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Sales Is Hard; Selling Together Is Harder: Operating in a Collaborative Selling Environment

Posted By Mike Leonetti, CSAP, Thursday, December 19, 2019

Recently I’ve had some interesting conversations with members, both in technology sales and in biopharma, that caused me to reflect on my own years of experience in pharma commercial alliances and also what I know from our members about go-to-market alliances on the tech side. I spent many years managing sales teams and commercial partnerships and thinking and working through the challenges involved. So I always listen with great interest when folks tell me about the issues they see coming up in their go-to-market collaborative selling efforts.

In addition, here at ASAP we’re currently doing a survey with IDC that among other things touches on joint incentive compensation (IC), so all of that got me to thinking about collaborative selling practices that may be similar between industries. No matter which vertical we’re in, we all tend to face similar challenges when it comes to joint selling. The biggest ones seem to boil down to these:

The “Kumbaya” factor. You’ve probably heard—or even said—some version of “Do nice to me and I’ll do nice to you,” or “You deal with your customers and I’ll deal with mine.” OK, that’s fine—I’m as big a believer in the Golden Rule and pulling together a team as the next person—but the truth is the effort must be focused around how we actually create additional value through our joint selling efforts. What new customers can we reach, how many additional high-value presentations can we make, and how can we together create a need for our product?

The what, the how, and the why. Does everyone on alliance selling teams understand the benefits, value, process, and procedures for creating value with this product or service? Have we spent enough time defining our mission, goals, and objectives? Does everyone understand regulatory limitations, order processing, and who are the key support personnel in the home office? Do we have a well thought out onboarding plan, or are salespeople simply being handed a product or solution with some heavy reading material and told to go sell it?

Time, coordination, and leadership. Partnership sales always requires more time. It takes coordination, proper routing, and customer service, and all of that requires collaboration—not typically a strong suit of most salespeople. For an executive who’s responsible for partnership sales, recognizing that collaboration may represent a developmental need for many salespeople and dedicating the time to focus and nurture that competency is a leadership requirement—but it can easily take a backseat in a competitive selling environment. Are we providing the time and guidance needed to include this coordination and development?

Rewarding collaborative behaviors. Do you model and reward collaborative behaviors? Rewards for sales folks are typically monetary-driven. Have you defined other rewards for repeating and achieving results from collaborative behavior that rival “sales rep of the month”? Although gift certificates and recognition will never carry the weight of a well-developed IC plan, it’s important to reward these behaviors and provide public recognition. And while incenting the final sale is critical, it’s also a great idea to recognize the behaviors that lead to sales results.

Credit where credit is due. Speaking of incentive compensation, have you defined proper ways for all selling partners to receive credit? Are their goals aligned? Is their payout equivalent for equivalent results? Who gets the credit? Or do you assume that both partners do? While there are many ways to create fair and partnership-oriented IC plans, many plans lack the proper planning for partnership sales incentives.

Socialization. Are you or have you completed your partner socialization efforts? It’s the small stuff that counts: sales rep roster exchange, team partner mapping, inclusion of partners in selling meetings, and ultimately, management’s recognition of not just its own sales reps, but the partner’s.

Company culture. Have you aligned your cultures? Do you understand the key differences between your two companies? Company A, for example, may require its sales reps to make eight calls a day, no excuses. Company B, on the other hand, requires just two high-quality calls per day—they’re more concerned about quality than quantity. So when A and B sell together, what’s the expectation for the partnership?

Account management. Have you aligned accounts, targets, lead generation, and prospects for the multiple parties selling to these accounts? Do your support teams understand the impacts or requirements when assigning targets, and how are joint sales targets prioritized and accounted for? What about entertainment? How are the dollars shared? Whose company’s policies and practices prevail?

These are just a few of the collaborative sales challenges that I’ve been discussing with others lately. I think they’re probably common to most go-to-market alliance efforts, as well as to copromotion in biopharma, or any joint selling process that occurs when two or more companies come together with collaborative selling practices.

What do you think? What are some of the challenges you see? Let’s start a dialogue. Type in a comment below.

Tags:  Account management  alliances collaborative selling  collaborative  collaborative behaviors  commercial partnerships  company culture  competitive selling  leadership  partners  partnership-oriented  socialization 

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Building ‘Leadership Muscle’: Get Your Organization Ready for the ‘Partnering Marathon’

Posted By John M. DeWitt and John W. DeWitt, Thursday, March 7, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Welcome to the new partnering race—where everyone is running as fast as they can, frantically trying to catch up to the customer.

Nina Harding, channel chief at Google Cloud, asked an important question at the October 2018 ASAP Tech Partner Forum in San Jose, California: “So how do you work with your partners when the customers are ahead of the ecosystems?” This is indeed an important question, given that “every single thing we do is new,” according to Pear Therapeutics Founder and CEO Corey McCann. He added, in a keynote at the September 2018 ASAP BioPharma Conference, that risks associated with new ventures “conspire to make partnerships not successful.” Stuart Kliman, CA-AM, partner at Vantage Partners, characterized the current playing field as “one of significant and ongoing change, which is driving new forms of collaboration, new kinds of alliances.”

Being successful on such a competitive playing field requires alliance practitioners to build their “leadership muscle,” the focus of the Q4 2018 Strategic Alliance Quarterly cover story, “Building ‘Leadership Muscle’: Are You and Your Alliance Management Organization Ready to Run the ‘Partnering Marathon’?” Building leadership muscle means giving your leaders the strength, flexibility, and endurance to withstand the breakneck pace of modern collaboration.

Why do you need this muscle? No matter your industry, regardless of the specific drivers, it’s almost certain that:

  1. Your company is “remixing” its build-buy-partner strategies;
  2. Partnering activity, especially nontraditional partnering, is exploding for your company;
  3. Your alliance organization faces an overwhelming workload;
  4. Your partnering strategy and execution require new thinking, skillsets, and tools.

If your company and its partners are evolving to catch the customer, then you should (or already will) be rethinking, reorganizing, and relearning:

  • Rethinking. Alliance leaders must continuously rethink partnering strategy and models in the context of disruption and new competitive threats, which are all-but-continuous now.
  • Reorganizing. If you aren’t thinking proactively about how you are organized and aligned to overall company strategy, you can be sure someone else is—and soon you will be thinking about it too, only reactively.
  • Relearning. Alliance executives require new skills and cross-industry knowledge for the new partners and ecosystems they interact with. Many alliance processes and practices require radical rethinking and streamlining if they are to remain useful for managing at the accelerating pace and exploding scope of partnering activities today.

“When all these things are changing around you, you can’t keep doing business as usual,” said Brandeis professor, consultant, and author Ben Gomes-Casseres, CSAP, PhD. “This means very often a change in company strategy [and] if the organization’s strategy is changing, then the alliance organization should change with that. That is fundamental.”

See the Q4 2018 issue of Strategic Alliance Quarterly to learn more about how alliance leaders are rethinking, reorganizing, and relearning while they build “leadership muscle.” John M. DeWitt is copy editor and contributing writer and John W. DeWitt is editor and publisher for ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance publications.

Tags:  alliance  Ben Gomes-Casseres  channel  collaborative  Corey McCann  cross-industry  Google Cloud  leadership  Nina Harding  partnerships  Pear Therapeutics  Stuart Kliman  Vantage Partners 

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‘Collaboration Is Not a Natural Phenomenon’: Mapping a TE-AM Road to Successful Alliances, Part One

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Managing partnerships with complex multi-partner and ecosystem networks is hard enough, but venturing forth into new types of cross-industry partnerships is near-on impossible without the tools to get you there, according to Lynda McDermott, CA-AM, president of EquiPro International, Ltd., an international management consulting firm which specializes in leadership, team and business development for the Fortune 500, midsized companies, and professional services firms.

“Study after study has shown that collaboration is not a natural phenomenon. It’s more normal to be competitive or to work within your team (tribe),” McDermott asserted during her pre-conference workshop, “Next Gen Alliance Management: Moving your Organization to Ecosystem Performance Excellence,” one of the sessions on opening day of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaboration: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held September 13-15 in Cambridge, Mass. USA.

The interactive workshop—incorporating a business exercise, assessment exercises, small group discussions and case studies—was a highly abbreviated version of the customized all-day course McDermott offers, ASAP TE-AM Training, to alliance professionals.

The pre-conference workshop featured an exercise involving colored blocks distributed to groups at each table. The task was to build a tower with the fewest blocks possible. The goal was to have the tower still standing at the end of the session. As blocks tumbled, comments were heard bouncing from table to table.  “Look, we need to make this stable,” one group said to the sound of collapsing blocks. “Don’t touch the table. Don’t breathe!” another group urged.

“Ok. It’s obvious, we need to create stabilizers,” one attendee said as he grabbed two sturdy water glasses. He placed the mouth side down on one and propped the other glass, right-side up, on top, which created a wide-mouthed platform for the blocks.

“Some materials are being used that are not approved,” McDermott interjected, glancing down at the hour-glass formation “stabilizer.”

Once the time was called and the experiment ended, McDermott asked attendees what they thought about their results. “We created a solid foundation which stabilized the blocks,” the architecturally oriented attendee said. Another pointed out that some might regard the use of water glass stabilizers as cheating. “We spent time planning [to determine] whether it was effective,” another team chimed in.

“So,” McDermott asked, “what was most effective? Each team had a set of 16 blocks, plus a set of assumptions. So, how many teams shared their insights or directives with another team?” There was a long pause as she looked around the room. “Oh, so, no one shared? But this workshop is on creating and sustaining alliances. Yet, you did not talk with the other team at your table?” she asked.

“I’ve conducted other workshops where teams did talk with one another, but it never occurred to them that they should collaborate. I’ve also worked with teams that claimed they had a highly collaborative culture, yet the result was the same. They did not collaborate.”

McDermott explained that the key principle at ASAP is collaboration. The certification ASAP offers, CA-AM certification, involves learning a common language as well as a set of processes and tools. But to build an alliance team, that alliance needs structure. Why? Because collaboration is not natural!” she stated emphatically.

Learn more about McDermott’s session and its purpose in Part Two of ASAP Media’s coverage of the ASAP TE-AM pre-conference workshop.

Tags:  ASAP TE-AM Training  collaboration  collaborative  Lynda McDermott 

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ASAP Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Highlights Exceptional Contributions: Part 2—Building Better Company Culture Through Collaboration

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The following is a continuation from Part 1 of the Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A Panel session, which took place last March at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” held at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California. Highlighted on the podium for their exceptional company contributions were Celine Schillinger of Sanofi Pasteur; Chris Haskell of Bayer; Maria Olson of NetApp; and Kevin Hickey of BeyondTrust. The session was moderated by John W. DeWitt, CEO of JW DeWitt Business Communications and publisher and editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance Magazine, who plied the panel in this with questions on how to build better company culture and frameworks through partnering.

Kevin, when did that [collaboration] light bulb go off for you, or did you always get it? And as an chief executive, how do you drive your company to be more collaborative and successful in partnering?

Kevin: BeyondTrust is made up of nine different businesses. When we came in [to manage the newly combined companies], they had their own system. Our objective was to build the culture on the values we have, and determine what the benefits of the values are and the outcomes. … We tried to get everyone singing out of the same hymnals. We needed structural change, but it really was about culture, and it worked its way down. When we went forward, it was not just a “rah-rah” kick off. It’s was all about communications and driving it throughout the organization.

Maria: The executive team sets the culture of the organization. When I started at HP, it was very collaborative and had a consensus orientation. When I fast forward to some other companies I’ve been to, and it was command and control. The top-level team does set the tone. “Selective collaborations” is what I call it.

You also talked a lot about sales, Kevin. In highly competitive sales environments, there are big challenges. How do you change thought there?

Kevin: You need open communications and clear expectations with everyone in the organization. I don’t care what position you are in the company, if you don’t know how your job affects the company, it needs to start there. You have to be very collaborative, but at some point in time you have to say, “The train is leaving.” Smart people want to get to a decision and move on. Smart people say, if we make a mistake, we will own up to it, adjust, and move forward.

Celine: It’s the paradoxical junction between collaboration and performance via the carrot and stick. We put people in boxes, and it’s crazy. At the same time, research shows people are motived by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. So how do we try to evolve our company’s performance management system? Because of this desire for control, it infiltrates every function other than HR. If we can’t change that, how can we inspire people? How can we cope with the way organizations manage people and also focus attention on something elsethe excitement, the journey, etcetera. It’s not black and white, it’s complicated.

What are some of the strategies you deal with in terms of the need for speed, the need to have deliberation, to not be reactive. How can you balance that today?

Kevin: Sometimes you have to go slower to go faster. You want process. I do find that as a company, you’ll see the people who are doing the rework all the time. To me, you have to guide people to slow down and think about what they are trying to accomplish. All the mistakes I made when I went into partnering in the channel alliance business, it was a quick fix. It really takes thoughtful collaborating up front with people who have done it to get 85 percent of a plan agreed to. It will save you a ton of time on the back end.

For Part 1 in this series, please go here: http://www.strategic-alliances.org/blogpost/1143942/282809/ASAP-Summit-Spotlight-Leadership-Forum-Highlights-Exceptional-Contributions-Part-1-Inspiring-a-Movement-for-Change-Within-Your-Company . ASAP Media’s coverage of the Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A continues in Part 3.

Tags:  BeyondTrust  Celine Schillinger  collaborations  collaborative  communications  Kevin Hickey  Maria Olson  NetApp  Sanofi Pasteur  strategies 

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Vice President Joe Biden Talks Up Collaboration with the New ‘Cancer Moonshot’ Initiative

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I was flipping through Internet news when I landed on a fascinating Today Show interview by NBC News Reporter Tom Brokaw with outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, who were discussing their support for the new $1 billion cancer “moonshot” initiative. Fascinating, because it telescoped a radical change from the not-so-distant “war on cancer” to an evolving collaborative approach.

 The interview was additionally interesting because of the impact cancer has had on the lives of Brokow, who is fighting his own battle, and the Bidens, who lost their son to brain cancer. Joe Biden has “an added degree of passion because of what happened to Beau,” Brokaw told NBC News Reporter Lester Holt in a preview. “He’s turned his grief into energy,” and what’s different about this cancer-fighting project is that we now have more information from the human genome project, Brokaw explained.

What Biden is trying to do is “not tip over the tables, … but to get everybody at the table.” It’s not about the destination, Brokaw said, but “all the people that you bring into the process. [Biden] used John F. Kennedy as an example: We’re going to go to the moon, but to get there they needed to get the best engineers, the best scientists, and the best builders—at the same table the oncologists, the researchers, the big pharma people to turn out the drugs, so there is a common core so everybody is operating off the same page.”

In a separate interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, Brokaw clarified the difference between the “war on cancer” and the emerging collaborative moonshot approach: “The war on cancer was against cancer in a kind of generic way. This moonshot is about the many parts of cancer and the research that is going on in many parts. And the big, big challenge is to drop the silos so that everybody is working toward one goal."

Sound familiar? Now let’s cut to the actual interview, which clarified the problem and highlighted the emerging solution: “The immunotherapists did not work with the geneticists. The geneticists were not working with the oncologists,” explained Biden. “Unlike any other time in the treatment of cancer, all these various disciplines are [now] working together. Now we can do a thousand-billion calculations per second.”

Biden lamented the high price of drugs, much as ASAP 2016 BioPharma Conference Keynote Speaker Dr. Sam Nussbaum said, as covered in this blog post:

‘Dr. Sam’ Nussbaum: Healing the US Healthcare System One Politician at a Time

“There’s one particular drug that works very well that came out in 2002. It cost something like $27 [or} $28,000 a year. It’s now $130,000 a year,” Biden pointed out. “Flat screen TV’s started off at $2,000 a screen; now you can buy the same thing for $300. The more people use it, the more the price goes down. Ironically, the more people have used this particular drug, the price has gone up.”

To watch the Brokaw interviews and see how cancer research is evolving to a more collaborative approach, click here.

More Brokaw Interviews

**Image credit Today Show.

Tags:  2016 BioPharma Conference  alliance management  Cancer Moonshot’ Initiative  Collaborative  Dr. Sam Nussbaum  human genome project  Joe Biden  Tom Brokaw  US Healthcare System 

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