Risks and rewards of partner-to-partner relationships

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This article appeared in the June 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Risks and rewards of partner-to-partner relationships
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In the December issue of CRN, I wrote six tips about partner-to-partner (P2P) relationships. Anyone who is responsible for establishing and maintaining partner relationships knows that there’s more to it than just those six tips, so I thought I’d share six more that will help solidify, grow and ultimately drive those relationships to success.

This advice works in all directions: vendor to reseller, partner to partner, and reseller to vendor.

Some larger partners, especially vendors, will have more to offer or a stronger market position. In general, they will offer a relationship that favours them more than you. Depending on where you are at with your business, it is up to you whether to take this or not.

You can think about partnering like socialism, not capitalism. It needs to be mutual, and everyone working to a common goal.

1. Get it in writing and build a plan

This is the first step. You’ve met, you’ve discussed your visions and how you want to work together – now you’re keen to start acting. Make sure you spend the time to get your agreements in writing. 

Don’t just settle at signing a partnership and/or confidentiality agreement. Conditions change, mark-ups change, rules of engagement change. At least if you have the underlying agreement on how things work between both partners, there is a reference point to go back to.

It’s not uncommon for partners to spend time getting to know each other and starting to work together, then several months down the track, they realise that they disagree on something. This could be as small as referral fees or mark-ups. 

This agreement is like a business plan, but for partnerships. Call it a ‘partnership plan’ and build a solid relationship on that foundation.

2. Don’t let the partnership gather dust

Choose whether you should really be in partnership, or are just signing the paperwork. Be prepared to walk away from the table if you genuinely don’t think it will work for both parties. This doesn’t have to be a negative experience. In fact, it’s the adult way to ‘break up’.

You don’t want to be that partner that has its partnership agreement terminated for not actually transacting because after all was said and done, something changed.

Be honest, be fair and be transparent. Come back to your partnership plan and see if things are going according to what you both agreed to. If not – act on it. Don’t just let your partnership fall by the wayside.

This is a relationship. If it’s not going to work, then it’s not going to work. Don’t just stop talking.

3. Don’t be afraid to be first

This is an interesting one. Often in new partnerships, one partner will want the other to prove themselves before reciprocating with work or business. Ultimately, it comes down to the partnership.

This could be as simple as “I won’t give you any leads until you bring me three deals” or “We don’t invest in partners until they have transacted at least X dollars”. After all, it comes down to the nature of the partnership but also to the individual sellers within those partners. It also can come down to who is the bigger partner. If you are an established brand, provide references and people who can speak on your behalf.

At the end of the day ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’ reigns true here. You can sit on the fence waiting to see your new partner’s capabilities demonstrated before you open the doors, or you can be the one to bring something to the table first and see how it goes.

Note, this type of approach generally doesn’t work with partner-vendor relationships as the vendor has a lot more to lose if done wrong, as well as more choice of successful partners.

Next: Meet often and drive the agenda

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