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Relationships And Partnerships

by David Brock on August 16th, 2011

In the past month, I’ve written some articles on Relationships and Partnering:  “We Want To Be Your Partner,”  ,  Relationships Don’t Get You The Order,”  and “On Collaboration and Partnering.”  Also, my ebook, Creating Effective Strategic Partnerships, has stirred up some offline discussions.  I’ve noticed some confusion in the concepts.

Developing relationships is important in sales, business, and life.  While there is some overlap in how we develop relationships and developing partnerships, they are not the same.  As sales professionals, I think it’s important to be clear about what we are really trying to achieve.  More importantly, I think it’s important do understand what our customers are want to achieve.

George is my pool guy.  He comes every Wednesday morning to clean the pool and fiddle with all the apparatus that keeps the pool going.  He cleans the pool very early on Wednesdays, so when I’m home, I often see him before I head to the office.  We chat for a few minutes, then we each go about our business.  We have a relationship–he’s a nice guy, I enjoy our chats, if I see him in the neighborhood, I’ll wave at him.  Most importantly, he does a great job with my pool.  I never have to worry about it.  It’s always clean, and well maintained.  When there’s a problem, he let’s me know and tells me my alternatives.  I’ve referred him to friends frequently.  While I value our relationship, it’s not very deep. If for some reason George doesn’t perform, I’ll find a new pool guy.

Anthony Iannarino is a brilliant commenter on all things involving sales.  Anthony and I started with a relationship, that relationship is important.   We spoke a lot, shared ideas, participated on webinars together.  My relationship with him is important–both from a business and friendship level.

Further, we have a partnership.  We want to achieve something together.  We have a shared vision and goals—it’s to have an impact on Sales Leaders and Sales Managers.  We also want to create a great business around that. 

We have a high degree of interdependence.  If I don’t do the things I commit to, or Anthony misses some of his commitments, it impacts our ability to achieve our goals.  In fact, neither of us could be successful in this partnership without the other.  We have a high degree of alignment in what we are trying to do, our value system, and other areas.  Every once in awhile, we get out of sync and it impacts what we are trying to achieve.  Sometimes, I have an idea and start going off some different direction, or Anthony does his thing.  We start miscommunicating, we start missing goals, there are strains in the partnership.  Fortunately, our relationship enables us to quickly identify these problems address them (Usually it’s Anthony saying, “Dave, you’re screwing up.”) and move forward.

Our partnership involves a lot more than just a shared vision, values, and goals.  We each are committing our time, resources, money, and other things to the success of the partnership.  We are sharing the risk–I can’t be successful in this partnership without Anthony, and neither can he.

Sean is CEO of a mid sized technology company.  We have a deep professional relationship and a very close friendship.  We value that relationship.  I have done a number of sales and strategy related projects for Sean and his company.  I do the best to create a tremendous deliverable, and for them to get great value from my work.  I want to see them increase their success as a result of the work I have done.  I’m cheering their success–though it’s largely achieved through their execution.  When they fall short, I feel bad for them, I try to help them correct the situation.  We don’t have a partnership, though.  Their dependency on me, on an ongoing basis is very small.  Likewise, my dependency on them is very small.  We look for opportunities to work together, we want to see each other successful. We want to build our relationship–but we don’t have a partnership and neither Sean nor I want one.  For what we each need to accomplish, a partnership makes no sense.  Sean, and his company, are great customers.  I hope I am a great supplier.  None of this stands in the way of Sean being a great friend.

Too often, I think we confuse rich and deep relationships with partnering.  We want to develop deep relationships with our customers and we hope they value their relationships with us.  But partnering is different–the level of interdependence, the commitments to each other are very great.

I don’t have a lot of partnerships.  I simply can’t afford to, it’s not just the financial investment.  But it’s the time and other resources that it takes to make a partnership work.  I don’t want a lot of partnerships, I don’t want that level of interdependence with many people/organizations. 

Relationships are important, partnering is important.  They overlap in many facets, but partnering requires more than just a relationship.

The scary thing, however, are those sales people that want to be my partner, or those that want to develop a deep relationship with me — when all they really want is the order.  If they get it, they disappear, when I try to call, they don’t remember the relationship or partnership.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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