We work in an industry where partnerships are easily formed and lost. Driven by opportunity rather than strategy, the ease with which businesses enter into partnership has begun to undervalue the meaning of the word and the essence of the relationship that it should represent. However, true partnership is essential for business growth, customer development and competitive advantage.
Strategy versus Opportunity
A strategic partnership is one where both parties recognise the long-term importance of the relationship, make an ongoing commitment to it and jointly develop plans to deliver solutions to customers. An opportunity-based relationship also delivers some of these elements but, by its nature, is more reactive.
There are four key areas that distinguish strategic partnerships from opportunity driven ones:
Opportunity driven partnerships focus on a single project and the engagement process is largely transactional – we understand the requirement, propose a solution and the business is won, either on your own or working with us. The engagement process at the beginning of a strategic partnership is much more involved, with the partner mapping our solutions against their core offering and aligning them with sales opportunities. Both parties invest more time and resource to develop the relationship and in most cases the partnership is tested using a current opportunity allowing both parties to adapt the engagement process if needed.
All opportunities have a level of training and knowledge transfer included to ensure that the customer gets the right solution. This is extended considerably in a strategic partnership where the focus is on knowledge sharing to ensure that sales, technical and operations teams have the full breadth of training that they need. While this is also available for opportunity led partnerships, the sporadic engagement between the parties makes it more of a stop-start exercise.
Strategic partnerships are supported at all stages of the sales cycle, from opportunity identification and solution design through to implementation and technical support. While the same support can be applied to opportunity based relationships, it is always more effective when the parties have a continuous working knowledge of each other. While support will always be seamless to the end-user, a strategic partnership will also make that support seamless on the inside too.
4. Business development
This is perhaps the most valuable part of a strategic partnership – where trust, openness and shared objectives enable business development. Proactively looking at customer requirements together and jointly developing account plans, opens more opportunities and delivers better solutions and services to customers. It also helps with resource planning in all areas of the sales cycle to ensure that implementations go as smoothly as possible.
The most significant outcome of a strategic partnership is absolute flexibility and the willingness to always go the extra mile when it’s needed. This is how true strategic partnerships can make a significant difference to your business and drive growth for both parties. It is all about changing the mindset from winning a project, to a desire to achieve long term business goals hand in hand with a partner that shares your vision.
At Node4, we want to develop all our relationships into strategic partnerships so we can deliver the best solutions for Cloud, Colocate, Connect and Communicate, every time.
Head of Sales