Customer Investors Introduction

Quick Summary: Customers, through continued purchases, are the key element for long-term company success.


In the past, many companies viewed “getting a sale” as a high-stakes game and almost viewed the customers as an adversary that had to be won over or even beaten.  This was exemplified by the classic characterization of a used car salesman. The attitude of successful companies has totally changed with the emphasis now placed on forging a win-win relationship with both parties making an investment in each other.

In the not too distant past, vendor-customer relationships were viewed as adversarial relationships with both parties trying to extract a pound of flesh from their “opponent”.  Thankfully with the awakening of the need for quality in the early 1980s, those relationships have significantly changed.  Successful companies, both buyers and sellers, now work together, each respecting each other’s needs, and developing mutually beneficial arrangements. 

Over time, as the relationship deepens and mutual trust is developed through meeting commitments, the customer-supplier relationship evolves.  The relationship phases can be described as:

  1. Potential supplier
  2. Low-cost bid winner
  3. Successful supplier
  4. Preferred vendor
  5. Trusted Advisor
  6. Strategic Partner

The key to moving through the evolutionary cycle is to focus on cementing the relationship first and then selling products or services.  A sale is always personal.  Markets do not buy products and neither do companies, people do.  And they don’t buy them from companies, they buy them from people that they trust.  Trust is built over time by first making and then fulfilling commitments.

When the relationship reaches the fifth or sixth stage, the customer begins to think and act as an investor in the company that is committed to helping the company be successful.  It is clearly in their best interest for the company to succeed and continue to be a key supplier helping them to also be successful.  Aside from the likelihood of continued orders, customers in this category regularly become advocates promoting the company’s products or services through testimonials, recommendations, and other market expanding activities.  These activities provide external validation that is far more valuable than any company initiated marketing or advertising programs.

Although companies provide jobs to their employees, the continuation of those jobs is totally dependent on the investments that customers make in the form of continued orders.  The revenue associated with the products or services delivered as a result of the customer’s investment is their return.  That return singularly determines the overall success of the company.

Article Number : 2.040502   

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