Strategic Partner or Lunch Buddy?
Most of my salespeople work with “strategic partners” as an avenue by which they secure new opportunities. I know this is the case for many B2B sales organizations. Unfortunately, over the years I’ve come to realize many of these relationships are a waste of time. I’m sure every sales leader has heard about the new, great strategic partner that’s going to inevitably lead to a river flow of new opportunities. Then, when you review that relationship a year later, what you almost always find is that it hasn’t generated even one solid lead.
The reason for this is that most of these relationships aren’t really strategic partners. They’re what I refer to as a lunch buddy – or sometimes drinking buddy – but nothing more. On a very rare occasion, a lead may come from a lunch buddy, but not with any consistency. I believe there needs to be five characteristics present before you can deem a relationship a strategic partnership, and not simply a lunch buddy:
- Agreed upon goals. There should be shared goals between both parties. The goals can be simple (i.e. sharing one to two leads per quarter), but there needs to be goals regardless of what they may be. Generally, we want the goals to be memorialized in writing along with other aspects of the relationship. This is mostly done through e-mail.
- Set time period of review. Once per year, both parties must have a time to sit down to review the relationship and make sure it’s still worthwhile. If not, they must agree to make adjustments.
- Agreement to end. Strategic partners must begin with an end in mind. Both parties must agree to end the relationship if one of the parties is not fulfilling their end of the deal.
- Knowledge of value. Both parties must intimately and passionately understand the value of the other parties’ product or service. Our people need to believe that the product or service will benefit our clients if we are going to refer them.
- Agreement on introduction. The introduction needs to be more than permission to use the other person’s name. The introduction needs to be one where there is effort on both parties to make the introduction. Minimally, the strategic partner must be comfortable with calling their client, explaining the value and urging the client to take the meeting.
If done correctly, strategic partners can be a very consistent and highly effective way to get leads. A relationship must have the above characteristics to be successful. Do your salespeople have strategic partners or lunch buddies? You decide!
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