Congratulations. You’ve just completed a business development deal to distribute your product and/or service through a partner. It may have felt like a sprint - or, more likely, a marathon with a series of hurdles and obstacles thrown in. The seemingly endless rounds of presentations, back-and-forth communications, conference calls, legal reviews and contract redlines…and…finally…ink on paper! A finish line! Whew!
Don’t expect a trophy or a ribbon, though. Not yet. You have miles to go before you earn that.
How can you ensure that your business relationship drops some dollars into your business? I’ll share seven steps. So tie your shoes. Let’s line up on the starting blocks. Ready, set…
1: Identify the success team. The managers you spoke with to discuss and negotiate the deal constitute only a part of the overall team that will be involved in making the partnership successful, which we define as developing new business, closing deals, and ultimately generating revenue. These people could be inside your partner company, or they may work for another company who has a partnership.
Figure out the chain of influence and action and work out how to get everyone onboard and engaged with your cause. Put on your investigator hat, ask lots of questions and end your questions with something like, “Who else should I talk with?” or “Who else is involved?”
2: Develop awareness. You’re the newcomer, so you’ll need to invest in building awareness about your product, its value to customers, and how it will generate money for your partner, starting with managers. Many of the same things you do to sell your product or service directly to a customer you’ll need to do inside the partner organization. Without becoming irritating, talk up your solution at every opportunity.
3: Educate. Don’t assume that the slide decks and data sheets you sent over will get read and digested. Work down from management into the broader organization to build knowledge across the organization including sales, marketing, and customer service and host opportunities for your partner to learn the value and function of your products. You can hold and record webinars, lunch-and-learns, etc. You can also proactively share marketing content and materials such as videos, case studies, email templates, call scripts, etc. Most importantly, don’t assume that your partner is going to do this for you. The quiet mouth doesn’t get fed, so beat the drum regularly and often.
4: Get commitments. Once people in your partner organization are aware and understand your product and its value, you need to get commitments to get behind your product. This is ideally done face-to-face. It’s hard for someone to look you in the eye and commit to help and then not follow through. If this happens, you’re on the moral high ground when you tactfully approach them if they fail on their commitments.
5: Ensure action. Commitments are nothing without action. As part of the commitments, be sure to define what a manager will do and when. Communicate these commitments to keep everyone on the same page.
6: Build routine measurement, monitoring, and reporting mechanisms. Define the KPIs that measure progress and lead to success. Track and communicate results, and tactfully follow up when commitments aren’t met.
7: Meet periodically to assess outcomes and make improvements. Establish periodic checkpoints to assess success, refine processes, metrics, and reporting, and renew commitments. Because all organizations have turnover and undergo re-organizations, you’ll need to periodically lap through steps 1-6 again.
Your marathon is just starting, and hopefully you’re now better equipped to successfully ‘sell through’ your partner(s). Step by step, you’ll get where you need to be, and with some patience and endurance, you’ll eventually bring home the prize - and some bacon!