As sales professionals, we have a “primary contact” at every account, but if we strive to attain Preferred Position with the customer, we need more; we must have a “strategic partner” within the client organization. What’s the difference? A primary contact is simply the individual with whom we communicate most often. A strategic partner is someone with whom we have cultivated a productive relationship and effectively aligned objectives such that success is mutual. Here’s what a strategic partner looks like:
A strategic partner is someone who wants you to succeed and is willing to extend him/herself on your behalf. This person is the vital connection in the customer organization who can help you identify and connect with current and future sales opportunities. Your strategic partner will manage you through the twists and turns and help you avoid the land mines. Your strategic partner will update your progress, as well as provide you with critical competitive intelligence. He/she will help you connect with key customer personnel who are difficult to reach and will promote your cause and help you sell in your absence. Your strategic partner is an advocate, navigator, and friend all rolled into one.
Consider your position in each client organization and the correlation between your current position and the presence or absence of strategic partnerships within the organization. We must also continually assess our contribution to strategic partnerships to ensure that we are providing comparable value and support. Without mutual benefit, the partnership will be ineffective and short-lived.
Cultivating strategic partnerships is essential to improving our position with the customer and earning a role beyond supplier to that of strategic asset.