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  • Writer's pictureMike

Be a Better Partner - the Dating Game

If you are a sales professional in a business-to-business setting, there is a good chance you have partners who help you identify opportunities, sell or deliver.

Successful partnering in business is like dating. Bad behaviors can sabotage promising relationships while the right behaviors can lead to long lasting partnerships. If you want to create more value in your channel and alliance partner relationships, take these cues from dating etiquette and follow these simple top 10 do’s and don’ts.

Top 10 Do’s of Partnering (and Dating)

1. Know who’s available.

Don’t be afraid to ask around. Engage your network and find out which partners are already engaged and which partners are available to collaborate.

2. Keep your options open.

Engage multiple partners early in the process and until you understand the full landscape.

3. Stay committed, once you enter a committed relationship.

It’s ok to keep your options open in early discussions, but remain loyal once you agree to formally partner. Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Communicate openly and often. Partnering is about building trust and sharing information (but get an NDA in place to be safe).

5. Know that it’s good to share.

You should give to get. Look for ways to help your partners first, so they will want to help you later.

6. Introduce your friends and meet their friends.

Ask your partners for important introductions and provide introductions for them when asked.

7. Understand that a relationship only works if there is something in it for everyone.

Look for the win for your partner, not just your organization. Invest real time in understanding your partner’s needs.

8. Listen.

Be open to your partner's ideas and share your proposals and strategies freely. It’s all about collaboration and partners are great sounding boards.

9. Accept that there is no Prince Charming!

Be realistic. Partners often can’t dictate or mandate decisions in your favor, but they may have influence.

10. Leverage your friends for support and advice.

Engage your formal channels and alliances team members. They are great resources and can help you identify and navigate partner relationships.

Top 10 Don’ts of Successful Partnering (and Dating)

1. Don’t be overbearing.

Don’t overwhelm your partners with an exhaustive wish list of demands if you expect meaningful outcomes.

2. Don’t cheat.

Don’t engage multiple, competitive partners for the same initiative unless it’s clearly communicated that the arrangement is not exclusive. And don’t expect full transparency and exclusive commitments from your partners if you aren’t offering those things to them.

3. Don’t play coy.

Don’t withhold information or keep up your guard. Partners will sense this and respond in kind.

4. Don’t be selfish.

Don’t make it all about you. There needs to be something in it for your partner and you should make it a priority to fight for their needs as well as your own.

5. Don’t expect someone to change just because you want them to.

Partners can’t often change the rules or mandate decisions in your favor just because they have existing relationships with your customers and clients.

6. Don’t call at the last minute and expect your date to be sitting by the phone.

Engage partners early. They can’t provide maximum assistance if they are engaged too late. If you wait too long they may engage your competitor.

7. Don’t get too comfortable.

Always present yourself and your company in a positive light when engaging partners.

8. Don’t forget your manners.

If a partner invites you to one of their important meetings with a customer or client, don’t try to take over the conversation, lead strategy or usurp the relationship.

9. Don’t keep your friends to yourself.

Provide your partners with the same access to your network, customers and clients you expect them to provide to you.

10. Don’t overstate your relationships with others.

If you aren’t yet formally engaged with a partner, don’t tell your customer or client that you are. Everyone will learn the truth, you will lose credibility and no one will want to align themselves with you.

Do you want to establish and maintain great partner relationships? Be your best self, build trust, respect boundaries and make it more about them!

Follow this simple formula and you will likely find your partners eager to go to market with you again and again.

Happy Selling!

(Collaboration credit: This top 10 dating do's and don'ts analogy was the brainchild of a former colleague Kris Colby and his daughter. We built out the content together as part of a global partner training kickoff meeting at a company that is now part of SAP. The content has stood the test of time. Well done Kris!)

(Image Credit: Hitesh Dewasi on Unsplash)


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