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The Sales Person: Friend or Foe?


William L. Michels, C.P.M.
William L. Michels, C.P.M., C.E.O., ADR North America LLC, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-0366, 734/930-5073,
Linda P. Michels
Linda P. Michels, Purchasing Director, ADR North America LLC, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-0366, 734/930-5075,

84th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1999 

Abstract. We all have relationships with the various sales people calling on us and our companies. Unfortunately many buyers view these relationships in a single dimension. The more appropriate way to view relationships with sales people is a three-dimensional approach.

Relationships can be defined as business, personal, and strategic. Each of these relationships has clear criteria and should be mapped out across the supply base and supply chain. One clear criterion for every buyer to consider is the degree of dependency that our company has on a given supplier. For example, if the supplier holds a patent, has proprietary manufacturing processes, unique equipment and know-how, or created internal specification constraints in your company, you would need to manage all three relationships with the supplier. On the other hand, if a sales person is selling an item where there are lots of suppliers, open specifications, and freedom to use alternate suppliers, the buyer would do best by sticking to the business relationship.

Figures 1 and 2 show the contrast between the buyers' and sellers' need for relationship; it is easy to see that the needs for relationships differ in these two models.

(Figures 1 and 2 are not available in the text-only version of this document.)

The Business Relationship. The business relationship exists in support of interlinking business strategies and plans. The longevity will be determined by the strategic needs of the buyer or seller. When the strategic needs are synchronized, the relationship will continue. When they are misaligned, the relationship will fail.

The Personal Relationship. The personal relationship results from human behavior and interaction. It is the relationship which can be managed to provide trust, support, and enthusiasm, and it can bring competitive advantage to the party most skilled in building relationship networks.

The Strategic Relationship. The strategic relationship is founded on interlocking business strategies and is based on a framework of principles that drive the relationship. Figure 3 shows supplier types with the appropriate relationship approach.

(Figure 3 is not available in the text-only version of this document.)

Through controlling of information, relationship management, and management of supplier dependency, we can have successful relationships with the sales people we contact on a daily basis. Whether we view sales people as friends or foe depends on how we can interlock the relationship maps (figures 1 & 2). We will be able to measure success by effective supplier development in the long term.

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