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The Dos And Don’ts Of Forging Peer Partnerships

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Startup company Acme Connected Apparel (ACA) has developed a line of sensor-embedded clothing to meet the needs of triathletes and weekend warriors.

Channel Partners Evolution is working with ACA to help generate a partnership with a strong grasp of technology, including cloud. Peer partnerships also will be needed to offer a range of ancillary services, such as tax, accounting and legal advice, security and big data, IoT expertise and other boutique offerings.

Rebecca RosenDuring the education session titled “Partnering Smart: When Client Needs Go Beyond Your Services,” participants will discuss ways to forge peer partnerships to serve customers while also protecting your business.

Rebecca Rosen, president of Sales Enabled, is the moderator, and panelists include Michael Bremmer, CEO of Telecomquotes.com, Neil Ende, managing partner of Technology Law Group, and Holly Hartman Niedzielski, director of event marketing and partner communities at Ingram Micro.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, participants shared their thoughts regarding helping ACA forge peer partnerships.

Channel Partners: Can you give an example of how your company has forged peer partnerships to offer clients a broader range of services?

Rebecca Rosen: I own a sales-enablement consultancy in the tech/telecom industry. When I initially launched, I did so as a full-service consultancy, meeting the full gamut of sales enablement and marketing needs of carriers, supplier and vendor companies. I ended up with work I didn’t love doing, and had a hard time distinguishing myself from others that offer similar services. While I didn’t want to turn away business, I realized that I could be more profitable (and happy) honing my offer and being true to my value proposition: assuring that sales channels and marketing teams are aligned with and capable of effectively implementing business strategy. As a result, I have specified my service offering and expanded my network to fill the tactical marketing roles that so many companies need. My competition became my coopetition and what I discovered is that I get referred to a number of businesses based on my expertise and refer a number of businesses based on theirs.{ad}

CP: Are there challenges associated with forging peer partnerships? How do you make sure the right peer partner has been selected?

RR: First, I think it’s helpful to define peer partnerships. There are networking relationships where you refer people to customers, but there are no binding agreements. There are relationships where you bring another consultant into a customer’s location and bill on behalf of that consultant. In that instance, you have an agreement with …

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… both parties separately — the consultant and the customer. And then there are partnerships where both parties have a legal obligation to one another and share on the profits and losses.

Michael BremmerIt has been my experience that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the right partners. I have had a number of conversations with potential partners and I always walk away from the people who ask for referrals, but don’t take the time to learn about me or my business and how they can help me, too. I do work with a handful of 1099 consultants, where I bill on their behalf. Those relationships are rare — I already know the quality of the work, their work ethic and enter knowing that these are people that I can count on. Personally, I have never entered into a binding partnership, but am exploring a couple; those conversations are cautious, ensuring that both parties are equally engaged. In both instances we have milestones and metrics we are measuring success against to explore the viability of our ideas.

Michael Bremmer: The No. 1 challenge is making sure whomever you partner with is willing to work in (the) trenches, shoulder to shoulder with you, until the agreed-upon outcome is realized. This means clearly defining goals, milestones and agreeing exactly what success looks like, in writing, in advance.{ad}

How do you make sure the right peer partner has been selected? Candidly we rely on several things, including our master suppliers, partner references and our onboarding process. If a partner isn’t willing to commit to outcomes in writing, we’re not interested in working with them.

CP: What are some of the common missteps made when drafting and entering partnering agreements?

Neil Ende: The most critical terms of partnering agreements are the terms that identify the responsibilities of each party and how the risks will be allocated. Often, partnering agreements fail to adequately identify these responsibilities and how the risks of failure will be allocated.

We have been crafting peering/partnering agreements for many years. We are also hired all the time to litigate agreements that have failed and where the resulting conflicts cannot be resolved at a business level. These litigations have given us substantial insight as to the most likely issues on which conflicts will arise and the arguments that will be made by each side. This insight has enabled us to craft agreements that address these issues in a clear and comprehensive way – so that there is no ambiguity – in a manner that fully protects our clients and that ensures that the other party will be strongly incented to meets its obligations.

CP: How can you ensure that a partnering agreement is fair and beneficial to all parties?

NE: Although many clients think that they are best protected by aggressive one-sided agreements, the best agreements are actually …

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Neil Ende… those that are most likely to continue in effect over the long term without conflict (and) are comprehensive, well thought-out agreements that fairly allocate both the risks and rewards of the relationship. These kinds of agreements create the proper incentives for each party to do “the right thing” and impose appropriate penalties/risks for failing to do so.

CP: Is forging peer partnerships now more important than ever as clients’ needs increase? How?

RR: Networking and peer partnerships are extremely important today. Today’s buyers engage sales very late into the buying process, and oftentimes look to referrals to determine who they will consider. It’s your referral network that will ensure that you are considered. From a customer perspective, it’s your goal to be a trusted advisor – someone who helps the customer achieve their goals – which may also include introductions to partners/businesses that can help them be successful. And the only way you can do that is to expand your network, develop peer partnerships with other companies and consultants.{ad}

MB: Absolutely, because technology touches every aspect of business. It’s important to remember only God knows all … and nothing scares me more than a self-proclaimed “tech guru” or worse a “technology evangelist” who is a “jack of all tech” and master of none.

You won’t be successful long if you are a “tech Nazi” in this world. Look at Apple and Salesforce, they became hugely successful by integrating (Salesforce especially) and creating a platform for others to be successful on (Apple App store).


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