9 Apr 18

Transparency builds customer of choice

Transparency builds customer of choice

What does it really mean to be open and transparent with suppliers and why bother? The business lexicon is awash with terms that slip into regular use and most people believe they know what they mean and they assume others interpret them in the same way.

Why be open and transparent

When we ask what attributes suppliers most look for in their customers of choice, openness and transparency almost always comes very near the top of the list. In this context it usually relates to sharing knowledge or creating a more collaborative culture. There is often talk about the need for organisations to be more open and transparent. These two concepts are usually used interchangeably and often without too much thought as to what they really mean.

There is in fact a clear distinction between the two. To be truly effective we all need to network more; to share more; to work more collaboratively; and, to work in a way that facilitates continuous learning. This of course applies at the personal and the corporate level. People find it hard to behave collaboratively within an adversarial corporate culture, and a corporate culture cannot become collaborative unless its people adopt the appropriate behaviours.

Firstly we need to understand that openness and transparency are first and foremost behaviours. They are the two major complementary behaviours that underpin collaboration.

Openness is a state of mind. If you are open-minded rather than closed, you are open to new ideas, to new thoughts, and to new ways of working. When you are presented with new things you are naturally curious and eager to explore them. You are non-judgmental and you look to engage other people in conversation – less as a debate, but more as a dialogue.
You ask for critical feedback and you are not afraid when people challenge your ideas - in fact you welcome it. This is how you learn and maximise value from your supplier relationships.

Transparency means that you work in a way which enables people to see what you are doing and to know what you are thinking. You go out of your way to be honest and you do not try to hide things out of fear of being seen to make a mistake. You actually want your mistakes to be seen. And you want others to point them out to you – that way you get to learn and to get even better at what you do. You make it easy for people to find you and to connect with you. Your transparency represents a refreshing humility that suppliers will respond positively to.

Being open and transparent are not the only behavioural traits required to manage supplier relationships more effectively but we believe they are core.

By its nature behavioural change is a gradual process stimulated by education and awareness that it’s a better and more effective way of working and that it will achieve results. However, it is also necessary to make the change visible and for it to gain momentum. Important gestures can range from asking questions rather than making demands; focusing on the root cause and corrective action rather than apportioning blame; being genuinely curious about the environment within which others work, what motivates and de-motivates them. These are all behavioural changes that people can make both individually and collectively.

At a more instantly visible level initiating a Voice of the Supplier study will send a very clear message that you are company that is genuinely interested in how you are perceived as a customer. Within the context of an SRM programme undertaking a 360° relationship assessment will reveal much about how both the trust and control components of the relationship are working. Possibly the simplest and potentially pivotal point in developing a more open and transparent relationship with a key supplier is when you decide to share your vision and strategy beyond the usual overview. Instead, you take them in to your confidence and begin to share ideas and explore a more strategically aligned future relationship.

So, do you think openness and transparency are important? If so, just how open and transparent are you and what might you do to improve?

Learn how to become a customer of choice

To proactively develop business-to-business relationships with key suppliers, it’s essential to be able to understand the motivations, drivers and methods used by the account team and other people in a supplier’s organisation. In the Inside the Account Managers head training we teach the skills needed to develop the business relationship and take the lead in creating value and build a customer of choice position.

For further information on upcoming training dates contact us on 020 78 420 600  or enquiries@stateofflux.co.uk