Before I joined the Slice team I had been following their early success and constant innovation, which made them a company to watch. From the outside looking in, Slice appeared to embody my same approach to growing partnerships and programs; through strong relationships, collaboration and trust. Now that I work here, I see I wasn’t wrong. At Slice we are delivering new, on-demand insurance products built for today's consumer and business owner, and we are doing this with our partners, which means we need to be aligned from day 1 and rallied around the same goal.
When we collaborate as partners, we avoid the supplier/customer death trap which always ends with the customer leaving to chase another supplier that is better/cheaper/faster. Without a true partnership, you’re just a commodity.
A partner of ours recently shared that he believes it’s the people at Slice that ultimately lead to success between our two companies. He said AXA XL looks at us as an extension of their team, which is one of the greatest compliments a company can receive. So how did we get to that position? The easy answer is, we built trust through open communication, transparency, shared goals, and by delivering partnership-level work aligned with our core capabilities. But the real answer is, we got there together.
Here are 3 more keys to breaking out of the supplier/customer cycle so you can “get there together,” too:
Put yourself in their shoes.
See everything from your partner’s perspective, as if you work for their company. Know their limitations, strengths and goals. Never start a sentence with “You should just…” or “Why don’t you...”. It assumes your suggestion is easy to do, will drive revenue and can be implemented quickly. Chances are, none of those assumptions are true. Most importantly, it puts the responsibility squarely on them. Try instead to say “I have identified a way to...”. This shows you accept ownership and are working to solve the issue. Make sure you have thought through your idea and you have a business case that aligns with their capabilities and goals.
Get in the trenches.
Take a consultative approach while establishing a mutual commitment to a common goal and showing them you’ve got their back. Offer insights and draw from your experience to ensure the program evolves at the same pace as your partner’s business. Be sure to anticipate needs and roadblocks and respond accordingly. This consistent foresight and real-time, day-to-day problem-solving will create that “It’s like you’re one of us!” feeling. Anything you can do to make yourself integral to their processes will help in meeting goals—theirs and yours.
Bring the green grass and blue sky.
Don’t expect your customers to come to you with the next big idea. It’s your job to offer new perspectives, that’s why you’re at the table. Bringing ideas and plans that your customer hasn’t thought of, or didn’t think were possible, is your real value in the relationship, it’s what makes you indispensable. It will prevent your “customer” from searching for another “supplier” and it’s the single most important thing that will elevate you to partnership level. Every new venture will be collaborative but you should be proactively presenting new concepts on a regular basis.
I am excited to be a part of such a dynamic team, which includes our partners and look forward to sharing my insights in future posts. If you'd like to reach out, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.