"If you want to be incrementally better, be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better, be cooperative." - Anonymous
Anyone who has ever started a business venture realizes that the idea born in the creative moment of solitude, quickly needs help in its implementation. Sometimes it's professional expertise, sometimes access to prospective customers, sometimes financing, and often a combination of these and many other "details". The key word is cooperation. Specifically, the ability to identify the right partners, defining the principles of cooperation and their everyday implementation.
Who, then, are the partners? Partners are those individuals or companies with whom we work towards a common goal and share the risk, responsibility and reward in the end.
We could talk about different types of partnerships, but given that this post was motivated by Salespod's entry to the Polish market (IBB, thanks for the invitation), I'll write about sales. Specifically, sales partnerships and the experience we gained in Salespod.
Why do we need someone else?
Everything always starts from solving specific problems of the target market groups. In our case it is managing a team of field workers: usually sales representatives, merchandisers, and service technicians. By using Salespod all the results of their work (purchase orders, work orders, forms, photos) arrive at the office in real time. Also, all the information from the office (inventory levels, customer balances, prices) is available in the field, which significantly reduces the need for phone calls and increases efficiency. The end result is a decrease in the cost of field work while increasing sales.
To get to that goal, Salespod alone is not enough. We need mobile devices and mobile network access. The result is even better if we integrate Salespod with the users' core business system (ERP) and help them organizing field operations.
Since we do not intend to become a mobile operator, nor engage in the sale of equipment or business consulting, to achieve our ultimate goal, partnering is mandatory. In addition, when you start a venture and have no references your basic task when selling it to prove that you can be trusted. At this stage, connecting with established partners may be crucial.
Whom to choose?
When choosing, first pick a primary goal. For Salespod it was a total user experience. We want to take prospective customer and guide him or her through the acquisition of mobile devices, the introduction of Salespod, integration with business systems, and even through the improvement of the existing sales process. All that in order to increase the efficiency of its operations. Because, after all, a measurable result is something we can advertise and ensures us recommendations and growth.
To summarize: we select individuals and companies that provide complementary services. Ones we base our service upon, or ones that add value to it.
The second criterion is the customer base. As it's crucial to integrate with Facebook or Twitter in the domain of social networks and B2C solutions, in the B2B domain it is beneficiary to partner with companies that already have contact with many companies in our target group.
What to care about?
Of course, not everything always goes smoothly. Although the potential of successful cooperation at the beginning looks good, the future carries a variety of situations and it is necessary to define the rules of the game. This is perhaps a good moment to say, in case that things do not work at the beginning, it's hard to expect that it'll be better in the future and stopping further negotiations in this case the best option. The key is to choose with whom we connect with and in what way. With Salespod, we like to keep formalism at a minimum level, but it's good idea to have the main things well defined in order to avoid potential misunderstandings.
In the beginning, we defined who did what. For example, we provided a platform, all further updates, technical support and global marketing. From the partner we expected sales, promotion and customer support in a market where one operates. Depending on the sales targets to which one is prepared to commit, we negotiate about the conditions for a possible exclusivity (and it's length) on certain territory.
In addition, it is necessary to define:
- market potential and sales targets,
- cost of services and the division of revenues,
- initial investment and ongoing activities.
In the initial discussions on all these subjects we can learn a lot about the other side. For example, how well they know the market, how they identify potential users with the shortest sales cycle, how quickly they operate and do they stick to deadlines. Most importantly, here we can assess whether they were prepared on actual collaboration (as defined at the beginning of article), or they enter the partnership with hidden intentions or want to misuse the trust.
In collaboration with those with whom we pass this stage of negotiations with mutual satisfaction it pays off to enter in full force. We shouldn't care to do only a our part of the work defined by the contract. With such approach, in Salespod, that little more effort often paid off with great benefits.
In the end, it is important to say that even in sales partnerships a financial return should not be expected immediately. In addition, sometimes the partnership is important strategically, to ensure the future position and enable growth. Adobe founder Charles Geschke fantastically compared it with hunting ducks: “shoot at where the duck is going to be, not where the duck is."