We have suggested for quite some time that becoming a P.R.I.M.E. Resource® to your customers is one of the strongest elements of differentiation and strategic defendability at your disposal. Leading thinkers in business are discovering that the traditional strategies of differentiation through product, price and service are not nearly as productive as building a solid base of steady customers who look upon them as partners — partners who seek to establish P.R.I.M.E. Resource® relationships with a smaller number of key suppliers and do whatever is necessary to maintain those relationships.
Vin McLoughlin, President of the Dedicated Contract Services division of J.B. Hunt, shared a story about a meeting that occurred at a Fortune 50 company where the company had gathered 30 of their top vendors. A company executive opened the meeting with these remarks: “You are all valued suppliers. Your quality and service levels are beyond our most stringent standards and your pricing is extremely competitive. Unfortunately, we will have to terminate our relationships with 90% of you. We can no longer afford to take the time to decipher the minute differences between your products and services.” I’m sure it was a sobering moment for the majority of people in that room.
Customers are demanding a higher level of expertise from the individuals they choose to work with and are giving greater loyalty to the resource people who most adequately support their business objectives.
What Does it Mean to Become a P.R.I.M.E. Resource®?
P.R.I.M.E. actually is an acronym we use to describe the concept of becoming a key resource in your customer’s business. While some relate it to partnering, it often goes even further than that.
P is for Primary. According to Webster’s, primary means, “First in time, rank or importance.” It also means, “Basic or elementary.” Therefore, becoming a P.R.I.M.E. Resource® means:
- You become pre-eminent in your customer’s mind. You are the first person who comes to the customer’s mind when a problem or question in your area of expertise arises.
- You outrank all your competitors — you become the competition everyone else tries to displace.
- You are vital to the success of your customers’ operations.
Isn’t that the way it is with a highly-regarded medical specialist? People — even other doctors — call him or her for advice.
R is for Resource, a source of help or supply. When you go to a doctor, do you say, “Doc, I have a sore throat and I want you to schedule me for surgery to remove my larynx”? Or do you say, “Doctor, my throat hurts, can you tell me what’s wrong and prescribe something that will make it quit hurting”?
Likewise, when you become a P.R.I.M.E. Resource®, you are an extension of your customer’s organization. You enhance their capabilities to solve problems and build their business.
I is for Involved. Being a P.R.I.M.E. Resource® means you will carry out a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship based on trust and respect. When you are involved, you have your customer’s best interests at heart. That means:
- You sincerely care about their concerns. If they have a problem, that problem stays on your mind until you come up with a solution. You may even bring down ideas that come to you in the middle of the night.
- You know that what is best for the customer is ultimately best for you and your company.
- Quality business is not a hit-and-run proposition. You look for every opportunity to build a relationship so satisfactory that neither you nor the customer will be looking for ways to get out of it.
M is for Managing. It means, “To succeed in accomplishing; to have charge of or responsibility for.”
Accomplishing implies the successful completion of a plan. Our major plan in working with customers is the Multiple Decision/Mutual Understandings process. We have charge of it and accept the personal responsibility for accomplishing it.
A P.R.I.M.E. Resource® doesn’t have to arm-wrestle to close sales! They help people understand their situation, their risks and their opportunities, then show them how to achieve the required results. And they do it in such a professional and non-threatening way that the customers ask them to execute the solution.
E is for Expectations. E could stand for may things: excellence, effort, empathy or effectiveness, but we’ve chosen to let it stand for expectations. Customers look upon us as a P.R.I.M.E. Resource® when we consistently manage their expectations.
A P.R.I.M.E. Resource® manages the customer’s specific expectations, based on the issue that has been diagnosed. They will expand the customer’s understanding of the problem and the cost of the problem. They help them grasp the idea of what it will be like when the problem is cured and they help the customer set up the decision criteria. This is particularly true if a sale is just one more in a long series of pain-curing sales.
The result is that the customer says, “Your recommendations in other areas have always worked for us. We believe you understand our current situation. And we are confident that your solution will get us to where we need to be.”
How to Become A P.R.I.M.E. Resource®
Being a P.R.I.M.E. Resource® involves building strong relationships with your customers. Here are a few pointers on how to do it:
- Build a reputation for excellence based on trust and dedication. Your integrity, reliability and professional competence must always remain above reproach.
- Be a scholar. Keep up with market conditions, new products or services, technical standards, industry trends, advertisements and personnel changes.
- Use a conscientious, professional approach to your customers’ critical issues.
- Polish your professional sales and problem-solving skills continually.
- Know your customer’s world — their associations, their industry, their marketplace, their customers.
- Be the customer’s advocate. Work to smooth all problems your internal systems may create for your customers. Make sure that invoicing, delivery and technical support all move smoothly all of the time.
- Know what the competition is doing. Report back to your company any information regarding preferred performance, energy savings, size, lower cost, convenience, better delivery or other features or benefits your competitors announce.
- Remember that you are just as important as the product or service your company offers. If customers continue to place their trust in you, don’t let them down.
As you become a P.R.I.M.E. Resource®, you will find that a customer’s growth and financial health can become dependent on your expertise and products. Respond to your customers and be receptive to their needs. Listen to concerns, diagnose pains. Your knowledge will bring about cures and future growth.
As your customers grow, you will grow. Being a P.R.I.M.E. Resource® is a reciprocal relationship. Both you and your customer will prosper.