I’ve spent many years working with great organizations that have strong partner programs. I’ve recruited partners for organizations, helped partners make strategic acquisitions, and helped my clients break into accounts with their partners. It’s funny, the more I do this, the more I believe that we have this backwards.
Many partner organizations have complex metrics and programs that all focus on one thing. How much business can you deliver to my organization? It makes sense, if you’re not bringing me revenue I’ll find an organization that does. The problem for many of the entrepreneurs I work with is that their trusted partners are promiscuous.
If I say it, it’s not really a problem. If your customers’ CFO or CIO says it, you may be in for some serious problems. There is a natural tension between partners, clients, and professional service firms. It’s always been there. The natural synergies you expect in a partnership only goes so far in providing a client the best solution.
Today client executives are starting to take note. I believe it’s because they are under significant pressure to get results from the money they invest in a solution. It’s all too often the lowest cost provider cannot always deliver the promised results. If your partner can’t deliver, you’re going to lose the business.
So what’s the solution to finding better partners? I’ll share one I’ve used to help my clients build stronger partnerships. The secret is to only work with great partners. How do you find your best early partners? You invest time in recruiting the right organizations as partners.
Who knows your best partners? I’ve found that your client is a great judge of future partners. When I was responsible for recruiting companies to partner with in the high growth parts of our business, I could get great advice from my best clients.
It meant that I had to develop a better relationship with my clients if I hoped to earn their trust. Actually, let me rephrase that. If I wanted a better relationship with my clients, I needed to listen more closely to what they said, and, as importantly, what they didn’t. I needed to let them be the experts at what they were seeing in the market. I had to ask questions and then follow up for more information. Building trust is very important to having the right partners for your business.
Here are several questions to ask if you want to learn more about potential partners.
- What are some of the biggest challenges you and your organization face?
- Who else would you recommend I get to know or develop a relationship with?
- What are some of the new exciting technologies you see on the horizon?
- Who are the new exciting organizations to watch out there?
- Who are the best people to know in the market? Why?
- Are there any emerging organizations with strong women or minorities in leadership roles?
- Are there any organization that you have heard bad things about?
These are very simple questions to use with the people you respect in your clients’ organizations. I’ve used these questions for many years. They are easy to cover in a conversation. They put the other person at ease. These questions help you build an extraordinary partnership with the people you work with.
Try them out. Let me know how it goes. I think once you start having these conversations with others, you may not have a problem finding the best partners to work with in your field.
Next week, I’ll address a question that I get asked by potential clients. Why are strategic acquisitions the best path for long tem sustainable growth? See you here next week.