We all know that identifying the right business partners is a tedious exercise. Finding candidates is not so complicated but starting making real business together is more challenging. This is like when meeting someone in love, everyone wants it to work at the beginning but it takes some time before you consider it really does.
Identify the right candidates
To avoid costly mistakes of selecting poor-performant partners, it’s important to find candidates that have a business strategy matching your expectations. For example, as a software vendor, I like working with a mix of large IT consulting companies – able to identify very big projects at the C-level – and small IT consulting specialists who are focused on specific areas of expertise where my product makes a lot of sense.
Set the expectations
To make the relationship work, developing a common business plan together is key, as well as monitoring it on a very regular basis during the first year of the collaboration – I think twice a month is a good frequency.
Develop the relationship
Schedule regular events with your partners. This allows to bind tighter human relationships and to provide the last company updates, marketing materials, information on the upcoming marketing campaigns and the sales strategy. This is also a good mean to “feel” the local market and make your own opinion. Trusting your partner feedback is extremely important but this is also good to make your own opinion to assess his capacity to grow your business.
Regular webinars also help animate and engage the partner community.
Grow your partners
I’ve identified 5 maturity stages in developing partnerships:
Phase 1 – “the new partner”
You provide basic training on common use cases and assist them in the whole sales cycle.
You forward them the leads you get in their region, you develop marketing events with them and assist them to qualify the opportunities, demo the product, make an offer and sign the contract. Once the first contract is signed, you send over your technical experts to help them delivering the professional services and make the project successful.
Phase 2 – “the growing partner”
You are in phase where your partner has already implemented one project and you keep assisting him on the first three deals.
Phase 3 – “the premium partner”
The partner can now sell the product and implement the project on his own. He still needs support from you but on very specific topics only.
Phase 4 – “the strategic partner”
The strategic partner has reached a volume of business that requires a very tight relationship with a dedicated alliance manager. Your global business performance is tightly linked to your partner performance.
Reward your partners
Animating your partner network efficiently will help you progressively grow your new partners to strategic partners.
As your resources are limited, putting a reward program in place can prove to be very powerful. As an example, you can create different types of events and also different levels of pricing according to your partner ranking.
Loyalty is also important to be rewarded: small partners with recurring business over years are also key to the company.