Everyone is a Customer of Everyone Else – by Babette N. Ten Haken

Why is this such a difficult concept for so many of us to wrap our minds around? Of course, everyone has customers in the workplace and in the marketplace. That everyone is a customer of everyone else, just like that commandment “do unto others,” should be a second skin we wear effortlessly, naturally. It’s not a shallow phrase we pay lip service to. Serving our customers, and treating everyone we come into contact with as a potential customer, should be second-nature to the way we are hard-wired. It should become part of our personal core values.

Your customer includes everyone you come in contact with during the course of your workday, including yourself. When you think about it, your interactions with your customers, both internal (coworkers and colleagues) and external (revenue-producing entities that purchase or rent your company’s products, goods, or services), represent a continuous business development process.

Perhaps some of your internal customers are the folks at your company with whom you do not want to be associated! (But you need to work with them in order to accomplish project objectives.)  Then there the internal customers, your colleagues, with whom you do your best work. The same holds true for your customer base: you enjoy creating deliverables for some of these folks while the relationship and process of working with other customers is right up there with root canal.

How can you create opportunities so your workday and responsibilities involve engaging more with those individuals and on those projects for which you produce your best output? And how can you gradually shift the balance of your workload away from the status quo order-taker colleagues and clients, so that you increase your level of innovation, collaboration and value?

How you define “customers” becomes your delivery of your vision and your professional expertise, and your ability to create value for your organization. It’s how you move from being perceived as an order-taker to serving your customers as an innovator and leader.

Think input, output and throughput. And for you sales professionals, think of a 4 x 100 meter relay race: from whom are you receiving the baton, what is the function of your particular leg of the race and to whom are you handing off that baton? Everyone is a customer of everyone else. It is just that simple.

Yet it is difficult to take this position with impending performance reviews, still more downsizing, and the tendency of some of our illustrious colleagues to treat the workplace with their own sense of entitlement (which translates into ‘do something unto someone else before they can do something unto you’). Not very professionally or ethically uplifting, I’d say.

If we perceive and treat our professional relationships as a matter of stewardship and paying forward to our colleagues and clients, our productivity and profitability might take a turn for the better. After all, we all are in this together. How can you alter your role in the status quo so that your colleagues–even the ones you don’t care to work with–cannot help but have a positive outcome based on innovative collaboration?

Once you change your approach, the domino effect starts. It’s unavoidable. And you start to lead by example. The opportunities you start to create (or you perceive as “coming your way” align more directly with your core values and capabilities. You get on your customers’ A-list and they, in turn, are on yours.

Wouldn’t you prefer to have each other’s backs than be at each other’s throats? It starts with moving yourself 1 millimeter outside of your comfort level and their status quo. It starts with your collaborating with your technical and non-technical colleagues, rather than competing with them (save that strategy for your marketplace competitors).

After all, the fulcrum for leveraging innovative business development is collaboration between technical and non-technical professionals. What’s your role going to be?


Babette N. Ten Haken believes the fulcrum for leveraging innovative business development is collaboration between technical and non-technical professionals. Her blog and company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers® consulting, training, and coaching, teaches good selling and business development practices to manufacturers, sales engineers, sales people, engineers and entrepreneurs, seeking to grow their markets and customer base.  Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.

You can connect with Babette at salesaerobicsforengineersblog.com and doyoumeanbusiness.com