In past posts, I’ve mentioned that partnering is not selling. Why? Because effective partnering is about opening your prospects to the possibility of something you can create together, while sales techniques are about closing the deal, charging your client for your services and then hoping that they don’t decide somewhere down the road to terminate the business. Meanwhile, effective partnering is an open-ended process where the negotiating happens more toward the end, unlike sales where it happens toward the beginning.
Partnering is about recognizing and acknowledging that you don’t know everything, but that you are open to figuring it out as you walk alongside your prospective partner. It’s about collaboratively solving problems that exist in the market and/or simply creating something new. It’s about inviting your potential partner into a possibility. How do you do it? Here are four tips.
1. Present your story – Reveal to your prospective partner the general story of why you are looking for a partnership. State the goal, explain what’s happening in the industry, and then propose where you believe the partnership will take you. This story is the transcendent reason – the “for the sake of what” – that you are engaged in this meeting and (hopefully) the business to come. Voice the great opportunity that you see – the grander vision of potential where they could be a part.
2. Demonstrate your focus on partnerships – Show your prospective partner exactly how you have made them central to your growth strategy. Share with them the foundational values that drive your proposed business. These could include shared investments, transparency, goal alignment, flexibility, and accountability and measurement systems. Whatever values you choose to present, make sure they’re authentic. Maybe even reveal the details of the partnerships you currently have in place for your business (if any).
3. Bring the partner into the picture – Don’t just talk about yourself. Talk about your prospective partner. Let them know why you are thinking they will make for a good partner. Ask them questions about your assumptions regarding their challenges. Consider tying your assumptions to the struggles currently experienced in their industry. Explain how and in which way each of you could benefit from collaboration.
4. Invite them into the potential – Once you have established who you are, who you think they are, and why you think you could create something great together, invite them to be a part of the potential partnership. Share with them your proposed partnership development process. Explain how, if you do see a fit, each party would commit to working together and building something amazing.
Once you have shared all of the information above, you will ask your prospective partner directly whether the opportunity seems interesting to them. More than likely, you will receive a yes. Why? Because you have shared information with them in such a way that suggests you’re not asking them to buy your product. Rather, you have asked them to think through the potential you have seen and to consider whether they might be interested in creating it with you.