You might have seen my recent interview on the Tidwit blog on partner engagement. It was a great conversation and, for me personally, it was interesting to reflect on nearly 20 years in the business. One area that I have been asked to deep dive into is the “secret recipe” to successful engagement with partners that I touched on in the Q&A.
I sometimes use the analogy that successful partner engagement is like making a risotto. A great risotto takes time and needs regular attention – you can’t just throw the ingredients together, stir once and hope it will turn out ok! This is my starting point for working successfully with partners: People – Processes – Technology. Do you agree?
This is your first – and most important – ingredient. Without good, solid relationships with people, partner engagement has no substance to it whatsoever. Your aim should be to become a trusted advisor to your partner. Building a trusted relationship takes time and can only be successful if it is based on open communications.
The first step is as simple as asking the question: what does success look like to you? Then actively listen to the answer to understand the value your product or service adds. Alignment of your proposition or solution to the partner organization’s desired business objectives should be done at a very early stage.
Desired business objectives may be voiced differently at various levels of the organization. This is why it is imperative to have two go-to contacts in the organization: on the one hand a daily go-to contact, let’s call this person the “Champ”, and on the other hand an “Executive Sponsor”, who will operate at a much higher level and who you will align with less frequently. The Champ’s role is to influence others in their organization, and to drive the partnership forward.
You may find that the Champ’s desired business outcomes are operations-based, quite focused on their specific business area. This is one reason why it is crucial to have Executive Sponsorship, too. As well as bringing visibility to the partnership, Executive Sponsorship will add a new dimension of understanding of what the partner organization wants to achieve, which will typically be of a more strategic nature. The Executive Sponsor will also play an important role in breaking down internal silos. You will need to build a network on various levels within the partner organization. Don’t stop with your technical counterpart, or the Chief Technical Officer. Understand their manager’s aims too. What are the Product Marketing Manager’s objectives? What challenges are the support staff grappling with? An Executive Sponsor will be able to bridge the gap between the various teams and departments within the organization, fostering greater impact overall.
Once you have gained a high level of understanding, you can then truly assess how you can contribute to success of the partner organization.
Strong processes will help to strengthen your partner engagement strategy. Don’t let today’s fast-paced business environment distract from this – processes are more important than ever.
A well-defined set of processes will develop into a virtuous cycle of partner success. Define what success looks like, engage with your stakeholders, measure progress – and then use all that information to course correct and optimize where you see potential to do so.
Take the time to document those processes so that you can define key milestones. I believe it is essential to monitor progress against these milestones rigorously. Why? There are two reasons: 1) If you are not making the progress you were aiming for, you will quickly spot this and you’ll be able to create remedial action plans at an early stage. In this way you can add real value to the relationship with your partner, saving everyone time, money and effort. 2) Communicate and – importantly – celebrate when you reach those milestones, together with your partner. This is crucial for team building, motivation, and is helpful when collecting best practice to help progress future projects.
While all three pillars have an essential role to play in partner engagement, I see the third pillar, technology, as the enabler of success; it is a tool to help you achieve your goal. As IT professionals, we are excited and passionate about new solutions, and rightly so! But when thinking about partner engagement and customer success, I purposefully list this as the third ingredient in the recipe to success. Why? Because without the right focus on people, relationships, and processes, the technology has no part to play at all. Think of your technology first, focus solely on your solution, and you are destined to fail.
Get this right, and you will build a partner network that can help you scale your business and increase profitability in a sustainable way. Utilize the expertise of partners to deliver a product or service that has a human, local touch and see your organization grow and succeed in parallel with your partners.
In my next blog post, I’ll share some exciting examples of where TIDWIT connected ecosystems are having a positive impact on partner engagement.
What are your top tips for partner engagement?
Christophe Girault, Director of Customer Success at Tidwit