“Listen, you work for me, okay?”
A prospective client said this to me recently, and at that moment I knew that the deal was not worth pursuing. Forget the money and forget the size of the deal, because if you enter into such a relationship with a customer things will eventually end poorly for everyone involved including the customer.
Good sales people and consultants do not work for their customers. Good sales people and consultants work with their customers! They form a partnership with the customer, and because the relationship is one based upon mutual benefit everyone involved in the project has something to gain by putting the project first. When people work with each other as a team only the project’s results are what matter.
But when people simply work for someone else, well now the relationship is all about “What is the best for me?” If I work for you, then I am not focused on the project. I am going to be focused on my relationship with you. I am going to have to prioritize things very differently, because you have made it clear that you are the most important aspect of the relationship.
You have forced me to consider the following questions:
- Do I want to work for you? I certainly do not have to, so why should I not go and work with someone else (possibly your competitor)?
- Are you going to pay me what I want? If I work for you then you have to be willing to pay for my services at the rate that I decide is appropriate. What is appropriate is adjusted by the nature our relationship, and I am at a point in my career where I have some flexibility here. Other people who are willing to pay a little bit less to work with me will get my services even if you are wiling to pay more to have me work for you.
- Are you delusional? The truth is that I work for my manager, his boss, and our CEO. All three of these individuals understand that our relationships are mutually beneficial to each other, and they and I focus on working with each other so that all of us are content. I also have existing clients and meet new clients everyday who want me to work with them, and not for them. Why do I want a second boss in the form of a client who may, or may not, decide to use and pay for my services? Or even worse use my services and then fail to pay for them.
Now here are the questions I focus upon when I am working with a client or co-worker:
- What is the goal of this project? If I am working with you on a project then the deal has already been struck between us. I know what I am getting paid, and I know that the only thing that matters at this point is to deliver a successful project. My personal satisfaction is not an issue, because my personal satisfaction is tied directly to achieving the goal of the project.
- Am I delivering everything that my team is expecting of me for this project? Is it possible to do even more and exceed their expectations? Quality and success are all that matter when the project is the focus of my efforts.
- If I have met all of the expectations that the team has of me for the project, what can I do to help my fellow team members meet or exceed what is expected of them? When you eliminate the mentality of working for others, you cultivate the approach of working with others. No one shows up happy to work if their expectation is to be bossed around, but when I expect my team and I to complete a major project milestone or the project itself I am excited to get out of bed in the morning and to race to work that day! And my experience has ben that when you work with people the successful completion of milestones and projects occurs at a much faster rate. Why? Because people stay a little later and work a little harder to help each other complete the project out of a shared desire to see the project succeed.
This is not just true for IT professionals and client/sales relationships, but for all professions and all relationships. Great leaders and bosses are the ones who inspire their followers and employees to do whatever it takes in order to achieve the goals of the organization. Such leaders and bosses are grateful and often humbled by the work that others do for them. They do not need a stick and they do not even have to provide a carrot, because those who work with them find their carrots on their own while working on their part of the project. Such leaders and bosses are a pleasure to work with during the good times, but are even better to work with during the bad times.
“Listen, you work for me, okay?”
Uttering such words is dangerous. If you say that to anyone do not be surprised if they suddenly decide to stop listening to you and working for you altogether. There is always work to be done, but that does not mean that all of that work is to be done for you. It is far better to inspire others to work with you, and if you have that ability eventually you might not have to work for anyone yourself.