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Q2 Strategic Alliance Quarterly Examines How Alliance Teams Are Handling COVID-19 | ASAP Members Discuss What Is and Isn’t Working in Self-Isolation in Latest Cover Story

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Monday, May 11, 2020

When COVID-19 forced us here in the United States into self-isolation in mid-March, we at ASAP’s editorial operation were finalizing our pre-planned in-depth features for the Q2 2020 edition of Strategic Alliance Quarterly, due to hit ASAP member mailboxes in May. Were we to wait until the Q3 issue to tackle the effect the coronavirus is having on alliance members, their teams, and the partnerships they steer, our readership wouldn’t have been able to see how their peers are coping with this situation until September, by which time we hope it will be old news to at least some degree—and, fingers crossed, that it will be safe to relax some of the current restrictions.

To use an American football metaphor, we had to call an audible with the play clock running down if we were to address the most pressing issue facing all of us in due time. In early April, we dispatched a message to alliance leaders asking the following questions:

  1. What are some job functions/tasks in managing staff or partnerships that used to be in-person which you are having to modify or change?
  2. Are there things you simply cannot do, have had to postpone, or had to figure out another way to make happen, e.g., launch meetings?
  3. How are you managing your team? Are there some new tools or modifications of existing ones that your team is working with now?
  4. How are you employing best practices to advance your alliance goals remotely? To ensure ongoing governance?
  5. Are there elements of what you’re doing or of business and work in general that you think may change even after the current crisis recedes?
  6. Looking back now, are there processes that you wish you had in place that would have made what you are doing now easier?

The responses we received via email and follow-up phone conversations revealed an alliance community coping as best they can, finding silver linings, and making the best of the tools at their disposal and a situation they can’t control. To be sure, there were struggles, challenges, and obstacles that may not be overcome until we have fully conquered this pandemic, but by and large, alliance professionals are soldiering through upheaval and uncertainty in a way only they know how.

Unique IP: The Vital Organ Helping Alliances Survive

Laura Fletcher, associate director of strategic alliances at Cancer Research UK, was one of those who recounted to us how social distancing measures have reaffirmed some of Cancer Research UK’s alliances’ indelible strengths. 

“We have access to intellectual property of leading academics through the relationships that Cancer Research UK has as a grant funder, so the model of bringing multiple academic collaborators together with a commercial partner is not very easily replicated,” she said. “That also means that if the partnerships you build are unique, they can’t be easily replicated with another partner. So that gives us a good foundation for working through this with our alliance partners. We all have the motivation to get through it and continue these alliances on the other side.”

Governance: A Beacon Keeping Alliances on Course Through the Fog

Fletcher’s colleague Elaine Anderson, CSAP, strategic alliance executive for Cancer Research UK’s commercial partnerships, noted how careful thought and planning put into the creation of governance clauses long before COVID-19 ravaged the globe has created a framework that has helped organize critical partnerships and keep them from veering off course.

“If there are decisions to be made, then the decision-making process is clear and everyone understands,” she explained. “Fortunately, when we’ve looked back, we have all those clauses and that has proven to be something useful —just to be very clear on the processes that need to be followed but also to have flexibility, not being very rigid, if things need to be changed.”

These insights from Fletcher and Anderson didn’t make the 3,400-word print-edition feature that ASAP members will enjoy this month—as has been our custom since the founding of ASAP’s editorial operation, we like to give you teasers of what’s to come in our quarterly issue. In our forthcoming cover story, readers will discover:

  • Which elements of the current virtual workplace setup some members feel will become a permanent part of our work culture when this pandemic is in the rearview mirror,
  •  Best guesses at when we might return to some semblance of normal,
  • How teams are recreating the social element that has been lost since we were forbidden to meet with colleagues in person,
  • What alliance work has carried on during the shelter-in-place period, and
  • The initiatives that had to be tabled indefinitely thanks to these drastic public-health protection measures.

After all, we at ASAP’s editorial arm are shifting on the fly like you are, but we too are finding ways to use the latest technological tools to keep bringing you the knowledge you need to stay ahead in your career. We hope our Q2 cover story “Partnering in a Pandemic” provides wisdom, information, and some comfort to help you, too, make it through these unprecedented circumstances. 

Tags:  alliances  Cancer Research UK  commercial partnerships  COVID-19  Elaine Anderson  governance  Laura Fletcher  Partnering  partnerships  strategic alliance  unique IP 

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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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