I get calls from prospective clients asking me to come in and take a look at their partnership programs. I know I’ve talked about making sure you’ve given thought to what you want to accomplish with your partners and making sure you give them the right materials and support. What I haven’t talked about is how to find and attract the right partners in the first place.
Finding the right partners is a lot like hiring the right candidate for your company. Partners have to have the right chemistry to fit together. Although I think the word is overused, there does have to be synergy between two companies to achieve success. In my career as an Executive recruiter, I’ve interviewed over 18,000 executives in a variety of industries, including software and emerging technologies. I used that experience of matching the right candidate to the right company to match the right partners together. Recruiting for either partners or employees means finding the right people, understanding what they bring to the table, and making sure the chemistry is right for success.
You shouldn’t sign up the first company you find for a partner anymore than you would hire the first candidate you interviewed. The key to successful partnerships is much the same as a successful hire. First, know where to find your best prospective partners. Start with keyword research on the Internet to find companies that might be a match with your organization. Then check their websites. Look at them as a customer would, clicking to various pages, signing up for any offers they might have. This tells you how they work with prospective customers. See if they have any part of their site dedicated to partnerships.
After your initial research, you should have an idea of how many possible partners you have. Keep in mind that you’re better off with a few partners that match your philosophy and values than a slew of partners that you don’t really connect with. The hardest part of the partner search for most people is reaching out to them. Although many of my clients want to send an e-mail, your first contact should be by picking up the phone and talking to a person. Selling your company to a prospective partner is just like selling to a prospective customer. You have to give them a reason to do business with you, particularly if you are relying on your partner as a lead generation method. The purpose of a business is to get a customer, not make a sale. A business that develops solid customer relationships has a bond of trust with those customers. You’re asking someone to give you access to the customers with whom they’ve developed a trusting relationship. That’s a very big commitment on the part of your potential partners. Make sure you give them a solid reason to recommend you to their customer base. After talking to the right person at the partner company, then follow up with written materials, such as your partner strategy and collateral materials.
To be successful at choosing your partners, you need to review all of your options and choose the partners that match your vision, values, and goals. Both you and your partners will be glad you did.