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Emotional Intelligence and the Vendor-Client Relationship: The Three-Step Blueprint for Success

This year, I attended more than a dozen industry events. At each show, the vendor booths included a menagerie of products and services all vying for our attention with vibrant colors and an abundance of swag and demos. Bonus points to those who thought about wearing creative outfits and costumes too.

While that draws us into your booth, what happens next is even more critical. Can you demonstrate that you truly understand the needs of an MSP?

I am so programmed to walk up and down each aisle and resign myself to listening to a litany of enthusiastically presented features and benefits.

“We are a single pane of glass.”

“We take a holistic approach to your data.”

“We’ll scan the network and look for anomalies in behavior.”

And so on. The question I’m often left with is how are you any different from the other vendors?

In a sea of sameness, how do you differentiate yourself? My answer: by becoming an “emotionally intelligent vendor,” not just a “features and benefits vendor.” I know this is not how we traditionally sell in our industry; I am asking for a paradigm shift.

Here is My Three Step Shorr-to-Shine Blueprint for Becoming a Channel Success

Step 1 – Making the C.A.S.E. For Emotional Intelligence

As I mentioned in my first Channel Mastered article, emotional intelligence (or EQ) is our ability to empathize and find connection with our audience and manage our emotions when responding. An MSP wants you to show that you understand their business challenges, appreciate their client needs, and speak their language. 

So why should vendors care about EQ? Here’s the C.A.S.E. for why it matters in vendor-client relationships:

  • C – Communication Skills Help Navigate Challenges – How well do you demonstrate your understanding of what an MSP is feeling? You want an MSP to say, “Wow, they totally get me and want to help me solve my unique challenges.” Successful vendors make it their mission to understand this and communicate how their product and service are designed to help.
  • A – Adaptability to Align with Today’s Dynamic Client Needs – An emotionally intelligent vendor is nimble and adapts their strategies and products/services to meet the evolving requirements of an MSP.
  • S – Self-Awareness and Professionalism – In the frantic world of an MSP, there is nothing we need more than a reassuring and supportive vendor by our side. Our emotions are already heightened by our client’s demands. An apathetic or annoyed vendor only exacerbates our stress and causes us to seek an alternative solution. Even if your product itself is great, the dread of dealing with your people could break that bond.
  • E – Empathy Leads to Loyalty – Vendors who can identify and address an MSP’s needs build much greater trust and loyalty. What more can I say?
Step 2 – How Can You Apply EQ To Build Trusting Relationship?

Here are four critical strategies to applying EQ with your channel partners:

  • Active Listening – An MSP wants to feel validated, valued, and understood. Using techniques such as paraphrasing, an empathetic tone of voice, and reaffirming nonverbal cues helps show you understand them and want to help them grow.
  • Understanding Nonverbal Cues – Speaking of nonverbal cues, there are two to be aware of here. The first is your own or your team’s nonverbal behavior. Are you making eye contact, smiling, and using attentive posture? The other is reading and responding to the nonverbal behavior of your audience and considering what action is needed to maintain credibility and trust. If you notice fidgeting or a furrowed brow, take a moment and ask, “It looks like I am confusing you. What questions can I answer?” Show you really want to ensure clarity and understanding.
  • Solution-Minded Conflict Resolution – I just delivered a workshop at IT Nation Connect on “Maintaining Credibility During Difficult Conversations.” My opening statement was: “We can’t always choose when a product glitch or conflict arises. What we can choose is how we respond to it.” An emotionally intelligent vendor seeks ways to mitigate stress and resolve issues by avoiding heightened emotions, focusing on facts, and finding common ground for a mutually beneficial outcome. At the end of the day, maintain credibility by showing the MSP you hear them, value them, and are committed to partnering with them to solve their problem. Taking ownership and not playing the blame-game goes a very long way!
  • Building Rapport – Even though there is a lot of M&A activity in the channel, there is still massive opportunity to build genuine relationships with MSPs. The biggest frustration we experience is the constant flux of account managers who come and go, especially those who we’ve developed wonderful relationships with. Whether you are a startup or have over 1,000 employees, make it a priority to build meaningful and consistent connections with your partners.
Step 3 – Focus on Long-Term Impact and ROI

How do you measure the ROI of EQ? There are three key ways:

  1. Client Satisfaction – When you go beyond a transactional relationship and demonstrate a genuine concern for their needs and success, your partners will feel a deepened sense of satisfaction and trust.
  2. Client Retention – With trust come enduring relationships, loyalty, and retention. Why switch when we are satisfied and feel your commitment and loyalty to us?
  3. Referrals – Our channel is VERY close knit. Word of mouth is extremely influential. The most emotionally intelligent brands get the most buzz and that buzz leads to sales! Bam!

We are a distracted and dynamic channel. There are so many vendors that sell like products and services. It’s those vendors that prioritize cultivating relationships using empathy, self-awareness, impactful communication, and adaptability that go beyond just being a transactional relationship to enjoying lasting success and raving MSP fans. 

Assess your brand. What steps are you taking to be raise your EQ? Need help turning your tech-focused team into brand building rockstars? Book a meeting with us today!

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