A supplier of ours called Roto Fasco Canada recently highlighted our company in a case study. As a supplier for over 35 years, the Roto group has been one of our most successful partnerships. That got me thinking about our own position in the vendor-supplier ecosystem and the importance of good partners. Like most manufacturers, Sunview relies on a number of key external providers. Although we are vertically integrated more than most in our industry, some components simply don’t make sense for us to make ourselves. On the other side of the equation, we don’t sell directly to the public. Our patio doors are sold through a network of industry-leading window fabricators, architects, retailers, dealers and distributors. This obviously makes our channel partners very important to us and we do everything possible to help them succeed.
Whether on the “buy” or “sell” side of a partner relationship, there are a number of key factors that determine its success. I thought I’d share my own personal “Top 7” list. These are all critically important, but I’ve tried to present them in order of how they typically flow.
What Makes Successful Partnerships?
#1 Mutual Benefit: The starting point of any partnership comes from a strategic point of view. For example, a decision to buy something and include it in your solution may make more sense than doing it yourself. Selling someone else’s product when it complements your core business is another common scenario. Once the strategic decision has been made, it must make good financial sense for both side. We’re all in business to make money after all. There may be rare cases where you decide to partner at low margins, but that seldom lasts long. Being tied to a powerful brand could be an example, but that becomes more of a marketing investment.
#2 Customer Benefit: Nothing happens without customers and the most successful partnerships are ones where the end-user gets a better product, better price, better service, or some other point of differentiation they see as valuable. If partnerships don’t somehow make things better for the client, they won’t last.
#3 Trust and Integrity: These can quickly “make or break” any partnership. Being honest and transparent in your business dealings is obviously the way the game should be played. But, partners also need to have integrity when it comes to delivering on their promises, or representing each other in front of their respective customers. In almost all areas of the partnership, you need trust and integrity, or it quickly falls apart.
#4 Working Relationship: This starts to show itself once you’re actually getting in the trenches together. If a partner is difficult at every turn, takes too long to pay bills, or continually upsets your people - it may be time to look for alternatives. Successful partnerships thrive on shared vision, collaboration, mutual respect and empathy. Nobody wants more stress than it’s worth. When people enjoy doing business together, the rewards can be great and it’s a pleasant journey. Two other critical aspects of working effectively together are communications and responsiveness. When you consistently do these well, it goes a long way in building a solid relationship.
#5 Commitment: Partnerships work best when there is some level of commitment. This is not just about having quota expectations or exclusivity. Let’s face it, we all would like those and usually get some degree of both when we do our jobs well. I’m also referring to partners who stand by each other and don’t throw in the towel after the first minor mishap. It makes you more comfortable investing in a relationship when it’s likely to be long-term. When partners are committed, they work together to improve and always drive towards a win-win.
#6 Pre-Sale Support: When others resell your products using your brand, their sales people need help. This starts with product training and showing them how to position you in the market. Your sales people may have to help the partner directly in deals, or with sales strategy. You will usually need to provide product marketing resources such as brochures, installation guides, etc. Even if your product is a hidden component of your partner’s offering - pre-sales support may still be needed at times. Support can also come in the form of executive involvement and co-marketing programs.
#7 Post-Sale Service: This is another key ingredient of successful partnerships. It’s arguably one of the most important, because reputations and customer satisfaction are at stake. Things can and will go wrong once in a while - It’s life. At the very least, customers may have questions, or need advice once they’ve bought. Whether you buy from, or sell thorough partners - customers need to be taken care of after the sale.
Partnerships take time to start, develop and manage - but, if you have the right ones, they can dramatically increase and improve your business. Like any relationship, they rely on both parties being better off with each other, than without. When choosing a new partner or looking at a current relationship, the points above may help your thinking.
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