by Chris Fletcher
n the Growth Acceleration Readiness Framework we've discussed, there are 8 dimensions to successful sales growth. As you may recall, the 8 dimensions are:
Sales team readiness
Marketing awareness and their readiness
Customer success readiness
Product integration and its capabilities to integrate into an Enterprise solution
Business impact on an understanding
External Partnerships to expand sales
Finally the change horizon; how quickly, as a management team of your organization, do you want to get to those large deals?
Let's address the External Partnership readiness dimension, and how investing in this area can improve your place on the maturity curve over time. Evolving an External Partnership strategy is a key dimension in expanding your reach and achieving Growth Acceleration.
Partnering enables you to both penetrate new markets, and grow your presence within existing ones. This is why the cultivation of an external partner network is so important. As a company you cannot reach all applicable market segments of your go to market strategy, otherwise the investment is huge and the time taken to get there would be significant. To cover different market segments, you also need to be seen as the “expert” in that market segment. The broader the applicability of your solution, which should be your desired state, the more complex that industry expert status is to achieve. Partnering mitigates these challenges, and allows you to accelerate your growth faster than if you were to go it alone. This is why it is so important to have an external partnership strategy.
One of the most critical elements of your partnership strategy is customer outreach. Its naive to think that your current customers and prospects are only talking to you. As tough as this sounds, you’d be surprised how many people in business believe that because they perceive themselves as the experts, that their current customers or prospects won’t be talking to anyone else. It’s good business for your customers to to be educated, and your competitors are one way in which they can learn.
Secondly, partnering helps to reduce your cash-flow risk. With the right partnerships and resell agreements, you can increase your company’s cash-flow and minimize your accounts payable risk. It’s not an “all or nothing” strategy, however, it can be helpful when trying to reach your Growth Acceleration targets, within a set timeline.
The “right” external partnerships should have a number of components that align them to your Growth Acceleration objectives. You don’t just hire a partner manager and start signing on new partners as fast as you can, which I have seen happen. A select group of key partners, particularly in an evolving business space, is the best strategy. So make them industry specific, which enables the development of unique and specific sales messaging. There is benefit to your partner in learning new solutions and services; whilst you gain access to their customer network and industry specific expertise. To make this work, you must invest in “the heavy lifting”; that means enabling their sales team, training their professional services, providing marketing collateral and product support. If you don’t lean into this, as a key first step, the partnership will fail, and neither you nor your partner will get the benefits they hoped for.
A new tailored value-added statement of “better together” is required to align resources and to enable focus. Even though a new external partner can bring scale, you need to focus your efforts to drive quick wins. This new “better together” value-add statement may take a little time to evolve, so don’t assume that your first iteration of messaging will truly resonate with your partner or their prospective customers. Knowing this will help you to be nimble and achieve greater success.
Having external partners will require you to enhance your product integration capabilities (see the Product Integration Readiness dimension). Your partners will often be looking to integrate your solution with the other products that they resell to increase market value, or to provide new solutions that offer greater market potential. For this reason your external partner and product integration readiness dimensions are closely intertwined. You don’t need to “boil the ocean” and have every possible integration in place, because, as we just discussed, the right integrations will evolve over time as more customers come on board. However, you do need to have joint agreement on your timing and commitment. If you do not have commitment in both organizations, your partnership will likely stall; regardless of how great you think the outcome will be.
Don’t underestimate the power of even a select group of key Partners. They will evaluate you and challenge you for the better.
There are many business techniques to developing your External Partnership Readiness strategy, to Accelerate your Growth, regardless of where you are on the maturity of this dimension. At huerdo we can help you with an assessment of your Growth Acceleration plans, and recommendations on how to close the gaps. We have Senior Business Executives on staff that can help you to evolve this dimension effectively. Create your own Growth Acceleration Framework and carpe diem!
Chris Fletcher is a Managing Partner at huerdo and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.