From leading product teams at startups and large enterprises, Keith Cowing has an extensive background in producing products that make an impact. It's easy to get lost in your own pitch without considering the other side of the conversation. Keith explains the importance of building trust by letting your guard down to truly understand customers' needs in order to build long-term relationships.

Flatiron Health Product VP on Building Trust (Part 3)

Throughout your career, I’m sure that someone has said that the key to building trust involves staying humble. This may be true, but there’s nothing actionable or concrete about how to stay humble. In other words, this guidance is too generic. In my experience, the best way to build trust is to check your ego at the door. Simply put, it’s not about you – it’s all about your customer or partner.

In the business world, there are power dynamics everywhere. Conversely, not many of them are super obvious or apparent – they’re just “understood” by the people or practices in place. For example, think about how you set the table with silverware. We’ve all been taught to place the knife on the right side of the table with the blade facing in. This is a common practice – but what you may not know is that there’s a medieval precedent for placing the knife here. Back in the day, it meant that you were joining the table to converse with the other side instead of fighting. This is subtle, but it serves as an example of always looking for nuance when building trust – especially when you’re getting to know a new customer or partner.

The key is to focus on building trust for the long-term.

In other words, you don’t just want to focus on quick one-time transactions. For example, you always want to meet on the customer’s terms. It may be a little scary to be vulnerable with a prospect, but it goes a long way in making sure that you have their best interests in mind. Ultimately, you still have the ability to project confidence and maintain a position of strength at the same time.

At Flatiron Health, our team makes an effort to constantly interface with our key customers in the medical industry. As you can imagine, product people can be divas when they operate in their small bubble. Similarly, medical professionals act like divas on their turf. With this, we make it a point to always visit hospitals and experience clinics to fully understand their needs. In other words, you have to be a “subject matter idiot” to fully grasp what your customers are experiencing on daily basis.

In summary, the key to building trust involves learning how to listen. Said differently, you need to live/eat/breathe/sleep like your customers. There’s a tendency for leaders to default to projecting their opinions or talking at people. Instead, the key to building trust is tuning in and allowing the insights to come to you.

 

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2

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About the Speaker
Keith Cowing
Flatiron Health VP of Product
Keith Cowing is the VP of Product Management at Flatiron Health, where he builds products to help cancer patients live longer and healthier lives. He is also a career advisor at keithoncareers.com. Prior to joining Flatiron, Keith was the founder and CEO of Seamless Receipts (acquired by Sailthru) and a product manager at Twitter and LinkedIn. He received an MBA in entrepreneurship and a bachelor of science in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell University.

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