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A Match Made in Heaven: Make Your Business Relationships Last

by Allen Weiss  |  
June 11, 2002

We all seek that forever partner – in our personal lives, of course, but also in our professional lives, with a customer or supplier, for example. But as with any relationship, a lasting one is both tricky to find and difficult to maintain.

I talked about this in my last article (How Do I Love Thee), and ended with a promise to talk about how to forge long-term relationships. Such relationships are possible, and the good news is that you don't even have to have the lowest price to make them last. In fact, it's not about price – your prices can be higher than your competitor's when you have the edge of a long-term relationship.

Yes, you read that right: Having a low price is not necessarily the key to maintaining a long-term relationship. Here's a short story to illustrate my point.

I was once speaking to a big defense firm who sells to the U.S. government. (The government, of course, loves to nickel and dime every supplier and puts suppliers through rigorous bidding wars every five years.)

Of course, when I introduced the concept of long-term relationships, most of the audience thought I was naïve. Or at the very least, they considered me uninformed.

But a quick show of hands identified several managers who had indeed managed to have extremely long-term relationships (we're talking 25 years in length!) and didn't bring in the lowest bid. That's pretty impressive for an industry where conventional wisdom holds that such relationships aren't possible with the government.

How did these successful managers accomplish it? Read on. The bottom line is that even in situations where such relationships don't seem possible, they are.

First of all, recall that when you have a partner who seeks a long-term relationship, he or she is doing so because typically they feel vulnerable. Basically, they're buying something that puts them at risk (like a very expensive purchase, or one that -- if it doesn't serve the company well -- could put them out of business).

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Allen Weiss is the founder and publisher of He can be reached at

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