Since brand building is not the domain of manufacturing and consumer relations alone, it is important to consider your actions when it comes to employee and supplier relations as well. When you make an effort to build “partnerships” with all of your key stakeholders and audiences, the gains can be enormous. In short, this is the core of what many call a “win-win.”
In researching this article, I am sad to report that many of my sources thought the idea of Win-Win relationships was dead... or rapidly falling out of favor. Based on the adversarial posturing and lack of communication I’ve experienced from retailers, suppliers and clients from time to time, I would have to agree. On the other hand, and contrary to the nay-sayers, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel.
If we can agree that the buy-sell exchange is usually negotiated - that there is advance consideration, evaluation and selection in the process - there are four potential outcomes you can expect: win-win, win-lose, lose-win and lose-lose.
WIN-WIN: This is the best of all worlds. Individuals have designed a relationship that intends mutual and lasting gains.
WIN-LOSE: This is a competitive posture, one that can be defined as authoritarian. If the end result fails to produce a truly meaningful relationship, a win-lose is no different from lose-lose.
LOSE-WIN: I’ve seen this described as a “doormat” position. When one party loses to facilitate another’s win, resentment is frequently an active by-product. Again, a losing proposition.
LOSE-LOSE: This is adversarial and obsessive behavior that implies “If I can’t win, neither will you!” I can’t understand why anyone would actively embrace this sentiment. But then, this is also a factor in war, and wars do happen.
What has me concerned is that, with increasing frequency, marketers are more than willing to throw the notion of “win-win” out the window. In place of quality is profit. In place of integrity is sales volume and marketshare. In place of compassion is self-interest. In short, there is a pervasive and worrisome attitude that can be summed up best as “more for me, to hell with you.”
While I see lots of marketers paying homage to notions of customer service, understanding, and compassion, it is all too frequently an exercise in good public relations - an illusion at best - and considerably off the mark for a true Win-Win.
In order to create a Win/Win, participants must first demonstrate high levels of integrity, a willingness to communicate freely and an overriding desire to establish a lasting trust from their relationships. In addition, there needs to be a mindset of obvious abundance, an outlook that acknowledges plenty for everyone.
While these notions are not the popular themes we currently experience on television, in the movies and from many of our elected leaders, this does not mean they have lost merit, validity or value. To the contrary, a Win-Win approach is by far the best way to facilitate brand strength, corporate growth and organizational stability.
There are a few things you can do, right from the start, to create a Win-Win:
Be Honest and Up-Front Let everyone know you are pursuing a Win-Win relationship and prefer to have open and collegial conversations. While honesty is not always easy to hear, it goes down a whole lot better when the relationship is built on mutual gain and trust.
Always Negotiate There are times when the first offer is not always manageable. Under these circumstances, open the door for negotiation and find a mutually satisfactory solution. And remember - if you win the advantage the first time, give it to the other guy the next time. There’s a balance that needs to be managed.
Share Victories From time to time, your efforts will yield tremendous satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. Celebrate with those who made these wins possible. A pat on the back and a little hospitality goes a long way.
Ultimately, it comes down to choice - and I choose to pursue Win-Win relationships every time. Maybe I’m too naive or overly idealistic. I prefer to believe, however, that I am simply doing my part to improve the quality of business relationships, the strength of my brand and an overall improvement to the quality of life.