Leading Blog






09.23.13

8 Ways to Have a Successful Partnership

Successful Partnership

I N A MARKETPLACE gone global, productive partnerships are more crucial than ever. Partnering has become so critical that the word "coopetition" had to be coined to describe companies that partner in some areas while competing in others. Yet very few partnerships ever deliver on their symbiotic promise. Why?

The single biggest mistake we make in our partnership efforts is treating potential partners as if they were end users. While the interests of partners and end-users must overlap they are seldom if ever identical. Through many years of business experience, I learned some great lessons on what it takes to produce a successful partnership.
  1. Know your customer. In every potential partnership there are actually two customers, the partner and the end-user, and we must know them both. If you think you can sell a partner by merely "demoing" your wonderful product you have not grasped this essential point.
  2. Ask questions. There is no substitute for grass roots research. Don't figure it out. Get out there and find out by talking to your partner's customers and sales force.
  3. Beware of Magic Bullets. Getting executives into a room and hammering out a contract doesn't make a deal. Every partnership is like moving a stubborn mule. Corporate may push from behind, but there must be boots on the ground pulling on the harness from the front as well. This means priming the pump through joint sales calls and other marketing efforts.
  4. Think Small. Whenever possible, use a roll out rather than a blanket launch into a distribution network. Every cleaning solvent recommends trying it first on some inconspicuous place, and this applies to joint ventures as well. Not only will we uncover potential hitches but managing the critical buzz is much easier. Always remember that people talk and that first impressions are critical to making a deal successful.
  5. Get the Buzz Working for You. Military science teaches us to focus scarce resources at the critical spot. With partners focus on one district, a couple of offices, or even a couple sales reps. Flood the zone with whatever it takes until a clear cut victory has been won. This approach produces a proven template for future rollouts, and positive word of mouth will mean the rest of the distribution network will be awaiting their turn with eager anticipation rather than sullen resistance.
  6. Rely on Persuasion Not Coercion. Always remember that a heavy-handed "push" from corporate headquarters often backfires. If for example, a sullen sales force refuses to sell your product, it will be your product, not the sales force that your partner will blame. Winning hearts and minds upfront among the rank and file is much more effective than relying on diktats and quotas from corporate.
  7. Find a Hero. When a deal struggles both partners play the blame game. One blames poor salesmanship while the other blames the product. The easiest way to sidestep this situation is to find people to play "hero" during the initial roll-out and focus on them. Once these early adopters are moving product, others will not be able to blame anyone but themselves for missing targets. Besides, watching peers make money is far more motivating than a month of training and pep talks.
  8. Do Most of the Work. One time Walmart went shopping for sunglasses. The vendor with the best sunglasses at the lowest price didn't get the lucrative partnership. Instead, it was the vendor who arrived at the meeting with their sunglasses already tagged and bar-coded to Walmart's spec. The glasses were already mounted on display cases custom designed to take advantage of some unused space the vendor had ferreted out from a typical Walmart floor plan. And the vagaries of inventory management, pricing, and product placement had already been solved by the vendor as well.
Our partners are busy people, and the more of their work we are willing to shoulder the more value we add and the more control we have over how our product is eventually positioned. With some planning and thoughtful engagement, you will find more success through strategic partnerships.

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Leading Forum
This post is by August Turak. He is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, award winning writer and author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Selling Magazine, the New York Times, and Business Week, and is a popular leadership contributor at Forbes.com. His website is augustturak.com.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:41 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leading Forum , Teamwork



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