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There was a famous car salesperson by the name of Joe Girard who sold 13,001 cars at a Chevrolet dealership between 1963 and 1978, including the world record of 1425 cars in one year.

How did he do it?

By all accounts, he would never sell to someone walking in off the street. Instead, he would only sell to personal referrals or to his existing clients & their families.

Joe used to run a rolodex better than anyone and knew his customers intimately. He would look to know as much about his customers as he could so that he could support him or her in their needs and wants. The number one thing however that contributed to his success was that he always made sure they got a fair deal. One that was fair for him and fair for his customer.

Joe was a great example of someone who built fantastic partnerships with his clients.Recently I was asked if Indicator was interested in forming a partnership with a company that at the time, we had no relationship with. When I asked what a strategic partnership meant to them, I was told that they were looking for partners to refer clients to them to which they would pay a referral fee.

Huh? What sort of partnership is that?

I already have a dim view on referral fees anyway and couldn’t imagine a relationship based on one sided referral fees as being anything close to a genuine ‘partnership’.

When you think of strategic partnerships in your company what do you think of?

Here at Indicator, our description of a partnership is a relationship that increases the opportunity for both sides to achieve their strategic goals. Both sides need to benefit from this relationship (ideally in equal measures) otherwise it is not a partnership.

The key to any great partnership is to truly understand your partners, what they value, why they value it and what is the cost benefit of the relationship?

No business is an island. If you are in business, then you have partnerships of some kind and need to be thinking about how you can maximise these relationships for mutual benefit. Strategic partners come in many forms - clients, sales channels, sponsors, suppliers, staff, colleagues, internal business units, Joint Ventures, board members etc.

We were fortunate to have Strategic Partnerships expert Enette Pauze join us at Sales Syndicate recently to highlight the value that we can both receive and achieve in our partnerships. Among the many ‘nuggets’ Enette shared with us, we loved her 3 criteria for successful & sustainable partnerships:

  • Shared purpose with mutual benefit
  • Better together
  • Impact on priorities

Quite simply by applying these 3 criteria you can quickly ascertain whether specific relationships have potential and are worth investing in. Most “for profit” businesses are usually trying to achieve one, or all, of the following:

  • Grow revenue
  • Reduce costs
  • Reduce risk
  • Increase profit

A valuable exercise is to look at each relationship to understand if they might enable you to achieve one or more of these.

We believe that ‘sales’ are actually all about ‘partnerships’.

We’d highly recommend that you apply the 3 criteria (above) to every new client relationship that you start. If the answer to any of those criteria above is a resounding ‘no’ then perhaps you should walk away or refer them on. Admittedly there will be times when the answers may not be so obvious and may take some time before these become clear.

If I look at the company that approached us looking for referrals perhaps a better way would have been for them to invest some time to understand our vision, values and aspirations, compare them with their own and understand how both sides could support each other to reach our respective strategic goals.

The most important values we always aim to bring to our partners & clients here at Indicator are to tangibly contribute to their success, to celebrate their wins and achievements, sharing common values, having a genuine desire to help them and feeling that these ideals are reciprocated.

Many of us have customers that we know aren’t contributing to our success and perhaps now is the time to move them on. For their benefit and yours!


Mike Stokes





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