WHAT IS A PARTNERSHIP?
- A venture created by contract, a co-operative relationship.......
- People or groups who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal.....
- A contract / agreement between two or more persons who agree to pool talent and money and share profits or losses.......
WHAT THE CUSTOMER REALLY MEANS!
Many customers claim to want a partnership with their key suppliers but this is often no more than "customer speak" for better pricing.
Never be concerned about challenging a customer, reseller, dealer, channel partner about what they mean by a partnership.
In any partnership there are 4 elements all of which should be shared by both parties.
The customer gets lots of attention, dedicated support, favourable pricing, they commit to work only with you or certainly with fewer suppliers. The vendor gets a fair profit on sales, has a closer relationship with, and access to, the customer which lowers the cost of sale. The customer probably purchases in bulk and so admin costs are lowered too.
Of course you are asking the customer to become more dependent upon you, they may consider it a risk to commit to using less suppliers. You may not always have what they want, when they want it. You will be putting in a lot of effort for a single customer, this will reduce your ability and options of finding new customers, suppose you put in a lot of effort and they don't purchase?
Things will go wrong that's life! When they do you do not expect the customer to be on the telephone screaming, you will not be going into hiding or passing the buck, blaming others. You and the customer will be sitting around the table discussing options and working together on solutions.
PHILOSOPHY (GUIDING BELIEFS)
Of course if the customer just wants a big discount, if they think these are not the components in a partnership then its never going to work.
Develop a "what we mean by a partnership" presentation that you are comfortable with and means something to you, your prospects, your markets. You need to own the presentation, you need to deliver it so that the other party sees you really mean and believe it
Its very easy to give all your attention to one or two customers who, despite the current market are giving you lots of business "better look after these guys, can't afford to lose them". Its easy to fall into the trap of relying on one product line that, despite the current market is selling well "better keep pushing these, thank goodness we have this line". Its easy to stick to one market that you know inside out "phew, good job I am expert in this sector, the rest of the market is dead". Don't forget the suppliers, reliance on a single vendor can be commercial suicide, if for example they go out of business or exit the market.
All of a sudden you could find yourself in a "dependency culture". Too reliant on a single market, customer, product/service offering or supplier. Heavens forbid you were to become totally dependant on a single customer, that you a sell one product too, that you get from a single vendor!
So how do you avoid the dependency culture? Here are few pointers.
1. No matter how strong your pipeline looks [through those rose tinted sales spectacles] keep marketing and prospecting always be creating demand.
2. Don't get complacent keep researching your market, keep asking customers if they REALLY are happy, keep an eye on your competitors, don't let service or quality slip a millimetre.
3. Don't become too reliant on single vendor, keep them on their toes, remind them they they need you as much (if not more) than you need them. Have a contingency plan for alternate suppliers.
4. If you think you dont have the resources to get into a diferent market or customer segment, think again. Could you "re-purpose" what you sell for a quick entry into other markets (here is a great white paper on re-purposing ). You can capitalise on your knowledge, expertise and investment whilst broadening your market reach, quicker than you may think.
Every so often you need to be honest with yourself "am I as a salesperson, or are we as a business, falling into a dependency culture?". Keep asking because dependency will creep up on you before you know it.