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Pulling Maximum Benefit From a Partner Ecosystem

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When looking for the best partners, the first step is to establish goals for the sales ecosystem, then look for partners that will aid in accomplishing those goals, says Somrat Niyogi, vice president of business development at Clari, a sales execution and forecasting platform provider.

“Some companies do it for brand awareness. Others are trying to leverage someone else’s brand,” he says. “Others want to increase the pipeline and add new opportunities or to enter a new territory. Others want a strategic partnership”—i.e., combined software packages.

Whatever the reason, companies need to look at their sales partnerships as long-term strategies, according to Niyogi. “You need to look at what the end game is. Partnerships need to be win-win. You need to have mutually agreed-upon measures of success. When people are not looking at the long term, that’s when partnerships break.”

Clari uses what Niyogi refers to as a “crawl-walk-run approach.”

“We look at quality over quantity,” he states. “Some companies look at partnerships as a numbers game. They add as many as they can. But only a handful of partners will really drive added value. When you have hundreds of partners, the value of any one is diluted. We prefer to have fewer partners and go really deep with them.”

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with a team,” says Heidi Tucker, vice president of global alliances at InsideView, a provider of market intelligence for sales and marketing departments.

Another reason that partnerships and sales ecosystems fail to produce benefits, Tucker says, is that they are “‘Barney’ partnerships: I love you, you love me. A lot of people get into partnerships because they are people-oriented, but the hard part is to make it productive. You have to clearly understand the motivation for [all partners] and then align specific strategies and tactics for mutually beneficial outcomes. There has to be something tangible and beneficial for all partners.”

But too often, according to Tucker, one partner in an ecosystem is looking to try to sell to another partner’s customer list. The best partnerships are the ones in which everyone benefits.

Ecosystems involving companies like Microsoft, HP, and other major players have been at their most successful when even the small, lesser-known members have brought value to the table, helping to boost the sales of the better-known names while increasing the value of their own firms, according to Tucker.

FINDING A FIT

There are many ways companies can find beneficial partners. Niyogi recommends talking with customers to learn which providers they have used. “They are people we trust—they are our customers,” he says.

“Every market is different,” says Gordon Burnes, chief marketing officer at Bullhorn, a provider of CRM solutions for the staffing and recruiting industry. Bullhorn works internationally and, therefore, works with many partners, using the ones with the best expertise in each nation. “The billing and payment are different in each country. Different companies have expertise with the job boards in different countries. We want to deliver an incredible customer experience in each market we work in. We work only with those resellers committed to an incredible customer experience.”

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