From Vendorship → Partnership: Why and How?

In this post we’ll explore the differences between achieving Vendorship vs Partnership, and the impact establishing yourself as a true partner has in earning your buyer’s valuable time.


Today’s research consistency tells us that buyers don’t want to talk to AEs anymore. Just 5% of the evaluation process is spent with a solution provider. 

Yet, buyers need sellers more than ever. 

Solutions are increasingly complex and the internal buying process is a project management nightmare (see diagram below). If sales teams are not able to partner with their buyers they will not earn the time needed to guide them through the evaluation process.

Diagram: the B2B buying journey
Diagram: the typical B2B buying journey

I spent my entire career in sales and was most recently part of the early GTM team at Google Cloud. It was only when I co-founded Accord that I walked across the aisle and experienced what it's like to be a buyer. 

It didn't take long to realize there were two types of salespeople: those that wanted to help me make an informed decision, and those that wanted to sell me their solution. The AEs that wanted to help me make the best decision possible felt like true partners and I invested my time in them and their solutions. The AEs that were only focused on their services had the opposite effect.

We can all agree that it’s better to be seen as a partner, but how does one position themselves as a partner? This article outlines the difference between partnership and vendorship. It also outlines three pro-tips to becoming a better partner. Let’s dive in! 

How to Demonstrate Partnership

Partnership is making your buyer feel heard and understood. You need to make their best interests your primary concern.

  1. Sit on the same side of the table as your buyer. Work together to achieve a win-win result.
  2. Demonstrate transparency and mutual respect early.
  3. You are deeply focused on understanding and solving the BUYER’S problems together.
  4. Complete alignment on the “why” behind the evaluation, including current state, desired future states, and the driving force behind the change.
  5. Build authentic personal relationships with your buyers. People buy from people.
  6. Guide your buyer through a prescriptive yet accommodating buyer journey.
  7. Offers insight and perspective on the buyer’s problem and insights into your industry

How to Demonstrate Vendorship

Vendorship is focusing on your product and your solution. The emphasis is on you. 

  1. You and the buyer are sitting across from each other. You think about who is going to be the winner and who will be the loser.
  2. You guard information and show limited empathy for your buyers.
  3. You focus more on your solution than your buyer’s problems.
  4. You do not understand the “why” behind the evaluation. Your buyer has corrected you more than once on the fundamentals behind the deal.
  5. You approach interactions in a robotic and scripted fashion.
  6. You force your buyer through a rigid sales process.
  7. You can only offer general knowledge and share sales collateral that is not applicable to the buyer’s needs.

3 Pro-tips to Move From Vendorship to Partnership

1) Create alignment

  • Align on the “why” behind what your buyer is trying to achieve. This includes where they are today, where they’d like to be tomorrow, and what’s driving the need for change. This knowledge shows that you understand their challenges. Surprisingly, it also helps to keep the buying team on the same page. Usually the decision making team does not have a common lens to view the evaluation.

2) Acknowledge all options, even competitors 

  • Don’t be afraid of the buyer’s other options. A seller is able to offer meaningful insight and guidance as buyers evaluate all of their options. Lean into this and help them weigh the pros and cons of each path forward. If you don’t, someone else will. 

3) Build empathy

  • The more a sales team understands their buyers, the better they can help them. Take time to interview your buyers after as many won and lost deals as possible. Most teams are afraid to ask their buyers about their experience – especially when deals were lost. Buyers are surprisingly open to helping their selling counterparts learn and improve.