Is it Really All About the Customer? – by Don F. Perkins

Don F. Perkins Photograph

The buzz in sales these days is that “it’s all about the customer.”

In his timely consulting and services blog, Dave Brock made an interesting counterpoint: “pssst-isnt-it-all-really-about-self-interest?” Dave asks us to come clean and admit that when it comes right down to it, aren’t we are all really in it for our own interests? I have to agree with Dave. Self-preservation is the basis of survival. As much as I like to think of myself as other centered and even strive to be so, it seems that self-interest is built into my very being.

The bad news is that alone we have very limited potential. Those who study economics, politics and nature have witnessed this concept repeatedly. In game theory, NE or “Nash’s Equilibrium” describes the phenomenon whereby multiple players making decisions as individuals, even with knowledge of the other players’ decisions, are limited in what they can accomplish. No player has anything to gain by changing his or her own strategy unilaterally.

The good news is that having confessed our secret most foul (our innate self-interest), we are free to consider a much greater outcome than we could ever accomplish alone: The synergies we may gain by working with others. Yes, we have an agenda; of course we want something, but that does not preclude the overwhelming potential that can be ours when several of us cooperate in a collective.

The best partnerships are formed when all parties involved value the differences each individual possesses; respecting and acknowledge that each has a unique component to offer, each has a set of needs they bring to the table but each has a shared vision of greater value in the enterprise. They take time to build on each other’s strengths and overlook each other’s weaknesses. Moreover, they recognize the individual needs of each party; and balance those interests to create a better situation than could ever be achieved alone.

When it comes to customers, no one’s fooling them. They know it’s not all about them. Why not be straight up and admit what we hope to gain, then work toward a synergistic partnership where we, everyone, gains equally from our association? A win-win situation is a balance of interests between all parties. This should be the goal in all our relationships. That’s not likely to happen until we admit our self-interest and then determine what our partners self-interests are. Sorry to be a buzz kill, but it seems to me that it’s not all about the customer, it’s all about balancing our self-interests.


Don is a sales and marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in sales and marketing and a real penchant for creatively solving business problems.

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