Partnering can be a very important way to grow your business. Choosing the right partner can be the difference between growing your business and wasting everyone’s time and money. With Microsoft WPC around the corner, I thought this would be a good opportunity to open a discussion on how to find the best partners for your business. Below are my top 3 warning signs as you try to vet a new partner. Please add to this list in the comments section with your own.
What is their true motivation?
Your main objective for engaging may be growth, but this may not be the reason that your potential partner wants to engage with you. Many companies have a small handful of “bread winning” customers that account for a significant portion of their revenue. Keeping this customer happy is their primary focus. If that customer asks for a product, partners will go out of their way to find someone that can help them deliver it. To you, it is typically pitched as one of many potential customers they are going to sign up through you. After the on-boarding of this new partner and their customer, you may well find that there is no more to add. Now their immediate need is fulfilled, the partner may have no plans to add any additional customers. As a supplier, you do not want to be in business of adding one partner and a single linked customer at a time. The relationship will become strained and there are no common future objectives. While these potential partners might be fine with their model, I suggest it won’t be a good fit if you are partnering for growth.
A simple way to avoid this situation when partnering is to ask about the potential partner’s growth patterns. When was the last time they added a new customer? How often do they add new customers? Or more directly, is our solution being added for one of your customers specifically?
Is their Product passion from those who matter?
I can sell Skype for Business voice all day long. I have done it for so long, I can sell it in my sleep. I’m never surprised by a question or a design scenario. However, this is not the case for some of my partners. They may not know how to sell the solution. What may be easy for you to do as the supplier, does not come as easy for the partner. Even if there is a demonstrated commitment to long term growth plans, despite their best intentions many partners run through lost sale after lost sale. This may lead them to believe it is a tough product and lose motivation. While the potential partner may have a great sales team, they may not know how to sell your product. Also, passion sells. Your partner may not believe in the product the way you do and this will result is slower sales.
The simplest way to address this is to ask who in the partner organization will be selling your product. Meet with those people and determine if they have the proper training and passion of the product to sell. It may be best to engage is some joint sales opportunities to train the partner in real-life scenarios and let the partner see how you successfully sell your product.
Is there a Clear Product Support Plan?
Supporting your product or offering is the culmination of years of experience. A potential partner may assume they have a system in place to work with you to support their customers. This needs to be very clearly defined. Many a partner have launched a product only to find there is no clear strategy for supporting or interfacing with you as the supplier to support the product. This conversation is vital when choosing a potential partner. This is a major impact for white-label or channel partners alike. Both will grow in visibility as you add more customers between you.
When meeting with a potential partner, run through a few scenarios of real world examples of product or service support. Ask them how these situations would be handled. Watch for confusion and never settle for, “we’ll figure it out when we get there”.
Now it’s your turn! What have you seen that will help us all partner better?
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