Imagine your business in five years’ time. Assume you have six new competitors all offering the exact same product at a similar price. These organisations have set up in your vicinity and market themselves in a similar way. Competition is massive.

Consider for a moment – how would you keep your customers? What’s important?

The relationship is everything – there’s nothing else. And here’s the scary part: soft differentiators are very perishable, very fragile and fluid. So you’ve got to nurture the relationship to keep it alive, fresh and valuable to the customer. Value is the key, because any relationship that brings no new value, no new ideas is pointless.

The twenty-first-century salesperson is a specialist, a problem solver and a relationship manager. This approach – part consultant, part partner – describes what we call the consultative-partner selling style.

The overriding objective is to become a valued resource to the customer.

The language of modern day selling is not: ‘What do you require and how can we sell it to you?’ It is: ‘Where are you going and how can we help you get there?’ The mindset is all about helping them to succeed.

What could your organisation offer to help your customers run their businesses more effectively? Could you help your best customers reduce cost without reducing your price? What else can you offer in addition to your solution?

The one cost you need to increase.

Keep looking for value-added services to boost partner relations. Such initiatives have one main objective: to increase the customer’s cost of switching suppliers. The higher the cost of switching, the less likely it is to happen.

At every opportunity ask yourself, ‘How much would it cost my best customer to switch to the competition? How can I increase this cost?’ Bring more to the table than just your products and services.

The object is to become indispensable to your customer and so create ‘barriers to entry’ for your competitors and ‘barriers to exit’ for your customers. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask, ‘What would I lose if I lost this supplier?’ If the answer is ‘not much’, you’re doing the job wrong.

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