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Customer or Client? Vendor or Partner? It’s all up to you.

Have you ever wondered what type of business relationship you have with another person or company?  It might be as simple as looking at the words that you use to describe them.

Customer (n) – a person or  organization that buys good or services from a store or business.  a person or thing of a specified kind that one has to deal with.
Client (n) – a person or organization using the services of a professional person or company.
Vendor (n) – a person or company offering something for sale, especially a trader in the street.
Partner (n) – a person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business or company with shared risks and profits.

When you look at the definitions above, what jumps out at you?  The first thing that stood out to me is under Customer – a person or thing of a special kind that one has to deal with.  That may be appropriate if you are selling pencils and paper and never interact with the buyer on the other end.  However, if you are in any other business, is this really what your buyer is to you?  Someone you have to deal with?  

And buyers, how many times have you called the person or company you are working with a vendor?   Probably more times than you can admit.  Some of you work in organizations where there is a Vendor Management office (aka sourcing).  Do you think that conveys the proper message to those you do business with?   

Choosing the correct word to describe your relationships with someone can change the way you think and work with them.

In my line of work, the people that I choose to do business with are my clients and I am their partners.  How do I know?  Because I interact with them regularly and understand what is motivating them and their business, and they in turn understand what I am doing with mine.

This morning I was prompted to write this because one of my clients called me this morning and said “Hey, are your ears burning?  I was talking about you and your company last night at dinner.  One of the individuals at the table is looking to partner with an organization like yours.  I immediately thought of you and recommended he speak with you directly.”  Is that happening to you?

If not, it may because your buyer thinks of you as a vendor; someone out on the street peddling their wares.  Or perhaps it is the other way around, you think of them as someone you have to sell to.  Regardless, it may be as simple as changing your vocabulary and partnering with your buyer or seller.

Now if you work at Amazon and never meet your buyer, then by all means, call them a customer.  However, if you actually meet with your buyer/seller, and work with that individual or company on something that is important to you, then ask yourself, “Are they a potential customer or vendor to me, or are they a potential client and partner of mine?”

The truth is, it is all up to you and how you choose to interact with someone. For me, I would rather receive the phone call I did this morning than pick up the phone and cold call a someone I have never met before.   Wouldn’t you prefer that outcome?

About ThetaPoint, Inc.

ThetaPoint is a leading provider of strategic consulting and managed security services.  We help clients plan, build and run successful SIEM and Log Management platforms and work with the leading technology providers to properly align capabilities to clients needs.  Recognized for our unique technical experience, in addition to our ability to quickly and rapidly solve complex customer challenges, ThetaPoint partners with some of the largest and most demanding clients in the commercial and public sector.  For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter or Linked-In

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