Becoming the Team Mate All Your Customers Covet

By Kevin Sweeney

When I was in corporate America, one of the buzz phrases was ‘partnering with your customers’, everyone in sales was always trying to think of ideas to partner with your customer.  I strongly bought into this concept until I got in the professional speaking business.  Then based upon an evenings experience I took that buzz phrase to the next level.  I was fortunate enough one night to have dinner with a man who had started a company from scratch and grew it into a multi billion dollar company thru his leadership.  That is Billion with a B.  The man, Bill was a former Navy pilot in World War II and during dinner we started telling each other stories about what great pilots we were.

But I quickly began to think about the enormous resource I am sitting next to and I did not want to waste an opportunity.  I want to make the most out of this dinner, I thought I have got to glean some knowledge from this incredible resource that grew his company from scratch into a multi billion dollar company.  So I say to Bill, how hard was it to start your company?  Bill starts telling me stories about his company and as any good sales person would do, I am quiet, I am listening, I am all ears…Bill says: ‘My company bid on this one project along with 8 or 10 other companies, we were low bid.  The problem was the bid was still more than the budget the company had set for the project.’

So Bill says he goes over to the company HQ, sits down with the Chairman and also with the President of the company, goes over how they can cut some costs out of the project without sacrificing any quality.  The President gets all excited and says, “Bill, this is great, this is just what we want, let’s sign the contract today.  But just to make sure both organizations are truly committed, for every dollar the project comes in under budget your company gets 50 cents and we get 50 cents.”  They quickly sign the contracts and start the project…about a year later the project is completed $250,000 under budget….a lot of money back in the 60’s….a lot of money today!! 

Bill says he writes a letter to the President of the company and says, “My company made a fair profit on this project, you keep the $250,000 and invest it in your company.”  Bill looks at me, winks, and says, “Kevin, you have no idea how much money that letter made me over the years.”

Now I am not saying to give away any of your hard earned profits, especially in today’s dynamic economy.  But let me ask you a question – What do you do for your customer to make you the team mate that everybody covets?  When your customer is in a tight situation will you be the team mate they go to or will your customer go to someone else?  How do you differentiate yourself?

About the Author

Kevin is a retired Lt. Colonel in the United States Air National Guard, and a renowned pilot having flown combat missions in both Viet Nam and Desert Storm. Kevin is the only person to have successfully landed a KC-135 (Boeing 707 Air Refueling Tanker) after two of the four engines were ripped off the airplane in mid-air. And he did it at night — on a combat mission — while loaded to maximum capacity.

His incredible flight has been featured in a Reader’s Digest article titled Bring Them Home and a featured segment on the A&E channel titled Frontline Pilots.  A highly decorated combat pilot, he was awarded numerous medals, including the Air Achievement Medal, multiple Air Medals and the United States Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross.

Additionally, Kevin has been a successful business executive for a Fortune 50 company in both sales and operations. Kevin is also well educated with two Bachelors degrees and a Masters Degree in Business Administration. He attended undergraduate school on a basketball scholarship where he served as captain of the team and was honored as an all-conference and all-district athlete.

He is also the author of two books, Pressure Cooker Confidence, How to Lead When the Heat is ON and Conversations with the Colonel, Lessons in Life, Leadership, and Wisdom.  Kevin is a frequent keynote speaker for corporations and organizations on the topics of performance under pressure, decisive leadership, and the value of being a great team mate.

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