I cringe every time I get an email or social media invitation, “Dave, we’d like to partner with you…..” It’s always code for, “I want to sell you something!” Alternatively, “Can I get you to do something form me?”
But it’s become prevalent. I wonder why sellers are so embarrassed about what they do and their goals, that they can’t be direct with the people they are trying to reach. We should be proud of being sellers, at the same time we have to recognize that we only achieve our goal of selling, through helping the customer achieve the goals they need to achieve through their buying journey (but this is another post).
Despite, the misuse of the concept of partnering, a partnering mindset is increasingly critical to buyers and sellers alike.
Partnering, true partnering, is critical to success in buying/selling. Buyers have a dependency on sellers for success, sellers need buyers to achieve their goals.
As a result, it becomes useful to examine partnering more deeply and to understand what drives partnership success. Strategic partnerships have existed in various forms for decades. We have many labels for them, Alliances, Strategic Partnerships, even Joint Ventures.
Most of our organizations have some sort of partnering relationship, whether it’s co-development of products, engaging in a project collaboratively, aligning to pursue special opportunities. We treat these differently, we manage them differently, and they may have huge impact on our organizations’ abilities to achieve our strategic goals.
These relationships are fraught with failure. The majority (over 72%) fail to achieve their goals within 2 years, as a result the relationship fails. Usually, the failure is a misalignment in objectives and an unbalanced focus on what we get from it and not the success of the partners. By the way, these are the same self centered objectives that drive a wedge between sellers and buyers.
But these relationships have been studied extensively and we know how to drive success in partnerships. Perhaps, by understanding these, applying them to how we engage customers in our buying/selling relationships, we can, together, achieve greater results.
My friend, Tom Morris, recently reminded me that the principles of effective partnering go back, at least, to Aristotle.
Aristotle viewed partnering as “People working together for a shared purpose.”
It’s so simple, so obvious, but so difficult to put into practice. Too often, we are so focused on our own goals that we are insensitive to those of the people we work with. At the same time, we cannot achieve our goals without the collaboration of others.
Stated differently, our success is dependent on the success of those we work with!
Some critical things to think about in driving these high impact buying/selling partnerships:
- Do we have alignment in our vision of what needs to be achieved? Do we have a common view of how we describe success?
- Do we have a shared values? Stated differently, do we care about our shared success?
- Are we sharing resources in achieving our goals? Are we bringing skills, experience, expertise helpful to what our customers are trying to achieve? Likewise, are they investing the right skills, experience, and expertise?
- Are we sharing the risk? Too often, we define our success as getting the order, even if the customer doesn’t achieve what they had expected. We are now seeing the importance of customer success, over the long term, if they don’t succeed, we will also fail.
- Are we sharing the rewards? Again, if we get the order but the customer doesn’t get the outcomes expected, the relationship has not achieved it’s shared purpose.
The concepts/principles of partnering requires us to change our thinking around value creation. Too often, we talk about our value propositions. We talk about our value proposition, “if you implement our solution, you will get this value….” Sometimes, we talk about value creation, the value we create “for” the customer.
In reality, we cannot create value by ourselves. We require active alignment and engagement with the customers. So value creation is something we do “with” the customer. It requires the active engagement of each party, it requires total alignment with what we are trying to achieve.
Partnering, true partnering, is very powerful. Our customers can’t achieve their goals without help, without a partner. We can’t achieve our goals without help, without a partner.
Let’s remember the words of Aristotle, let’s focus on customers where we can have a shared/aligned purpose. It drives much higher levels of success for each of us.
Aftwerword: These principles don’t just apply to our relationships with our customers. They apply to our channel “partners,” they apply to how we work with each other in our own organizations.
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