How to create a great partnership

A great partnership is one where both sides rightfully think they got the better deal.

However, the way to get there is not by searching for the better deal but by being the better deal.

If you give more than you take, the partner will probably do the same. (If they consistently don’t, it might be time to re-calibrate the relationship.)

For people who try it the other way around, i.e. by first wanting the better deal before they are ready to contribute their part of the equation, I find it hard to believe that they’re going to be a valid solution of the equation.

You don’t look for the perfect match. You create it.

Needs more info

Some salespeople love to make decisions on behalf of their customer. Their favorite one: the purchase. These salespeople have already decided that their customer wants the deal, long before the conversation has actually started.

And it’s fascinating to see them succeed by sheer will.

For this breed of salespeople a “no” is just another word for “needs more info”. They are trained in objection handling and equipped with honey traps to make an offer the customer “can’t resist”. They just won’t stop pushing until they get the deal.

And it works. They make another deal. Often enough.

The deal might even be in the customer’s best interest.

Or it might not.

That’s not what drives these salespeople, the closure of the deal does.

And yet, the sad part is something else: This kind of behavior is the consequence of some deep insecurity. This salesforce doesn’t really believe in their offering. They don’t trust their offer to be strong enough that they can trust the customer with the decision to buy.

Last week, I’ve worked with a company that has no salesforce at all. They trust in their offering to be so good that the customer doesn’t need to be persuaded. If a customer has the problem that this company solves, they will choose that company to solve it. Not because someone pushes them to but because they want to.

The ingredients for this kind of offer are:

  • a deep understanding of the problem that the customer really has.
  • rigorous work to build an offering that actually solves it.
  • telling true stories with irresistible clarity about the work you’ve done.

If these are really the problems and your solution really solves them, then you can skip persuading and start resonating.

Giving a talk

When you’re giving a talk, are you truly giving it?

Or are you taking more than you give? Such as your audience’s time? Are you hoping to get more out of it than you put in?

And how much are you actually giving? A good effort? All of you? The bare minimum, as in “My assistant’s going to assemble a bunch of slides”?

When you spend your time evaluating whether you get as much out of a situation as you put in, that time can’t go into making the maximum possible impact.

The irony, or course, is that the bigger the impact, the more likely it is that you will get something of value back.

Changing your mind

You often hear me saying how trust is created when you consistently say what you mean and mean what you say.

But, as with most simple statements, there’s an asterisk attached.

If what you mean changes frequently, people are going to be confused and they’ll have a hard time playing catch up with what you currently mean.

Musk’s Twitter is a great live example that allows us to witness how this unfolds. Although there’s no reason to doubt that Musk says what he means and means what he says, the almost daily change in direction damages trust because the audience can never quite be sure what’s meant today.

It’s good to change your mind when new data becomes available and when that data proves that your initial take was wrong.

But sometimes, it pays if you practice a little patience before launching big changes to a service that’s used worldwide so that you (and your audience) can have a little more trust in the longevity of what you “mean”.

When what you mean is the result of some rigorous work you’ve done, stating it clearly will allow others to trust in what you say.

Adapt or Attract

Two ways to resonate strongly with your audience.

Adapt your messaging to the audience.


Attract your audience with your messaging.

Which one do you choose? Why?

The truth about cars

There was a time when cars didn’t have seat belts.

There was even a time when car makers hesitated to equip their cars with seat belts although they could. They feared bad publicity. After all, it would mean admitting that the cars were unsafe. Which could scare customers and keep them from buying.

So, they decided to not tell the whole story but rather hide the fact that cars do, as a matter of fact, crash sometimes … and hope that no-one notices it.

Today, we have way safer cars because people who cared surfaced the whole story. Obviously, the best way to deal with the truth was not to hide the problem but to face it, deal with it, and improve the product.

A good question to ask is this: If your customers knew what you know, would they buy?

Many companies don’t trust that their customers really would. And so, they bend the truth and maybe hide parts of it.

But some companies use this question as a motivation to improve the product. Not only will these companies end up with superior products, marketing will also be way easier.

All they need to do is tell a true story. Ultimately, it leads to customers who can – and do – trust you.

When customers refuse to understand us

You see something bad, you see how to make it good, but the others don’t see it. What do you do?

Let’s say you’ve found a better way to schedule meetings. Or you’ve found a more sustainable way to produce something and save at least 10% of the energy. But customers don’t buy it.

It’s a common problem for people who care deeply for their cause. It can be hugely frustrating when the customers refuse to see it although you’ve explained it to them very clearly. They still refuse to change anything. They keep doing what they always do.

The worst part is when this observation becomes kind of a comfort zone, a place to hide at.

I’ve seen it happen more than once. After all, it’s not your fault. It’s their fault. Despite your clear explanation, the customers still refuse to see or acknowledge it. You would change the world, if only the others opened their eyes.

The bitter truth is that they don’t have to. It’s not their job. Which means that it’s not their fault.

So, let’s move out of the comfort zone and ask more meaningful questions:

What will you open our eyes for?

What selfish marketers overlook

Some marketers treat us as kind of dumb.

For example in the way they try to persuade us by hiding their cons and exaggerating their pros (if not downright inventing some).

Let’s call them the “selfish marketers”.

The fascinating part is how much effort selfish marketers invest into this. They spend huge resources on inventing promises that sound irresistible or stories that create buzz – not to mention all the money they throw towards marketing agencies who give them more of that.

By doing that, they try to decorate a product they don’t trust in themselves to be good enough if they told us the truth.

In my experience, your effort is better spent in telling a true story and making it work. That involves refining your product so that you can actually trust it to be good. It also involves listening closely to what your customers actually want (and need). It doesn’t stop with the quest for clarity to find the words that make your customers see what you see.

The selfish marketer starts from building something and puts all their effort in crafting a story on top of that something.

The honest marketer starts with empathy, uncovers what matters to the customers, builds a special thing that delivers exactly that … And then they tell a true story about it … using words they trust in and believe, themselves.

The best products are those that customers love even more when they know the complete truth. They are not irresistible because the promise sounds irresistible but because it is. And so, your customers support you in creating the buzz.

What’s a product where that’s the case for you?

The comfortable place of honesty

You’re an honest marketer. That’s why you don’t overpromise. You care for keeping your promises.

I do, too.

But still: could your promises be bolder?

The reason I’m asking is that I’ve met quite a number of brilliant people for whom the noble statement to “underpromise and overdeliver” has become a place to hide. A comfort zone. They play it a bit too safe.

The problem is that they fear not keeping a promise so much that they promise only the things that they can comfortably keep. They only ever promise something that’s easy to keep.

But there’s an alternative to overpromising. And that’s to promise big. Promises that are outside of your comfort zone, yet not so far as to be unrealistic. Promises for which you don’t know all the answers, yet, but know where to look for the answer. Promises that lead you to try harder and push your own boundaries.

This is what differentiates people who care from “overpromisers”. The latter put all their effort in finding excuses why it wasn’t their fault if a promise wasn’t kept. People who care put all their effort in finding ways to keep the promise regardless. That’s why they are able to make bold promises and still be able to keep them. (And, at least in my experience, they usually do.)

Persuading people

The moment you try to persuade your customer you essentially admit that …

i) either you don’t fully understand what really matters to them or
ii) you don’t trust your product to deliver on what matters to your customer.

(Or both, obviously.)

If you fully understand your customers’ needs and desires and if you also trust in your product to deliver on that, then you won’t need to persuade. You only need to make them see by telling a true story about your product.

Because once they see it, it becomes totally obvious: This is the product that serves my needs. They’d be fools not to buy it, right?

That’s why it’s so much easier to start with that story in mind and build your product so it delivers on that story – rather than the other way around.

When you first build the product and then go looking for a story, you might end up discovering that it’s, well, not that great a fit after all. Hence, the need for persuasion techniques.

But when you do it the other way around, then all it takes is to speak with clarity.

Spread the Word

Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz