Archives for posts with tag: Relationship

Client or customer? Which term do you use? I must confess I’m not keen on the word client, at least in business.

I remember having this conversation about a decade ago with a software VP. ‘Which term do you prefer,’ I asked. ‘Oh, I don’t like the word client. Hookers have clients…’ was her reply.

Well, yes, I suppose they do. Yet, so do social services organisations, charities, artists, business agencies and probably a good few professional services companies too.

In business, everything revolves around the customer. But it’s still a partnership between you and your customers, a fair exchange of outcomes between you and them. Usually, they pay money and you deliver products and / or services, but not always. It’s a business relationship built on a series of mutually beneficial transactions over time.

Calling them clients in business – internally within your business or externally with your various stakeholders – puts them on a pedestal and makes for an uneven relationship that’s open to abuse, or at best unnecessary leverage.

Client equals master-slave, whereas customer equals business relationship.


Did anyone notable ever say something along the lines of ‘a wise man speaks less, a foolish man does not’?

If they didn’t, they should have, so I’m filling the gap now.

When you’re in a meeting with new people, I think it’s a sensible course of action to keep your own counsel first. This is deferential, which is polite and considerate, but also gives you a chance to gauge the situation, see what they’re like, assess what they know, and generally rate them as individuals, based on your early impressions.

Then, when you’ve given them a chance and you’re surer of the situation, you can start contributing from a more knowledgeable basis.

This approach certainly works well in sales and marketing, when you’re looking to get the customer to do the talking so you can learn more and propose a better solution that builds on your increased understanding of their requirements.

When you understand the situation and the new person you’re talking to better than they do you, you’re in a position to help them better, make a better first impression, and have a better chance of controlling the dialogue and the output.

As punk legend Ian Drury once rather succinctly put it in one of his songs: “There ain’t half been some clever b*stards.” Abraham Maslow was one such clever chap.  His Hierarchy of Needs has stood the test of time and appears somewhere in almost every business school’s sales, marketing or organisational behaviour curricula and most people have a passing knowledge of it.

My father used to simplify it further.  Before I share that with you, I have to say I don’t know if my Dad was familiar with Maslow’s theory, but he – my Dad – was always full of insights and was a classic mentor in the sense that someone who has already figured something out could give you the inside track on an important aspect of life.

Anyway, back to the simplification. My Dad used to say: “Paul,” for that is my name, “people are essentially motivated by two guiding principles. These two are fear and greed.” The more I thought about this, the more I came to the conclusion that he was annoyingly – and rather depressingly – on the money. You can distil how people behave down into two primary – and primeval – driving forces.

The words fear and greed don’t appear anywhere in Maslow’s handy pyramid – and how business consultants love the safe refuge of shapes like pryramids, triangles, funnels and 2 x 2 grids – yet what my Dad had done is cut through the pyramid and produced two possible avenues for explaining why folk do the things folk do.

Oversimplified? Possibly, but there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. Just try it yourself. You could view it as a touch cynical or pessimistic, but it works. Forget the 7 deadly sins, you need 1 of them – greed – with the F of FUD thrown in for good measure.

[Disclosure – this blog post contains adult sexual references, though not expressed in a vulgar way, because that would be a poor show.]

I thought I’d open, dear reader, with a warning, as I’d hate to see your double espresso do a U-turn as you read this. The adult reference is not to the title of the well-known song that you will find in the subject line of this blog post (and I can imagine there might be a slightly different audience finding this post as a result) but to an analogy for the difference between sales and marketing.

The rivalry, jibes and sometimes gulfs between sales and marketing is a path so worn away with words that I hesitated before I wrote the post, yet I think my point has merit.

In the old days, you could say that marketing was like sex for 1. A mainly solitary exercise, you would be crafting strategy, messaging and plans in your own company. Sales, on the other hand, was like sex for 2. You were building a rapport with that person, listening and catering to their requirements.

The connected economy has blurred those lines almost beyond recognition. If I’m a salesperson, my B2B customers can do their research online, see how people score what I offer, without ever having to dance with me until they’re ready, and on their terms. I don’t sell to them until they’re ready to start the relationship – unless I understand how to use the same processes to guide them to me.

If I’m a marketer, while I should always have been listening to the market, I can get instantaneous feedback on what I’m putting out there and can collaborate with my customers in real time to give them what they need.

The best salespeople, marketers and customers are those that understand the leveraging power of the Internet and use it to put themselves in the shoes of the other person. That way they can relate to them more, and partner with them better.

Our American friends are very good at making every moment count. Far from wallowing in the past or wishing their lives away until some happy event in the future, they encourage us to capitalise on what is current. Hence the familiar phrases like ‘being in the moment’ and ‘living for now’. This resonates in sports and is also especially true for business these days, when the emphasis is, quite rightly, on execution. You can only execute on the present tense; you can’t execute in the past or future.

That said, imagine what kind of a world it is for those people for whom there is only the present tense. There are millions of people with varying conditions of what is essentially an eternal limbo. Long term memory is OK for many, but for the majority the short term memory evaporates. Think about what this means.

There is no recent past. The couple of grand you spent on last week’s holiday, or yesterday’s dinner with friends, or this afternoon’s sports match are gone, as if they never happened. There is no future. You’re not looking forward to the weekend, because within a few minutes of being reminded of the delights in store, you’ve forgotten them.

You are literally in the moment, constantly, fleetingly, living from moment to moment. Do you even try to enjoy every moment to its fullest? Probably not, because you have to remember to do that…

I don’t have any wisdom or answers to offer here. But I do have a question:

If the present really was all you had, would you execute better on your work lives, social lives and family lives? Would you check out, or would you do your best every time? Here’s to option 2…

Bit of grand title I know, but here’s my view.  Marketing is all about trying to put yourself in the shoes of your customer, because they should drive everything you should do.  It genuinely should be all about them and not all about you, so that ‘here’s a product we invented, now who can we sell it to’ changes to ‘we’re seeing customers move in this direction, how can we help them do that?’.

It occurs to me that this approach helps us in relationships and in fact in any social or behavioural situation.  Disagreements emerge from differences of opinion and misunderstandings of peoples’ priorities.  If only we could put ourselves in the shoes of the other person, we would find it easier to understand where they’re coming from, and what they want.

Sounds blissfully easy, but how many of us really engrain it into our behaviour?  I’m not talking about necessarily putting others first and being altruistic to the point of self-denial.  It’s more about being aware, being conscious, and being in sync.

So here’s to more productive negotiations, less arguments, happier customers, longer partnerships, and a bit more harmony in the world.