Building New Business through Customers as Partners

Shaking HandsPeople don’t buy products and services; they buy the expectation of benefits and solutions which they deem valuable. And, bundled with that value today is a long-term relationship, not a short-term transaction. Organizations that treat prospects and customers as partners leapfrog their competition leaving them behind still pushing features and overcoming objections.

Who’s your banker, your insurance agent, or your mortgage lender? If your answer is an institution, not a name, you are dealing with an enterprise that has elected to replace an important bond with a clerk or a call center. All that might be just fine until your need is unique or your problem outside their script. Then, you are left on your own and finding yourself cursing your way to the exit. Organizations that care only about the transaction cost quickly lose market share to those focusing on the relationship value.

When customers are viewed as partners, magic follows. They are more forgiving of error. With a vested interest in your success, they spend more, they purchase a wider array of stuff, they assertively advocate you more and they offer suggestions for how you can get better. Unlike the price driven buyer only hunting the best deal, customers as partners recognize there is much more to value than simply the charge.

Sales professionals with a knack for building partnerships having little trouble getting in the door of a prospect—their network has already greased the skids for them. Prospects, always suspicion of a sales agenda, move more quickly to joint exploration of needs and hopes when they read a relationship objective. They trust more quickly, reveal more readily, and decide with less resistance. Without a relationship driving the sales call, the focus can end up being one laced with arguing over specs and bickering over terms. Prospects remain skeptical and sales people pile on more proof. All this contention is completely unnecessary with a partnership approach.

What does it take to create a partnership relationship with customers? It takes using the exact same protocols that make marriages and friendships work:

  • Expect the Best: and, let the self-fulfilling prophesy help your relationship soar.
  • Assert the Truth: note the word, “Assert” not just “Tell.” There’s a big difference.
  • Keep Your Promises: and, if you can’t, renegotiate early, not at the last minute.
  • Be All, There: you can’t light a fire with a wet match. Be a source of energy.
  • Honor your Partner: if it’s all about you there is no room for it to be all about “us.”
  • Stay on Purpose: relationships should be purpose-full and resilient. Don’t give up.
  • Celebrate the Partnership: affirm successes; they show faith in your future.

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of the best-selling book Take Their Breath Away:  How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers. They can be reached at

photo credit: Aidan Jones