Before jumping head-long into that partnership that’s sure to help you dominate your market, you should first consider a few key questions, the answers to which will determine if you’re ready to pursue the alliance, and how likely you are to meet its objectives if you do.
First, have you taken a thorough inventory of what goals and expectations you and other stakeholders have pinned to the partnership? Are these goals realistic and achievable? Are the expectations consistent with the reality of how your company functions today, or would they require significant change?
Have you evaluated whether and to what degree key departments within your company are prepared to support you, chief among them product development, marketing, sales and support? Strategic alliances, in particular, require very close coordination and support across functions. Beyond mere support, you need capacity. When the next big sales cycle begins, drawing significant resources to win it, will you be left to go it alone with your new partner, or do you have the commitment to carve out the necessary time and effort to make it a success?
Next, do you understand how the prospective partner ticks, how they market, sell, service and support their customers? Do you have an understanding of where, if at all, you fit into those processes? Can you plug in readily, or will the partner need to make significant changes to how they operate? The less change and friction you introduce, the faster and smoother the alliance will go.
Do you know how key roles and individuals within the partner organization are compensated and therefore how you can motivate them to advocate your company and its products or services? In other words, do you know what’s in it for them? If you can’t capture their attention and drive the behavior you need, no amount of handshakes and signed agreements at the top will make for a successful partnership.
Each new prospective partnership carries with it a unique set of questions and considerations to be addressed. Start with the above, and you’ll be well on your way to building a foundation for success.