Celebrating that strategic partnership
Many of us make it a priority to find and partner with companies that can add to our offering or extend our reach. And we rightly celebrate each such pairing, often with a mutual press release.
And sometimes that’s all we end up doing.
Call it a “press release partnership.” Or an opportunity missed. Or a relationship not nurtured. Finding a supplier, distributor or other partner is the easiest part. Carefully planning the mutual activities to move toward a stated goal is something else. It takes real effort and planning on both sides of a partnership between companies to make it work.
But wait! Is it that simple?
Depending upon the size of the companies and complexity of the products or services involved, it is fair to assume that you’ll need to dedicate a resource to this effort, sometimes a full-time resource at that. Consider a sales relationship where your product will be in the bag of salespeople from the partner company. After an initial focus, perhaps during an introductory meeting or training session, the salespeople hit the road.
Why it often fails:
[Email readers, continue here…] And that’s the last you often hear about their promotion of your product – because they are commissioned upon their own company’s products and measured by the success of those sales, not yours. Yet, the partnership was intended to help their people sell their products by enhancing or completing their line. Why would this partnership – one that benefits both companies – fail to succeed?
Who is responsible for strategic partnership success?
In spite of the best efforts of senior management in creating such a partnership, the success always lies in the hands of those closest to the end customer. The only way to assure continued success in such a relationship is to permit those in sales to be in direct contact with their counterparts in the other company, something often discouraged by sales management from the selling organization as a distraction from achievement of quota for both the salesperson and manager.
And back full circle
Which brings us back to senior management and the original reason such a partnership was created in the first place. Such a partnership requires much more than a general agreement at top levels. Consideration of pricing strategy, mutual compensation, training of salespersons, creation of custom collateral material, availability of technical sales support, continued contact between sales counterparts, access to those who act as technical liaisons to sales, and updates to the field of changes and enhancements are all components of a successful partnership.
None of those components are easy or cheap. Without a plan, these partnerships usually end up merely as press release partnerships, fading into the sunset shortly after announcement. Do you recognize the symptoms?
So true! – I have been on both sides of successful and unsuccessful strategic partnerships. The ones that have worked best require significant effort and relied on our sales team being in the field, hand in hand, training and closing sales with our partners. Plus, you must have a comp plan that adequately rewards their salespeople for your product sales. My best experience was when one strategic partner eventually bought our company based on sales of our service and the improved sales and retention of their products from existing and newly acquired customers.
That said, more often the results don’t live up to the expectations because of all the integration and support that is required.