Partnering has helped several clients create a competitive advantage and to grow their business profitably. But before introducing the process of partnering, first a bit of history. 
Fifty years ago, businesses were encouraged to focus on delivering good Customer Service in order to compete. 
Thirty-six years ago, Tom Peters the American business guru, suggested that Service was no longer good enough and directed businesses to Delight their Customers. This meant going the extra mile to really make customers feel special. The benefits were high levels of repeat business, new business from referrals and a lowering of sensitivity to price. 
Then twenty years ago, my number one client Keepmoat, had developed a culture of Delighting their customers and it had worked well e.g. treating clients with respect, going the extra mile on sites, etc sharing KPI’s. This set Keepmoat aside from their competitors. 
But then the competition started to copy and catch up. 
We realised we needed to go to the next level in order to stay ahead of the competition. 
A very smart marketing manager, Richard Clare, initially came up with the idea of partnering with customers. 10% profit over a nine-year period, when the competition could only manage 4% ,was the reward for investing in partnering. 
The process has also been used with key suppliers, Hugh Rice the Jewellers are currently benefitting from partnering with their key brand suppliers. 
Research has shown that the most effective people benefit from having extensive networks. One way of thinking about Partnering is that its about creating extensive networks of relationships within key customers and suppliers. 
History lesson over. 
If you want to enjoy the benefits of partnering with your customers here is the process: 
1 – Decide which customers / suppliers would be worth partnering. 
2 – Identify in each, who the key people are you need to partner with. 
3 – Determine your businesses current level of relationship with each key person, using the following process: 
Red = Don’t know what they look like, never met them. Not done any business directly with them. 
Amber = Met them, done limited amount of business with them, don’t get all their work, just a transactional relationship. 
Green = Strong trusting relationship, good friends, got a good share of their business. Opportunities for more. 
4 – Allocate resources and time with the aim to turn targeted contacts Green in the next 12 months by doing things for them to help them develop their business: Principle give before receiving. 
5 – Offer to engage in pilots with them to benefit both parties. Conduct joint training between their staff and yours etc. 
6 – Enjoy the benefits of becoming a long-term partner. 
Partnering takes effort, but the potential rewards are; securing long term sales commitments, obtaining beneficial trading terms, gaining a larger share of the customers business, taking out the ebbs, flows and stress from the normal transactional sales process. 
See more Tales about how businesses have benefitted from partnering in my new Book Telling Tales: 
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