Drive Partnerships Up the Ramp
Drive Alliance Partnerships Up the Ramp
The required steps to build strong, enduring alliances
Alliance success starts with wins. Any partnership must start with an initial joint client success which drives revenue and margin for each side of the alliance and – most importantly – strong value for the joint client.
Any potential alliance is created as part of a company’s overall strategy and a central question: “How do we accelerate our revenue growth, improve profit margins and help our clients become even more delighted with how we serve them?” Alliances then become part of sales strategy and are ideally integrated into the overall company marketing strategy.
But the operationalization starts in the field with “Pursuit Management,” the first step in the illustration below. Together, the firms find a first target prospect, needed for a first joint success. Each party assigns sales personnel (or account owners) to have discussions with their peer with the other party, jointly evaluating which clients might be a good “fit” for what the two companies, operating together, can bring the client.
This is often referred to as the “joint value proposition” – reflecting a new partnership between two companies which are truly complementary. Said differently, working together, the two firms can drive more value for the client working together, than operating alone. The two parties must each have as top priority (their joint “intent”) what they can do for the client. Clients are quick to ascertain your true intent. If it’s about truly helping them be successful, they feel that. If it’s about their own goals (sales commissions or hitting revenue targets) the client feels that intent as well.
Most alliances NEVER get this first win for one of two reasons: either the two parties are not truly operating with joint intent to solve the client needs or they are more focused on their own objectives, well ahead of the partner’s objectives. (Each side feels the other side’s intent, just as the client feels the intent of the two partners).
Don’t skip steps. Build the partnership with the right, successive steps.
Given the demands of business – with personnel often under pressure to hit their own objectives – it is rare for people to operate in this spirit of joint client focus as top priority. So they never successfully have successful Pursuit Management to secure that first win. So the partnership withers on the vine.
Successfully reaching the first stage on this “Ramp” is the hardest of the four, the reason why most alliances fail. These are not operationalized and remain an alliance on paper only.
Moving up the ramp requires more wins, reflected in the second step, “Account Management.” Effectively growing installed, joint accounts is a path to new revenue which is known to be relatively easier that securing new accounts, a timeless axiom in business.
With the first win under their belts, both sides will be eager to find additional clients they could target together for a joint win. “People like to copy success,” another timeless axiom. This second stage involves, then, two major sets of activities – (Joint) Account Management, also referred to a expanding joint accounts, and securing additional wins in other accounts.
The third stage, “Territory Management,” includes managing the relationships with all partners in the Partner Ecosphere. This summary axiom applies, “Minimizing partner conflict is as important as maximizing partner impact.”
The fourth stage represents the state of an “Enduring Alliances,” characterized by unique value for clients driven by the alliance and supported by mutual investments which only the most committed, advanced and successful alliances make.
The impact, leverage and access gained increases even more moving up the ramp due to the accumulative effect of joint investment (time, resources, money) by you and the partner. The alliance is truly differentiated over time.
This “ramp” “ratchets,” so movement up does not later reverse and go down.
This is the first in a series of articles on how to build effective alliances, or to turn around ones which are under performing. These articles will each cover a core topic and include practical advice based on extensive real-world experience. The author has 25+ years of dedicated experience building alliances, most exceeding management projections and many record-setting, even endorsed by analysts as “Best in Class.”
The articles are intended to be actionable and include field-proven tools to help make the often confusing and emotional topic of alliances understood.
Most of the examples come from the world of technology – software, hardware, equipment and consulting – and the deployment of technology across virtually every vertical industry segment, i.e. telecommunications, utilities, consumer package goods (and dozens more) as well as the public sector, both federal and state & local.
The overall approach — principles, tools and processes – not only applies to technology deployment across these sectors, but also across most major industries outside of technology.
Lawson Glenn is a TechCXO Partner and the firm’s subject matter expert for Strategic Alliances. He helps companies overachieve revenue and margin goals with enhanced client satisfaction via strategy alliances. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his full bio.