanted me to negotiate a win-win deal. There it was in writing. They wanted the value we could bring to the table, and they were willing to compensate us fairly to get it. This one paragraph gave me the courage, as a vendor, to structure a relationship that is still, almost 20 years later, benefiting both companies. Still to this day, I always have the courage to ask for, and maintain, a mutually valuable relationship.
By the way, I also shared my client Mars' first principle, Quality, and how it is mandatory for Green Leads' appointment setting service, added to my ability to disarm the situation and maintain my margin (my half of the mutually beneficial relationship).