majority of their business together in a given area.” For those reasons, Spurgin said he prefers the term “partner.” “I know we operate a little differently from others, but we strive to have only partners,” he explained, adding that making that work requires a commitment from both sides. “Everyone plans, commu- nicates, and executes differently, but there needs to always be the conversa- tion of what can we do for each other at the core of the relationship.” Dobski said his preferences depend on the manufacturer in question. “Be- fore the term ‘partner’ became popu- lar as it defines the relationship be- tween a vendor and distributor, our vendors tended to look at us as cus- tomers. There was perhaps more care taken in the relationship-building pro- cess. Some—not all—manufacturers use it almost as an excuse to not take the care that they need to nurture the relationship as they would a cus- tomer,” he said. Donna Lubrano is an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University, with special expertise in small and mid-size business. She cautioned that using the term “partner” without creat- ing a true partnership risks backfiring. “If there is no real level of connec- tion or direct impact, [the term ‘part- ner’] may make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, but not much more,” she said. “Partnership implies mutual risk and mutual benefit. If I distribute your product and take ownership of it, then its success is my success and its liability is my liability. Please don't call me a partner if I have no control. I am your customer and I can go any- where to purchase the same product or a similar product. If I can do that, then I’m your customer.” She added that the terms have very different connotations in terms of loy- alty. “‘Customer’ implies I can leave to go to one of your competitors. ‘Part- ner’ implies that we are working to defeat your competitors,” she said. The terminology can also affect smaller, day-to-day details and even individual sales, according to Jeff Goldberg, president and lead sales trainer for JG&A, which offers sales training, reinforcement, and coaching. “One thing to keep in mind is that a single word, phrase, or sentence can mean the difference between a sale and no sale,” he said. “I like the idea of partnering, but the danger is that when people are referred to as part- ners, they may feel like they are part of the business and that they should
www.tEDmag.com Feb. 17 • the ELEC TRICAL DIS TRIBUTOR 27
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