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Moving Beyond Selling To Building Collaborative Relationships

by David Brock on March 11th, 2009

I’m reading Price Waterhouse Coopers 12th Annual Global CEO Survey. It has a lot of good information and I encourage you to read it. One issue that leaped out was the importance in the CEO’s minds about the importance of building more collaborative strategies.

Some interesting data points:

  • 57% of the CEO’s agree or agreed strongly that collaborative business networks would be a defining organizational principle for business.
  • 71% believed collaborative relationships are critical with customers and clients.
  • About 40% believed collaborative relationships with supply chain partners was critical. (This is a disconcerting issue I will talk about later.)

We’ve always felt that developing close, collaborative relationships is critical to sales. However, to be successful in doing this requires a profound shift in the way we interact with our customers. Traditional approaches to selling will no longer be sufficient. Collaboration means a higher degree of interdependence between organizations. In partnering with our customers, we become important to each other’s success and we can only be successful by working together. Partnering and collaboration demand loyalty, relationship integrity, and trust between partners.

Today, the term “partnering” is tossed around too casually by sales people and buyers alike. Rather than simply buying and selling, we talk about “partnering.” Too much of the time, the focus, both by sales and buyers, is on “What’s in it for me.” The seller simply wants to close the deal and move on, the buyer simply wants to close the deal at the best price and move on.

Until we start looking at “What’s in it for our partner,” we will never be able to create real value in the partnership, and will have great difficulty in sustaining long term, loyal relationships.

I believe sales can offer a tremendous leadership in developing collaborative relationships with customers. It’s interesting in the PWC survey to note CEO’s have greater focus on these relationships with customers than they have with suppliers. Consequently, if we are going to develop these relationships, sales must take the initiatives.

True partnering demands a different mentality and different set of skills from sales people. I won’t go into it in this post–it will be too long. I’ll be glad to send you white papers, additionally, some of the thoughts are in a Selling Power article (July//August 2009) in which I am interviewed. However a good way to start thinking about developing successful collaborative relationships is to start thinking the following equation (sorry, I’m a physicist by training):

Translated, effective partnerships are a combination of : Shared Resources + Shared Risk + Shared Rewards + Shared Vision + Shared Values. Without a healthy balance of these factors, the relationship has a high risk of failing.

Collaboration and partnering—true partnering will become increasingly critical to sales. The CEO’s have spoken, buyers will not drive this, so it is up to sales professionals to drive the development of these relationships.

Moving from traditional selling to true partnering requires new attitudes, skills, processes, and metrics. Sales professionals need to begin to understand these and develop the capabilities.

(For any of the materials I have referred to, please feel free to contact me at, or call at +1-949-305-7146.)

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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