Proactive approach in business. What does it mean and how can you benefit from it?

Does starting a job before receiving a final confirmation of the order sound naïve? Is providing a part of a service for free a mistake? Not necessarily. To stand out on the market, companies have to offer customers added value. And it means adopting a proactive attitude.

Proactive people are always on the lookout for opportunities. Not only reacting to change when it happens but contributing to it and making it happen. The same rules apply in business. Proactive companies don’t idly wait for the market and environmental changes. They anticipate and prepare. They also actively search for the best solutions for their customers, even if it means putting in some extra work for the same money. The reward is trust. And in the long run, partners’ trust translates into business growth.

The more you give, the more you get

Proactive approach is a necessity, especially for technology companies. While working in a global, dynamically changing environment, they are often creating products and services for the market that doesn’t yet exist. And the competition for services is fierce!

“Whether you are producing ice cream, cars or IT-services, the amount of choices for the customer, and hence competition for us suppliers, have never been tougher,” says Andreas Södermark, CEO at Euvic Sweden. And he brings up a fundamental economic law: marginal wage = marginal productivity. To put it simply – you won’t earn more than the value you provide.

Easy to say, but how to do it? Listen to your customers from the very first meeting. Try to understand not only their current needs, but also their long-term goals. Give them solutions and tools that they will be able to use in the future. Of course, this kind of attitude requires observant, sensitive employees. “Traditional sales people are better at talking, than asking questions,” explains the CEO of Euvic. “We will, for example, rather employ business analysts and management consultants as sales people, than traditional sales people”.

Be ready to “get naked”

Fear of losing the business, being embarrassed or feeling inferior – according to Patrick Lencioni and his famous book “Getting Naked” – are the main factors that prevent building trust between service provider and business partner. Companies are often focused on their current profitability, cost optimization and new customers acquisition. When they eventually find new customers, they turn business meetings into a display of strength and wealth. Instead of listening, consultants talk a lot, trying to sell. In the end, even if the customer is satisfied with the service, he won’t come back again.

A remedy for the fears and their consequences is humility and transparency in customer relations. A “naked” consultant inspires customer trust and creates openness to mutual needs. He is not afraid to ask questions, even if they may sound stupid. He will make suggestions without worrying that his performance not seem smart enough. He will kindly tell customer the truth even when he knows that these are not the words the client would like to hear.

A “naked service” is focussed solely on the client. “Naked” companies do not worry about their image or reputation. They do the dirty work and sometimes take a bullet for the customer. Their primary goal is not selling but consulting and to create value. They are willing to invest before seeing the profits.

For example, Euvic is not afraid of providing mockups for free in order to showcase how the company has understood the customer’s problem. For one of its customers Euvic built a simple system to move their facility management from pen and paper to tablets and mobile devices instead – before the customer even had come back with a final order. “If the investment for us is small but we can provide huge value for our customers taking the investment, we will do it,” declares Andreas Södermark.“That’s how we proactively build trust in our capabilities and our word.”

A crisis of trust

Rolex, Lego, Google, Canon, The Walt Disney Company. These brands open the list of 100 most reputable global companies in 2018. Sony, Adidas, Bosch, BMW Group, Microsoft areright behind them. According to Forbes, this year’s ranking revealed an average 1.4-point decline in the reputation of RT100 companies.

“We have a crisis of trust,” told Forbes Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief research officer of the Reputation Institute. “Over the past year-and-a-half, we’ve reached a strategic inflection point. People are questioning, ‘Can I really trust corporations?’ And for two-thirds, the jury is out.”

The good news is that customers are open minded and ready to believe that companies can make up for their shortcomings. And reputation is worth fighting for. It is not a coincidence that many of the most reputable companies are also on the World’s Most Valuable Brands list. But how to get there? Ethical behavior, fairness, product value and transparency are among the most important factors determining a company’s reputation.

“It can be everything from simple things as always turning up on time, answering emails quickly to proactively providing value to customers,” explains Andreas Södermark. For example, Euvic had a customer from the transportation industry complaining about how difficult it was to find time to educate their bus drivers. The problem was that the educational process required using real buses and the buses were always in production where they earned the most money.

“We invested some resources into building a simple VR-tool to showcase how they could, ensuring similar or even improved quality, educate their drivers about the bus and their specific routes using VR instead,” – says Södermark. Based on Euvic’s suggestion, the client ordered a pilot program that became a huge success. And Euvic is currently building a production ready solution that eventually might be used globally.

Are You proactive?

As proactive approach is a soft skill and can be hard to measure, some CEOs may ask themselves if their employees are proactive enough. If you also have doubts or would like to work on proactive attitude, you may find these questions helpful. Ask yourself:

  • What mistakes have I made recently? What I have learned from them?
  • Do I know my long-term business goals? Do they keep up with the market changes?
  • What business risks may occur? How can I respond to them? How can I prevent them?
  • What opportunities may open? How to prepare to take advantage of them?
  • What is my biggest fear in terms of business? What would I do, if I wasn’t afraid?