If you want to make money, you can only do so much through your own efforts. As a sales and leadership expert, I often remind people that we are stronger together. You can make a lot more money when you build alliances, and this is something that all top producing sales executives do.
There are two kinds of alliances: internal and external. Internal alliances are the people in your organization who you need to have behind you so you can build your business. External alliances are your customers as well as outside colleagues and people in peripheral businesses who can refer you to others.
A few years before I started my business in 1988 as a speaker and consultant, I was a key account manager for Simplex Time Recorder Company. In this division we sold computerized time stamps to investment firms. If a company had a thousand traders working on different floors, each of these traders had a time stamp on their desk, and they were all synchronized to change at the exact same time because if they were off by a second, their company could be sued by the SEC. When I started working for Simplex, I begged for one of these key accounts and finally my wish came true. Unfortunately, the first time I met with the VP of Facilities for this account, I learned that they were very unhappy with us. He said, “Fix these problems, or my assistant, David, will throw you out this window” (from the 105th floor of the old World Trade Center).
When I left that office, I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to meet with my service manager, Carl. It turned out that Carl was frustrated with the account as well, and not inclined to help me since he was on a different P&L and his success was judged on a different set of parameters than mine. I realized I had to find a way to align my mission with Carl’s.
I said, “I know you’ve tried everything, but they’re still having problems. If we lose this account, it’s not good for you and it’s not good for me. Can you please help me figure this out?” Together we developed a plan to track serial numbers and maintain a log. I had to sell my customer’s assistant, David, in the task of keeping the log, which he agreed to. Two weeks later, the data showed that only 20 percent of the machines were failing. With that data, I walked into the VP’s office and said, “20 percent of the machines are failing, not 100 percent. We’ll get it down even more than that. Have a great day.” Within two weeks, we got it down to 10 percent. I went back to the VP and said, “As long as we’re dealing with mechanical equipment, 10 percent is an acceptable failure rate. Not great but okay. Why don’t you buy 20 spare machines so if something fails, you can swap it out immediately and you’ll have the system working at all times.” He bought those machines, but more importantly he came to see me as a trusted advisor and began inviting me to all of his construction meetings. When the time came to rebuild their trading floor, I was invited to bid and won the deal for an extra 1000 stamps. I would never have gotten that order if I didn’t initially build the alliances internally with my service manager Carl, externally with David, and with all the others who came to our aid to help us succeed with this key account.
What are you doing to build both internal and external alliances? You might be successful today, but if you want to be wildly successful you can only do it in conjunction with the efforts of others. Build alliances and watch your sales skyrocket.