Guest Post: The Three Critical Dynamics of Partnership Success

Posted By: Ezra Schneier Contributed Content, Member Resources,

As partner professionals, we work hard to create value by forming and maintaining great alliances. At the same time, we want to select and collaborate with the right partners to have the best outcome.

It is essential that we use techniques to identify optimal partners and strengthen existing alliances to increase sales, profits, and customer count and gain market share. In addition to the daily processes involved in running partnerships, success is often related to focusing on those partners with whom we have a shared outlook and sense of purpose—and a deep relationship. When we align ourselves with those partners where we have this deep relationship and common beliefs, we can achieve more consistent and favorable results for all. 

This post looks at the three most important ingredients that support deep relationships and high-performing partnerships: Interest, Awareness, and Encouragement.

1. Interest

The first and most fundamental ingredient of a fruitful alliance is both partners having genuine interest in working together. Interest brings meaning to the relationship, connects it to a noble purpose, and gives it significance among stakeholders. 

Interest leads to a deeply felt reason for the partnership in the larger context of the market, business results, professional alignment, and chemistry. It is not enough to say: “Let’s get together and we will expect to see more sales.” The best alliances are more strategic—deeper. They are driven by the sincere interest of both partners.

There are abundant examples of partnerships we think should be in place, but that don’t exist. If either partner does not see the value—or appreciate the big problem the alliance can solve for customers—it is doomed. If they don’t see the purpose and do not have interest to commit to the alliance, it may be best to walk away. (They can always revisit when there is interest.) 

Similarly, there are current partnerships that are stuck in the mud. In some instances, this is because there is not sufficient interest. When there is a lack of interest, the partnership is not a priority to one or both parties. As a result, investing resources is not a priority and the partnership becomes dormant. These partnerships may have exciting potential, but there is work to be done by the partner managers to get to actual results.

If there is lack of interest in creating a new partnership or growing an existing one, that does not have to be a permanent condition. The innovative partner manager recognizes that lack of interest and does something about it. 

For example, the partner manager can try to increase interest by clearly showing the parties how a partnership can deliver results. This is best done with real data. Account mapping can be a great exercise here: If there is a substantial number shown in the account matching report, it proves that you are serving the same customers. The market has spoken, and the same companies want both of your products and services. A partnership can be additive and produce an enhanced customer experience. That gets interest revved up.

Lack of interest commonly occurs when one or both parties do not understand why the partnership exists—its real purpose. They don’t get it—so the partnership does not get the attention it should. As partner professionals, we have to make sure all parties fully appreciate the purpose, potential, and value of our alliances. With this awareness (see below), a suitable degree of interest can be created. 

To have meaningful interest, each partner must see what’s in it for them. Too often we think about the partnership in terms of how it benefits our company. Partner professionals know that what creates interest is what’s in it for them—our partner—and their customers. 

To create interest, we must clearly show the purpose of our partnership. Importantly, this purpose should be viewed from your partner’s perspective, as in these examples:

  • It’s about you, not me.
  • If you do this partnership, you will be able to sell more because you fill an important gap in your offering.
  • You will sell more of your product.
  • You will realize improved results.
  • You will beat the competition.

As partner professionals our job is to make sure there is a clear answer to the question “Why should I?”—and that it is understood at multiple levels in the organization. If the answer is compelling enough, there is a good chance interest will follow.   

Interest—or lack thereof—is not permanent. We must consistently demonstrate why our teams should have interest in the partnership. 

 2. Awareness

Now that we have interest in forming or maintaining a partnership, there must be awareness. But getting the word out about a partnership can be a challenge.

Awareness is how we identify techniques and develop methods to clarify and declare the value and purpose of a partnership. It is how we operationalize interest. 

Awareness is linked to partner operations and enablement. Our awareness efforts link values to each situation. When we have an enablement session, we make sure the content is personalized to be relevant for the specific audience. It is not one-size-fits-all. The same goes for our data sheets, presentations, social media posts, videos, and other collateral. It is purpose built with our partner—and their customer—in mind. 

When we try to use standard, off-the-shelf material, it looks like that to our partner. And the opportunity for creating and boosting awareness is diminished—or lost.  

Peers within our company should be part of the awareness efforts. Cast a wide net to include different departments in the organization. Sales, marketing, client success, operations, IT, finance—everyone who should know about the partnership. By rallying support among colleagues, more people will be comfortable discussing the partnership and consistently promoting it to their network of contacts. 

3. Encouragement

Success requires encouragement. Encouragement takes work, and it comes in different forms. 

Teachers give students a lot of encouragement. Coaches use encouragement to help teams overcome challenges and attain their potential. Through thoughtful encouragement, they inspire students and athletes to continually do their best and achieve more.

Like coaches and teachers, as dedicated partner managers, we are responsible for getting the alliance to peak performance. This takes creativity, perseverance—and yes, repetition. Encouragement is the constant nurturing and feeding needed for an alliance to grow and succeed.

Partner managers must encourage colleagues in our company—and in our partner’s company (the full community)—to take advantage of this amazing alliance we have developed.

Now that we have established interest and developed awareness of the value of our partnership, we must encourage it to be leveraged to reach new levels. Think big. We created the partnership for all those who can benefit from it, and now we want to keep our alliances moving upward and not settle for “good enough.” 

Sometimes we think of short-term rewards as encouragement. If we pay an extra bonus to our partner, it will drive more sales. That can be effective in some situations. But we know short-term rewards tend to be ephemeral. They quickly go away without creating a big shift in behavior. If you pay someone to go to the gym for a month, usually when the payments stop, so does working out. On the other hand, if a person gains a solid understanding of the life benefits gained by exercising, their motivation is durable and long-lasting. 

When we go deep with partners and encourage their understanding of the true benefits of the relationship, they grasp its purpose—and we are more likely to see incredible outcomes. By focusing on how our partnership drives significant value for our partner and their customers, we get to a higher level. And we stay there. 

Yes, proper encouragement may involve risk. It means that you are investing time and resources to create a thorough understanding of the partnership. It takes innovative, interesting communication to get that message understood by the community. Partner marketing and partner operations cover a powerful set of skills that are used to encourage our teams.  

Encouragement should be used to show how the alliance helps our partner and their customers succeed. Proper encouragement emphasizes the bigger purpose of our partnership and leads to an enduring relationship that is highly valued and continues to improve over time.

Alliance Alchemy

Partnership success is an alchemy of the three dynamics described here. Each requires an investment of time, energy, and resources. To realize the desired results, there are no shortcuts. But focusing our efforts on these three ingredients—interest, awareness, and encouragement—can bring about better partnership outcomes. When we put our energy and resources in these areas, we know the best is yet to come. 

Ezra Schneier is partner manager at G-P, a leading provider of global growth technology solutions. He can be reached at