Industrial markets are frequently characterized by an oligopolistic market structure. As a result, suppliers may become highly selective with respect to decisions that involve collaborating with certain customers. Buying firms must therefore be more attractive than their rivals to obtain opportunities to collaborate with these selective suppliers. This apparently counterintuitive inversion of the classical marketing approach (that is, relationships that involve buyers competing for suppliers rather than the other way round) constitutes the foundation of the special issue that is introduced in this paper. In this paper, we present key terms and propose a model of preferred customership that uses a social exchange perspective to link customer attractiveness, supplier satisfaction and preferred customer status. The papers that contribute to this special issue are introduced within the context of this framework. Finally, this paper concludes with suggestions for future research directions.