When Collaboration Becomes a Sales Gimmick: The Distortion of a Fundamental ConceptJul 25, 2023
In the fast-paced realm of contemporary sales, a term that seems to be often overused, or rather misused, is 'collaboration'. Today, every sales pitch, every negotiation, and every interaction with a prospective client is shrouded in a well-intentioned promise of 'collaboration'. However, when examined more closely, one can't help but question whether this beloved term has lost its true essence.
My most recent sales encounter serves as a nice example to this dilemma. The salesperson was an articulate communicator, weaving a narrative centered around collaboration. I, too, appreciate a well-structured sales pitch, but I couldn't ignore the unsettling abuse of the word 'collaboration'.
Throughout our conversation, the salesperson expertly posed inquiries, generously layered compliments, and ceaselessly reiterated the promise of 'collaboration'. This, in theory, should've been a seamless experience. Yet, his understanding of collaboration seemed misaligned with mine. Each time he hinted at a collaborative venture, he made presumptions about my interests. Alarmingly, there was no room for my inputs, suggestions, or feedback - the essential pillars of any true collaboration. My role in this 'collaborative' arrangement was apparently reduced to signing checks.
True Essence of Collaboration
"When 1+1 becomes greater than 3"
The contemporary misconception of collaboration, as exemplified in this encounter, perturbs me. Collaboration isn't defined by the transfer of funds. Indeed, I've been a part of several successful collaborations where I've footed the entire bill. True collaboration lies in creating a win-win situation where the collective output surpasses the individual contributions. It's when 1+1 becomes greater than 3.
When the salesperson's vision of 'collaboration' was stripped down to its bare essentials, it was simply a transaction - a predefined service exchanged for a paycheck. There was no surplus of insights, no co-creation or co-thinking, and no co-investment. It was devoid of any service that exceeded the initial offering.
Don't get me wrong; a transactional relationship between a customer and a supplier is perfectly acceptable. It's straightforward, clear, and unpretentious. However, I beg to differ when this one-dimensional interaction is given the lofty title of 'collaboration'.
So here's my plea to salespeople: if you're offering a predefined service for a paycheck without any extras - insights, knowledge, co-creation, or any service beyond the initial package - let's call it what it is: a transaction, not a collaboration. By acknowledging the true essence of collaboration, we can ensure that this powerful term retains its meaning and value in our interactions.
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