All of us have heard the new vogue word in B2B sales management these days; partnering. But what does partnering really mean?
Whas is the definition of partnering?
- Partnering is a term used by B2B buyers to get the best possible deal with no intentions of really becoming a partner in the process.
- Partnering is when the seller acts proactively for as long as it takes to get some business.
As you can see, these comments are not too supportive of the partnering process. However, the good news is that I have heard about and seen effective partner agreements that have benefited both the seller and the buyer. In these cases, the business partnership process consisted of three critical elements.
Elements of partnering
1. Both parties must win and perceive the process as being fair. This includes the process of developing a solid level of trust between the parties involved.
2. Both parties have the right and responsibility to hold each other accountable.
3. Both parties share the vision, agree with the plan, and are willing to provide the necessary resources.
Obviously, partnering is a time-consuming and costly adventure. If partnering is to be taken seriously, it really should be applied with accounts that show the promise of providing you with a sizable amount of business and/ or are considered to be strategically important to your success.
Is the situation right for partnering?
As with any plan, a series of questions need to be asked and answered. These answers will provide you with the information you will need to determine if you are dealing with a viable partnering situation.
No force is more anchoring and stabilizing than partnering with customers in today's difficult times of quick and chaotic change. We use the word 'customer partnership' not in the legal sense of co-ownership, but rather in the sense of sharing in your company's benefits and success with your customers.
Seven partnership questions
1. What are the objectives of the parties involved?
You need to clearly define what each side is looking to get out of the relationship. If the vision is not clear, the efforts will be derailed, and eventually, the partnership will dissolve.
2. What’s the starting point?
Benchmarking where you and the customer currently are is extremely important. The difference between the destination and the starting point will dictate the amount of value a partnering relationship offers both parties. Obviously, the bigger the distance, the greater the value.
3. What’s viable?
It’s sometimes impossible for parties to satisfy each other’s needs completely. A clear understanding must be developed regarding what results are possible and what results are improbable. If the actions of both parties are geared towards achieving incredible results from partnering, the chances for failure are more significant.
4. What’s the partnering action plan?
Both parties need to clearly define the actions each one will take and put them in the appropriate timelines. Then, again, each party has the right and responsibility to hold each other accountable for their actions or lack of activities.
5. Who’s involved?
Key personnel on both sides must be identified as well as what their roles will be when they will complete their tasks and how they are expected to do so.
6. What’s our process of measurement?
You will have enough information to measure your results and realize when the objectives have been met by answering the first five questions. It’s critical to break down the measurement periods into the smallest time frame possible to measure your progress successfully.
The sooner you realize that specific actions need to be changed, the more time you will have to make the corrections and achieve your goals. If you wait too long, it may be too late to make the changes necessary to keep the partnership alive.
7. Once the partnering agreement is reached, what else is needed?
Throughout the life of the partnership, questions 1-6 should be consistently asked and answered. You will see that as time goes by, the answers will change. By keeping on top of the changes, you will be able to tweak your actions and ensure that both parties are consistently receiving value from the relationship.
The moment the process stops, you have invited your competition to come in and seize your business.
Importance of business partnering
To be successful, it is important to cultivate relationships with your customers. It is what sustains and grows both organizations. Partnering ties are what keep the world turning and the economy growing; without one another, there would be no sustainable business activity.
It’s considerably more important than people may realize for a B2B company to create a good relationship with their customers. Why? Because you need both in order to be successful, you can not be likely to succeed without them.
Customer service and support are the most competitive battlegrounds; they determine whether a business will succeed or fail. The first step toward providing excellent customer service is to establish a marriage…not just an ordinary relationship, but an extraordinary lifelong partnership with your clients.
This is not an easy process and many organizations overlook it, but the key to partnering success is simple: listen to your customers. Consider their worries and devise strategies to assist them in overcoming these difficulties.
After reading that phrase, you might wonder whether you could have a sixth sense that could help you learn what your customers need. However, it is more simpler than that; to care for someone is to know them, thus develop a personal and professional relationship with your clients. By the help of these business partner relationships, always try to exceed your customers’ expectations.