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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

By February 8, 2018 No Comments

I have always admired the life and work of Isaac Newton, a man who, 400 years later, is still considered to be one of the most influential scientists in history. Newton was the visionary scientist who discovered gravity, described the laws of motion, invented calculus, and effectively led the scientific revolution. He changed the world.

Newton’s colleagues were often left in awe over his discoveries. One of Newton’s friends, Robert Hooke, sent him a letter congratulating him on his abilities and amazing discoveries. In response, Newton wrote this:

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

By standing on the shoulders of giants, Newton called out that he was building on the ideas and theories of others. Newton, while not disparaging himself in the least, pointed out he was able to take what others had done to the next level.

We all stand on the shoulders of colleagues, suppliers, friends, and family. They lift us on their shoulders and allow each of us to do more than we could alone. I firmly believe the most successful people are those who have created exceptional relationships with others.

It’s easy to see why people who build relationships get more done. When you work with a team, you have access to new ideas, suggestions, help, access to new contacts, etc. When you don’t know the answer, you can ask. When you are unsure what to do next, you can solicit advice. Simply stated, the people you surround yourself with can help to lift you when you need it.

Your network and the relationships you have, if nurtured and maintained, creates a distinct competitive advantage. My question to you today is this – are you standing on the shoulders of your suppliers? Further, are you confident that your suppliers’ contacts are willing to carry you?

We all know the benefit of a good supplier contact. They can provide you with education, respond on your behalf, and execute for your benefit. They can move mountains and get things done. As I stated last year, a good supplier contact is worth her weight in gold.

When you are aligned with your supplier, and you treat them as a valued partner, you can stand on that supplier’s shoulders. You will be more successful together as you collaborate. You will be able to reduce your risk. You will be able to respond using the full might and power of a significantly larger organization.

Every month, I see partners closing deals selling new technology or new services. These partners are selling services they have never sold before. How did they get there? What changed to allow these people to become experts? The answer is simple – they found someone, usually a supplier, who was able to hold their hand through the deal. They stood on the shoulders of giants.

There are things you can do to build these relationships and to have these suppliers assist you. This list is in no way exhaustive, but I hope it starts you thinking:

  1. Communicate – Suppliers don’t expect you to tell them everything, but they should be kept in the loop (key dates, customer expectations, status, etc.).
  2. Set clear expectations – Stop making assumptions. If you want something done, state it.
  3. Remember you are not the only person they support – This is a partnership. When you recognize your contact’s needs, they will go out of their way to help you.
  4. Identify what suppliers need from you. Again, the partnership is everything. If you help them look like rock stars, they will reciprocate.
  5. Help suppliers to proactively support you. Tell suppliers how to help you best. When new marketing material is available, get them to send it to you rather than having to get it yourself. Set yourself apart.
  6. Be honest – In the telecom world, there is no one supplier that does everything. It is perfectly acceptable to tell a supplier they don’t meet your needs on a specific deal. That said, if you can help them understand why they weren’t a fit, you can say no to them and build your relationship.
  7. Personalize your relationship – Get to know your suppliers on a personal level. Visit their booths, go to their offices, accept their invitations to lunch. Your supplier has a genuine desire to know when and where they can help. Let them peek behind the curtain. They can offer suggestions and ideas from a perspective you may not have considered.
  8. Play by the rules –You should be able to get what you need and expect, but you should never take for granted any concessions a supplier is willing to provide.  Are you willing to burn all of your political capital on issues you can resolve yourself?

You can do more in 2018 IF you are willing to work with your suppliers. They are there to help you. When you work together and stand on their shoulders, you can accomplish more than ever before.

Happy selling!

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