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Clients are from Mars and Vendors from Venus

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When a company (client) looks for a solution, it follows a process that is very different to the process followed by vendors, when selling. This article explores the differences, why this happens and how to bring the two into a collaborative process, together.

Why building collaborative relationships is in the interests of both?

Most client/vendor relationships are based on what each organisation needs from the relationship, rather than what they both require together. Why is this important?

It has been proven time and time again that great relationships, be they between two individuals, in a personal relationship or two organisations in a business to business relationship, require open, transparent, ongoing communications. But, more often than not, this doesn’t prove to be the case. Divorce rates are the highest they’ve ever been in Western society; the vast majority of business to business relationships are now shorter than they’ve ever been. What is driving the latter phenomenon? The diagram below indicates the key problem. The drivers/needs of clients and vendors are totally different.


Without clear and open communications this can only end in disaster and often does. Yet, the American Marketing Association in its new definition of marketing in the B2B sector released in 2007 states “Value is not delivered by a business to clients, but rather co-created with clients in an ongoing, collaborative interaction with them.

So how does one go about building a constructive, mutually profitable, sustainable relationship in which both organisations benefit? Well, think back a bit. What did you do when you went on your first date as a teenager? You chatted, got to know the person with whom you were with. It’s called dating. So what’s wrong with B2B dating? OK, you may smile or indeed laugh, but it’s really not rocket science. After all, be it a personal relationship or a B2B one, it is people who are doing the communicating, not businesses. So how can this be done successfully in a business environment. One proven option is to create the opportunity for client and vendor to be able to exchange ideas and thoughts in a controlled environment referred to as a learningRelationshipTM.

In having completed over 120 such B2B engagements in South and Southern Africa, in markets as diverse as Financial Services, Telecommunications, Information Technology and Professional Services two important findings remain consistent. These being firstly, personal relationships in B2B scenarios tend to be strong and built quickly. Unfortunately, however, a business’ ability to deliver on commitments made to clients is very poor. This, in turn, puts pressure on the relationship and, unless addressed, could end up in divorce, often involving tens of millions of Rands in turnover and profits.

learningRelationhipsTM is one of several models that allow for a ‘greenfields’ approach to collaborative marketing, with the objective of better understanding a client’s needs. This is critical, given H.R. Chally’s, a leading US based specialist sales consultancy, most recent study that indicates that in excess of 50% of procurement or purchasing executives key wish is that the companies they purchase from, understand their needs intimately.

Simply stated, the objective of a learningRelationshipsTM programme is to gain background information on a client’s business objectives and its strategies from them. In knowing and understanding these it will allow a vendor to determine what opportunities exist to build the relationship, collaboratively, between the two businesses on an ongoing basis, with the continued, profitable growth of the client being the key objective.

Andrew Clare is Managing Partner of reLiance a business to business relationship marketing practice. We focus on improving client profitability through developing, implementing and measuring sustainable, collaborative business to business relationships.  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , www.rassa.co.za


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