At 32 Fish we work with companies who use our skill-sets to approach and introduce their brands to new and potential clients. Although these companies vary, they all seem to share one key item.
When giving them the choice of being referred to as a “Vendor” or “Partner”, they will almost always choose being called a Partner. In fact, the companies that chase this the most have taken to referring to themselves as Partners in every conversation they have with a prospect before they close the business.
The two real problems with this approach are:
1. The “Partner” label isn’t chosen by you as the Vendor.
2. Even worse, the reasons you aren’t being treated as a Partner is because you never defined the word, but expected them to understand it.
Let’s pause and define these two words here:
Vendor: Provides a product, service, or other, for a fixed price, in a fixed period, with little room for personalization or customization.
Partner: Provides a product, service, or other, for a fixed price, in a fixed period, with little room for personalization or customization….but believe they are doing something more than a Vendor.
Now that we have cleared that up, we can focus solely on the difference. First, understand there is a cardinal sin in the Partnership label. If you believe it is more profitable, and customers stick around longer if they feel the “Partnership” and not the “Vendorship”, you may be right. The truth is, this depends far more on the service and benefit than the label it operates under. However, if this is the main reason you wish to be called a Partner, you will never be one. Wanting to make more money off your customers is not what makes you a Partner. Wanting to make more money for your Partners, and taking a slice for yourself, is.
“Believe they are doing something more than a Vendor”. Back to this thought. This is the defining difference for most companies. They believe they are doing something more, have met to discuss this “something”, wrote this “something” down, and now communicate it clearly to the client. Practice this exercise yourself. You may find clients are happy to know what makes you different. In fact, they can’t begin to treat you like a Partner until they have a user guide on what that means to you.
Stop calling yourself a Partner, and start acting like one. Make yourself easy to work with, put skin in the game, and communicate clearly. Much like you must dress for the job you want, and not the one you have. You have to service the account you want, and not the one you have.