Not everybody needs to partner, and even if they do they, might not want to. There are lots of good reasons for partnering, but equally there are lots of downsides too. Successful partnerships need a lot of work and commitment by BOTH parties. From personal experience I can say that the act of partnering is very often internally focused; for example you hear statements (and intended benefits) like:
– Greater reach > access to more customers and markets
– Lower cost of sale > partner sells to specific markets
– Complementary products/services > allows you to operate a one stop shop
– Additional products and services > Allows you to diversify
– Increased synergies > less costs
– Reduce competitor activity > shorter sales cycles, and lower costs
Customers are not interested in many if not all of these things; customers are only interested in what you (and your partners) can do for them. For me the big question for any partnership is a customer centred one and that is what benefits will our customers get? Will our proposed partnership create additional value for our customers? Before we get into the argument about what value is, here is a simpler definition I have used before.
Value = Benefits – Costs
where benefits are what the customer gets (return on investment, service, convenience etc.) and costs (money, inconvenience, risk etc.) are what the customer gives. If the answer has a minus sign in front of it you should consider carefully whether to proceed. There seems little point in doing all the work that is required to build propositions and commercial agreements if your customers and prospects don’t want what it is you want to sell them.
If the answer is positive the next most important question is, will it work? This means a good strategic fit not only in terms of offerings but also in terms of company culture, behaviour and people characteristics. I have seen many partnerships fail because of these human factors. Even very simple trading agreements fail because they don’t work where it matters, and that is on the ground floor. Conflict and confusion between sales forces are common; the way people handle problems is not always the way the people in the board room think they are. These are just couple of the various issues that arise but there are many more.
The theme of our complimentary annual conference, to be held on April 22nd at the Crowne Plaza at the NEC is Partnering for Success. At this conference we will be exploring different types of partnerships, providing answers to the many issues that arise from partnering and providing delegates with the opportunity to build new relationships and learn from new colleagues.