Guest Post: The Birth of the Partner Showcase
A terrific partner called recently to say that she had just met with a mutual customer. In that meeting, she learned that the customer did not understand the scope of our collaboration as partners to address important requirements for that company. In essence, the customer actually did not know very much about the partnership that was in place to support their needs.
Find a Solution Before It Becomes a Problem
This sent up a red flare for my partner, so she called to discuss a solution.
Actually, it was understandable that the customer was not up to speed about our partnership. She and several colleagues in her department were new to the company. They were still learning about the business processes and vendors that were in place. Now was the time to correct this deficiency.
“Let’s act quickly, before it turns into a problem,” we agreed.
On the same call, we discussed our goals and concluded they should be to:
- Educate the customer about our partnership as swiftly as we could
- Identify the priorities of the new team and how we could support them
- Clearly show our commitment to our partnership and to the customer
- Develop a relationship with the new people and communicate a high degree of caring and trust
What’s in a Name?
To help create visibility about the partnership for our customer, my colleague made what I thought was the best next move. She said: “Let’s conduct a brief call to review the services being supplied. We will show that we want to promptly bring attention to the value of the partnership and relationship. Also, we will identify key items that might be important to the customer and come up with a plan to fix them.”
So far, this is probably what any good alliance professional would suggest in the same situation. The difference?
My partner then emailed the customer and scheduled a “Partner Showcase” call for the following week.
I thought calling this session a Partner Showcase was brilliant. It gave it an identity, a clear purpose, a definition. This would not be just an introductory call or a routine business review, but a special call specifically dedicated to showcasing the partnership.
What’s in a name? Famed management consultant Marshall Goldsmith wrote: “If you want to improve your understanding of a situation, give it a name. Naming lets us organize the action into a coherent shape. Naming helps us learn, make sense, and take control.”
A Partner Showcase it would be.
A Framework for Success
We decided to start with a 60-minute call. The themes would be:
- We exist
- We want to understand your goals
- We are committed to your success
While we recognized that the partnership started before the new team joined the company, we were prepared to explain what had been done in the past. In addition, we were open to making changes and improvements going forward.
The agenda was clearly outlined ahead of the call, and we spent time discussing the main points to highlight for the team members who would participate. Since the partnership involved a software integration, we supplied information about the technology and even did a brief demonstration. The agenda, shared in advance, covered these points:
- Customer: Briefly explain your strategy and desired outcomes
- Partners: We want to be on the blueprint to execute the strategy and help achieve the best results
- Partners: This is the current state of the solution and service we provide to the customer
- Partners: We’ll summarize a few opportunities for improvement, near-term and medium-term
Making the Partnership Visible
The Partner Showcase was a success. All of the participants felt we made progress in sharing what was being done by the partners for the customer. The partnership became visible—and several thoughts about additional services were also identified.
Giving something a name like “Partner Showcase” may seem simple, even gimmicky. But defining and reframing the customer call in this way definitely made a positive difference. The customer genuinely appreciated the candid discussion and our assistance in getting them up to speed on what the partnership was doing for them and with them. The Partner Showcase did just that—it showcased the partnership and educated the customer about what we were doing on their behalf, while also exploring additional opportunities in the course of the discussion.
Does your customer know that your partnership exists? Do they understand the scope of that partnership, what it's doing for them, and what it could be doing? Does the partnership need a reset? You might consider giving a Partner Showcase a try!
Ezra Schneier is a strategic alliance professional, working particularly in the technology sector, including human resource tech.