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Beyond the Sale: How Trust-Actional Strategies Foster Enduring Partnerships in Multifamily Operations


By Jennifer Carter

Published 4 months ago

Updated 4 months ago

In the fast-paced world of multifamily operations, as suppliers, we often find ourselves at a crossroads between the pressing demands of transactional results and the deeper, more fulfilling journey of building trust-actional relationships.

Our roles, traditionally gauged by the immediacy of sales and the tangible outcomes of transactions, are evolving in a landscape where the rules of engagement are being rewritten. In this dynamic environment, we strive to embody a trust-actional approach, recognizing that the true measure of our success extends far beyond the confines of immediate sales figures. It lies in the strength of the relationships we nurture, the trust we foster, and the long-term partnerships we build with multifamily operators and property management companies. This approach, while challenging in its demand for patience and genuine engagement, promises not just fleeting victories but sustainable growth and mutual prosperity in an industry where relationships are the bedrock of success.

In the realm of multifamily operations, the paradigm has shifted from a conventional focus on transactions to a more profound emphasis on fostering enduring partnerships. Throughout 2023 we started to see success transcends the mere act of sales; it hinges on cultivating trust and deploying actionable strategies that extend far beyond the initial transaction, fostering relationships that stand as the cornerstone of sustainable. In this new year, the landscape will continue to change and several thought leaders shared their viewpoint and important values when it comes to partnering with suppliers.

Whether it is searching for a new supplier or continuing a partnership with a current supplier, Multifamily strategies have shifted. About 4 out of 5 people in Multifamily say their journey started by “I fell Into this industry and have never left.” The average amount of experience a Multifamily veteran has is 15 years. That is a lot of relationships, a lot of networking, a lot of trust and building credibility. Which is why we look to our trusted colleagues for leading and guiding our decisions with high trust!  44% say they look to past experience with vendors, 41% from subject matter experts in the industry or third party.

Revyse survey data from June 2023 shows that 46% of operators START their buying journey by reading peer reviews, and 100% of operators say that peer reviews influence their final purchasing decisions.  Ben Steward, the CRO and Co-founder of Revyse has seen the buying of product and services begin to shift in 2023.

“Educational thought leadership content, founder brands, peer-to-peer conversations and transparent reviews all lend themselves to trustworthy content - long before any sniff of a transaction."

The value of a trust-actional approach in selling to the multifamily industry is multifaceted and pivotal for long-term success. Trust opens the door to a discussion and opportunity, one must still have the service and product show value. You need both. In the realm of selling products and services to multifamily operators and property management companies, the distinction between a trust-actional and a transactional approach is crucial. Gavin Dickson, a National Sales Manager for TrustHab shares his perspective.

“As suppliers in the multifamily industry, we're constantly balancing the need for immediate transactional results with the pursuit of trust-actional relationships. Our success isn't just in the numbers; it's in the lasting partnerships and trust we build with our clients. This approach goes beyond short-term gains, promising sustainable growth and deeper connections in an industry where relationships are key."

This distinction significantly impacts how suppliers are perceived and how successful they are in establishing long-term partnerships.

Deconstructing the Term Trust-actional

Trust involves multiple aspects of reliance, including consistency, commitment, honesty, transparency, dependability, and support. Building trust requires time, consistent positive interactions, and forgiveness when mistakes occur. Trust is a foundational element in all relationships, leading to stronger connections, deeper relationships, and a sense of security in personal and professional settings. Benefits of building trust include repeat business opportunities, positive word-of-mouth referrals, collaborative ventures, and long-term partnerships.

Actional implies an emphasis on taking action or conducting transactions. In a business or sales context, it refers to an approach that prioritizes action, execution, or engagement in various activities related to deals, negotiations, or interactions with clients or customers.

Without even fully knowing we as humans approach purchases personally and professionally through a trust-actional lense. There are 4 key areas that round out the idea of trust-actional selling.

  • Relationship-Oriented: prioritizes building a relationship with the multifamily operator or property management company. It involves understanding their long-term goals, challenges, and how the suppliers offerings can align with and support these objectives.

  • Deep Engagement: selling is characterized by ongoing dialogue, tailored solutions, and a consultative style. It’s about becoming a trusted advisor rather than just a supplier.

  • Sustainable Partnerships: By focusing on the client's success, vendors can establish long-term partnerships, leading to repeat business and referrals.

  • Value-Based Selling: This emphasizes the value and ROI of the products or services, moving the conversation away from price and towards how the offering can positively impact the client’s business.

Why Trust-actional Matters to Operators

We checked in with a select few Property Management thought Leaders and asked them some insightful questions regarding this term: Tust-actional.

Regarding Trust and Relationship Value: On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is the relationship and trust factor with a supplier in your decision-making process? Why?

Mike Brewer, COO of Radco Companies

True engagement begins with a genuine understanding and respect for one another as human beings. Before considering any pitch or proposal, it's imperative for me to feel a sense of sincere care and connection from a partner. The traditional Socratic approach, which often leads to predictable solutions, does not resonate with me. Likewise, grand gestures such as invitations to the Masters or the Porsche Driving Experience, though impressive, don't necessarily foster the depth of relationship I seek. The thoughtful effort to understand me beyond mere professional interactions truly matters. When this deeper connection is established, my inclination to collaborate naturally follows.

Mark Chaplin, VP of Supply Chain of Buckingham

(Rated a 10) Very Important. It is imperative to have reciprocal trust between vendor and customer. Although protecting the interest of Buckingham (PMC) is always priority number one, the interest of a quality vendor is a close second. Vendors help maintain the health of daily operations, often acting as an extension of the PMC; therefore, integrity to provide consistent, quality work at a fair price every transaction is a must. Conversely, the vendor must feel that the PMC supports their long-term strategic goals and not viewed as a short-term, low-cost transaction. The greater the alignment, the better the trust and ability to realize success.

Feedback and Improvement Focus: How do you typically provide feedback to your suppliers about their products or services? What role does this feedback play in your ongoing relationship and decision to continue working with them?

Drew Williams, Regional Manager Radco Companies

Very directly. No sugar coating and straight, no chaser. To expect perfection is to expect failure, however, when errors or lack of synchronicity are achieved, own it, learn from it, elevate, and try again. I’ll give more than a second chance if I know we’re both in path to grow and prosper. What role does this feedback play in your ongoing relationship and decision to continue working with them? It’s critical; do-or-die. If I can’t have an open narrative and dialogue, I’ll never achieve trust. And if I never achieve trust, then we both should move on.

Daniel Paulino, VP of Marketing, Bozzuto

We no longer commence new pilots without a co-developed research plan that defines the business problem we are looking to address, the KPIs we need to see to justify the ongoing investment, intended timelines, and the methodology for how we will analyze the data at specific milestones throughout the pilot. It is critical to get internal buy-in from all stakeholders and also external buy-in and approval from the vendor. Without this documentation, the evaluation of the merits of the technology become subjective and open to interpretation by many individuals who will inevitably not agree. Agreeing up front BEFORE the pilot launches makes it a very easy go/no-go decision at the end of the pilot period. This process becomes the feedback and there are ongoing, regular check-ins so that the vendor has transparency into the metrics we are seeing. At the end of the pilot period, we then prepare a comprehensive review of the analytical methodology, trends, results, and our decision to either move forward with a larger scale rollout or not.

Evolving Needs and Trends: In the past three years, how have your priorities or criteria changed when it comes to selecting suppliers for software, products, and services? What new elements are you considering now that weren’t as important before?

Mark Chaplin, VP of Supply Chain of Buckingham

Centralization. Buckingham (PMC) now has a centralized supply chain team that is focused on processes, policies, and procedures to optimize and leverage all aspects of the supply chain process. This centralized supply chain approach includes both process and technology advances in strategic sourcing, global contracting, tactical purchasing (PR/PO), vendor management, and inventory management to name a few. Aligning centrally creates major efficiency gains including cost savings, risk reduction, governance and control, automation, product and service compliance, and vendor performance. One true north.

Mike Brewer, COO of Radco Companies

I've adopted a more deliberate and thoughtful pace in my approach. We are cautious and discerning, not easily swayed by market trends and hype. A trend I find less appealing is the strategy of some venture capitalists, whom I refer to as 'King Maker VCs.' Their primary focus on increasing unit count often leads to the forced implementation of technology solutions in the multifamily space. I am more accustomed to approaching and engaging our existing partners to prioritize understanding how their developmental roadmap aligns with ours, particularly regarding timelines. Just yesterday, I had a significant conversation with one of our partners. In this discussion, I shared our need to seek a specific solution that could alter our business relationship. My objective was twofold: firstly, to gain insight into their plans for augmenting their existing offerings, and secondly, to ensure they were fully informed about our intentions. This openness is designed to foster collaborative problem-solving or, at the very least, to provide them with ample understanding should we need to transition away from their services.

Key Value Drivers: What are the top three attributes or factors you look for in a supplier that make them stand out as a potential long-term partner for your PMC?

Mark Chaplin, VP of Supply Chain of Buckingham

Reputation: A vendor’s reputation encompasses many factors: quality, performance, reliability, financial security, and customer service to name a handful. Typically, the vendor’s reputation speaks for itself in the industry and is no trade secret; therefore, market feedback typically draws attention to those vendors that Buckingham (PMC) seeks out. Initially these factors can be seen in the bidding/ request for proposal (RFP) process, which gives confidence in the vendor selection process and ultimately the day-to-day operations. Scalability: The vendor’s ability to offer a robust array of products and services in a broad geography is a major factor to leverage business operations. As Buckingham (PMC) grows and emerges in new markets, it is imperative that a vendor has the capability and flexibility to scale seamlessly. Vendor operations in multiple states that offer a diverse portfolio of products and services helps secure a long vendor partnership and meet the minimum requirements to be a qualified vendor. Price: Price will always be a deciding factor on vendor selection and partnership; however, Buckingham (PMC) will always consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). TCO does not always mean the lowest price offered, but rather the alignment of value and price equally. Long term vendor relationships are built on TCO, which translates into the best overall value to price ration for the overall effectiveness of the entire organization.

Mike Brewer, COO of Radco Companies

Prioritize Being Helpful: I deeply appreciate the question, 'How can I be of help to you?' It signifies a readiness to support and adds significant value to our interaction. Focus on Meaningful, Infrequent Interactions: Let's make our time together count. Share updates from your life, and allow me to share mine. Take the time to understand what brings me joy and challenges I face. In these moments, exercise empathy and emotional intelligence. It goes a long way with me. Embrace an Avuncular Approach: Approach interactions with a warm, uncle-like demeanor, fostering a sense of familiarity and trust. Commit to the Long-Term Perspective: Consider the example of Mike Whaling, who patiently built a relationship with me over nearly five years. His dedication and long-term strategy have made him my first choice for all website-related needs for over a decade.

In Conclusion

As we start the 2024 year building relationships with a trusted foundation is crucial in cultivating long-term partnerships. By adopting this approach, suppliers can establish a strong reputation within the industry, resulting in increased recommendations and credibility.

Understanding the unique challenges faced by multifamily operators enables suppliers to offer tailored solutions that enhance client satisfaction. Trust helps to minimize price sensitivity, as clients acknowledge the added value of the products or services, thereby creating upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Regular interaction encourages a feedback loop, allowing vendors to refine and improve their offerings continuously.

In summary, while transactional selling might generate quick sales, a trust-actional approach is more conducive to building sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship. Trust is the foundation of sustained success in selling to the multifamily industry, fostering enduring alliances and mutual growth.