In recent years, the world of sales has shifted from a mostly direct sales model to a more alliance-based, indirect sales model. Working with alliance partners is quite different from working with direct sales teams, forging an alliance partnership is a great opportunity to increase revenue and market proposition. Increasing revenue through alliances isn’t as easy as it sounds though, it is essential that you maintain a strong, value-driven relationship with your partners. This is a quick guide to show you how to be an All-Star alliance partner.
What’s an Alliance Partnership?
According to Investopedia “a strategic alliance is an agreement between two companies to undertake a mutually beneficial project while each retains its independence.”
Basically, an alliance is formed between two companies with at least one of the following goals:
- Create a bundled offering
- Increase competitive edge
- Add value to a current offering
- Gain a new route to market
- Gain access to a new market in a specific region
These are just a few of the reasons organizations create alliances. Whatever the purpose of your current alliances are, there are some important aspects to building and maintaining those relationships.
The Key to Being an All-Star Alliance Partner
First, it is essential to build and maintain trust with your partners. I can’t say this enough–If there is no trust, why would a partner even motivate their teams to refer deals, share intel, share pipeline, account map, or bring you in on their deals? Without trust, the partnership will fail.
Second, it is necessary to provide value to your partner. If the partnership is not mutually beneficial, one or both parties will see the relationship as a burden to their business. Partnering with another company takes time and money. If you waste your partner’s time and money, they are eventually going to leave you.
Here are five tips for alliance managers to build trust with and add value to their partnerships.
1. Build Trust
In an article from McKinsey one energy exec claimed to spend 30% to 40% of the time in partnership meetings talking about business. The remainder was spent on building relationships and trust.
Alliance managers and C-level executives need to build trust with their partners. This trust also has to be built at the field level. If your sales teams are taking actions that compromise trust in a partnership, it can create channel conflict and larger problems for the entire company.
Work to establish a culture within the company that makes you trustworthy to your partners and align with partners that do the same. Encourage clear communication within the company and across partner companies. Be honest with your partners at all levels in the organization and reduce channel conflict.
2. Align Your Key Performance Indicators
Make sure that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your KPIs. How will you be tracking progress? Alliance managers should meet with their partners often and discuss whether or not they are hitting their goals on both sides of the partnership.
It is also important to be using the same tools and metrics. If both teams are using different tools and have different goals, how can you expect to successfully hit your target?
Finally, What is the data telling you? Should you continue with your current strategy, or is it time to pivot to a new strategy?
3. Communicate Often
Digital tools have made communication so much easier. The Coronavirus Pandemic has everyone meeting with video. I think it is safe to say that virtual meetings are here to stay. They won’t be used 100% of the time, but the Pandemic has opened our eyes to the practical application that virtual communication offers businesses. So, use these tools and establish a cadence.
You should also have a set schedule for regular meetings. Find out what works for your counterpart and make a point of communicating on that set schedule. Whether it is once a week or once a month, regular communication helps maintain a strong relationship. If there are any changes, you can discuss it early and make adjustments within your company as needed.
4. Map Accounts and Share Intel
Account mapping is the blueprint you need to build the strategy for each of your partnerships. It shows you what account data you should be aligned against. However, Account mapping requires trust. Partners that don’t trust you won’t want to share data with you. So, if the foundation of trust has been laid, then you can start sharing your intel and begin mapping accounts.
You don’t have to map everything at first, you can always start small. What deals do you have in your pipeline? Which accounts are your partners targeting that you have customer relationships with? Who are your biggest prospects? Where do you need your partners to refer you? What accounts should you and your partner be co-marketing to? All of this requires data and trust.
5. Don’t be Selfish
Alliances are typically built with reciprocity in mind. Make sure your sales teams understand that. Working with partners expands everyone’s opportunities. If the partnership becomes imbalanced and not reciprocal there will be trouble in paradise. You want your partner to bring you into their deals. So, as we all learned in kindergarten, sharing is caring. If you bring your partners in, they will find the relationship extremely valuable, and they will reciprocate.
Your partners are not only your friends in channel, but they are also a major source of revenue. Be kind to them. Help them get wins. Be an All-Star.
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