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Trading Places Just Might Transform Your Business

Strategically Speaking
Oct 28, 2015

Travis Smith Author: Travis Smith,

If you’re like me, for the last few weeks you’ve been trying to come up with the perfect costume for the annual neighborhood Halloween Party.  Being a proud Star Wars nerd and in anticipation of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I thought it was the perfect year to dust off the Han Solo gun and holster.   Knowing that a well-orchestrated partner or duo theme increases our prize-winning chances, I’m still pleading with my wife to gear up as Han’s soul mate, Leia. 

Does your business take a partnership approach with its customers?  If your success hinges on business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing, then chances are high you embrace an alliance methodology. 

This Halloween season, I want to share an idea and two unique techniques that might be a bit spooky to some.  But if you can brave it, I promise a fresh perspective on your business and maybe one or two game-changing ideas.   Ready?  Here it goes:  

Technique #1:  If the key to being a good partner is understanding their business and challenges, then try “dressing up” or trading places with your partner/customer.  As B2B professionals, it’s important that we are always trying to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes.  This helps us get out of our own company’s limited perspective and design partner solutions that help our partners be more successful.

Techniques #2:  Now, let’s take that concept and flip it on its head for a moment: Why not have your partner stand in your shoes?   Go ahead … role play over lunch.  Too often we ask, “What else can we be doing to help you grow your business?” Don’t get me wrong, we should be asking this question–and often, but we might be amazed if we also asked:

 “If you were me …

  • Which opportunities in the market would you attack?
  • How would you use your sales team and products to be a differentiator? 
  • What shortcoming would you make your highest priority? 

They will be honored you asked, and have a better understanding of your market perspective. But more importantly, you will also learn unexpected valuable lessons and ideas from respected outsiders who are looking in. 


But, “An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.” ― Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality

Yes the “trading places” practice will leave your partner/customer flattered and you enlightened, but that’s just the start.  Immediately following the practice, brainstorm with a colleague of what you’ve learned and identify the single best idea that has the biggest potential to transform your business. 

Next, author an action plan that helps you further explore, qualify, and move this newly identified opportunity toward an executable business plan.   And when I say “author” I mean write it! 

Then ask yourself; who’s going to advise you?  Who’s going to hold you accountable?  

The answer is, your business partner of course, after all it was their idea!   In your follow up and thank you email share your action plan and set calendar meetings three months, nine months, and twelve months from your initial “trading places” discussion.  They will be pleased to provide guidance and excited to be a part of such a thrilling initiative! 

This Halloween, for each “Batman and Robin” and “C3PO and R2D2” think about your partnership connections and reversing roles with your customers over lunch.  OR even better yet, let them temporarily try on your laser blaster and holster for size.   

Comment with your thoughts, ideas, and personal experiences.



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