Strategic partnerships can be an interesting dance. You’re often evaluating who is going to make the first move while assessing whether this is going to be a long-term relationship or just a quarterly "fling." One thing is for certain, this is a relationship-fueled business.
A longstanding partnership requires heavy effort up-front, a bit of showmanship and mutual appreciation to strengthen ties early on. The level of personal connection you establish will preserve your bond for the future, ensuring you rally together if things get rocky.
Here are 5 ways to strengthen partner relationships right from the start:
1) Slide into the DMs
If you’re at a point where you’re texting with your partner and making plans for the weekend, congrats! Getting to text-message status is the holy grail of a strong relationship, but it doesn’t come easy. Start by getting out of email. Next, shoot out a few LinkedIn messages and a Slack workspace invite. Spontaneity and trust thrives in real-time interactions, not through emails.
Adjust your approach to note-taking and focus on the person on the other end of the call. When you’re tabbing from one Zoom to another, it’s easy to breeze over the small talk at the beginning and end of a conversation. Most of us start taking notes once we “get to the good stuff” as things naturally dive deeper into the product and mutual business opportunities.
When it comes to building a personal connection, the first 5 minutes of a call presents an opportunity to demonstrate a more genuine personal investment the next time you connect. Consider adding a “personal insights” tag or hashtag to your note-taking app, this will improve future check-in notes with a deeper engagement outside of the business. It’s much more engaging to ask a new partner about the birthday they had last weekend, or the upcoming vacation plans.
The best partner relationships come from being more than the business plan or joint marketing program, people want to be seen for who they are.
2) Name Drop and Tell Me About It
Let’s be honest, name-dropping is annoying (except when it’s benefiting a partnership). If you’re a new partner of mine, please drop my name across as many conversations as you like. I want to hear all about your seller who mentioned our partnership, or that conversation you just had with an analyst about our integration. Use these moments to demonstrate momentum and grow closer with your partner.
As you begin incorporating new partners into your network and conversations, an educated understanding of your partner’s key differentiators, ICP and detailed competencies will go a long way. You want to get into the weeds, as this will prevent the habit of over-indexing toward any given partner. There’s a saying among partner leaders that highlights the 80/20 rule, meaning, 80% of your revenue and success stems from just 20% of your partner base. Or rather, 1 out of 5 partners will help you achieve your goals. Don’t buy into the 80/20 rule! A thoughtful partner manager is operating closer to 20/80, investing personal time to up-level every partner equally while driving mutual success.
3) Treat a New Partner like a New Employee
It’s not uncommon to send a new hire company swag when they start a new job, shouldn't your partners get a similar experience? As soon as the ink dries on your partner agreement, send some swag. Pro tip: Automate! As soon as a new partner registers for your program, queue a welcome gift, 14-day check-in, milestone tasks, etc. by combining Postal.io and PartnerPortal.io.
Once you’ve added your first five partners, educating and upleving these external teams becomes vital. Your top partners will turn into some of your best salespeople, but, if they’re misaligned with your product and core differentiators lead quality will suffer. Whether you’re hosting a lunch-and-learn or using a learning management system to certify new partners, context and content matters.
4) Step up your Offline Game
Successful partner teams know the importance of real-world interactions when building relationships. If you’re just a car or train ride away, make the trip! It might just take one Milwaukee Bucks game or a Philly cheesesteak bonding moment to take your partnership to the next level.
Appreciation and “thank you’s” often take the form of financial incentives, but this isn't always necessary - or even desirable. A surprise visit or a gift, on the other hand, can be a great way to show your partner that you value their support. It doesn't have to be anything big or expensive - even something as simple as a thank-you note can make a big impression. The key is to show your partner that you are grateful for their help and that you are committed to deepening the partnership. With a little thoughtfulness, you can cultivate a strong and lasting relationship.
Partner relationships are key to the success of any business. After all, no company can succeed in isolation . . .
If budgets are tight or you can’t meet in person, take a moment to dedicate a virtual call to celebrating and congratulating. Achieving a well-orchestrated milestone between two partners is very underrated, make the time to celebrate. This is 30-minutes of pure, uninterrupted “kudos” chants, high-fives and #FTW Spotify playlists. No business jargon, make it fun!
Connecting offline shows that you are willing to put in the effort to connect with them on a deeper level. In our increasingly digital world, it is easy to get lost in technology and forget the importance of connecting with people offline. However, taking the time to connect with people in the real world is so important for maintaining a healthy exchange. When you make the effort to connect with your partner offline, it can do wonders.
5) Digital Surround Sound
When you first start working with a new partner, it's easy to get siloed into working only with the individual that you signed the contract with. It's important to remember that there are often dozens of other salespeople and executives within the company that could also benefit from connecting with you. By taking the time to network with these other individuals, you can amplify your reach and ensure others are aware of who you are and what you're building. In addition, you may also find that you learn more about the company as a whole and how best to work with them, making your partnership even more successful.
If you want to automate your networking efforts then you might enjoy a company called Poseidon. Poseidon is an engagement automation tool that accelerates partner connections with a personalized approach through a combination of outreach on LinkedIn and email. Instead of individually reaching out to each seller or AE, Poseidon will help you identify and automate connections across their team on LinkedIn. Any time you make a new connection on LinkedIn or exchange messages with the account executives, the partner activity will log directly into your Salesforce or HubSpot instance, giving your own sellers account insights and activity that they’ll be able to leverage.
Partner relationships are key to the success of any business. After all, no company can succeed in isolation; it takes a collaborative effort to succeed in today's competitive marketplace. Therefore, it is essential to nurture and strengthen partner relationships.
The items listed above are merely suggestions and there are a number of foundational items to keep in mind, most notably, being respectful of your partners' time and resources. Remember that you are not the only one with demands on your time and energy; show appreciation for the efforts your partners make on your behalf. By following these simple strategies, you can lay the foundation for strong and lasting partner relationships.