Developing a custodian mindset – Part 1

When you have an important contract or customer and you plan to work with them for a long time, something that helps to get your head in the right space is to think of yourself as the custodian of that piece of business.

In practical terms, this means establishing sustained and effective engagement over the course of the contract, not lumpy and ineffective engagement that is artificially tied to the procurement cycle.

The way we engage with the customer is often haphazard. There’s the initial fever-pitch nervous energy when submitting the Request for Tender, a flurry of work when getting the contract set up, and then a flat line of delivery over the course of the contract until the fever of the Request for Tender hits again.

Of course, some people will argue that the procurement environment sets things up that way. Bid, deliver and bid again. That might be what the cycle looks like, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy into it. In fact, if you want to retain the work, it is essential that you don’t.

So, you have temporary ownership of a customer or contract. Do you and your team think more like tenants or custodians of the business?

If you’ve ever rented a property, then you’ve been a tenant – signed a contract and exchanged some cash for a place to live or work.

I’ve rented properties and been a landlord myself. One tenant was constantly delinquent on his rent, to the point that our agent had to send him a legal letter every month. The tenant always paid the day before it went to court, causing everybody unnecessary stress. When we finally issued a notice to vacate, we received a letter from him saying how much he loved the property and felt like it was his home, and please could he be allowed to stay!

There are direct parallels between the way bad tenants like this one behave, and the way bad suppliers behave when they get to the end of the contract and are threatened with losing it.

This is an extract from Robyn’s new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. To order your copy, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/