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Company Skills

by Corinne Bartow
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If it's so obvious that effective partnering stems from thoughtful alignment with company strategy. Why is that alignment so rare and what makes it so difficult to get right?

We often talk about the skills of individuals, and less often about the skills of a company. Yet I wouldn't hesitate to comment that certain companies, such as IBM or Cisco, are "good at acquisitions" or "good at partnering." Both are generally perceived as well-run organizations, but they also demonstrate specific skills as companies. I just had a conversation that set me to contemplating on just what it is that makes a company good at partnering.

I often hear from friends, family and clients airing their partnership business challenges. As I probe, I learn about misaligned compensation plans, poor partner enablement, poorly implemented process, conflicting expectations and other underlying problems. And though each issue deserves individual attention, the common root cause almost always is inadequate route to market planning that results in misalignment between direct sales, professional services and/or business partners. The pieces are in place, but they aren't working in concert. What's missing? A comprehensive, well-communicated strategy that targets direct and indirect sales channels by market segments and/or solutions is critical. What end customer issues are you looking to address and how will you do so? What role will partners play in that strategy? What are you trying to achieve with and through partners? And what employee and partner behaviors are needed to enable success? Once these questions are answered, a plan is needed to implement the strategy.

Whenever a company is good at innovation, acquisitions or partnering, it is like a window into their growth strategy. Whether inadvertent or purposeful, every business is making investments, creating business processes and hiring to support, or possibly frustrate, their key business goals. Partnerships driven by a well implemented strategy develop mutual trust, work more effectively to deliver differentiated value to end customers and reward all parties in the relationship. Fewer cycles are wasted on miscommunications, channel conflict, misaligned compensation, or confusing messages to the customer.

Including partners as an integral part of an organization's go-to-market strategy requires the support of multiple functional groups. As with any cross-functional effort, effectiveness that drives indirect sales requires clear, consistent, thoughtfully-aligned objectives. Conversely, good outcomes rarely happen when partnering is seen as a stand-alone activity, separate from the "core" or direct sales business. Given the resulting drain on an organization. I'm puzzled by companies that go only halfway. That is what was at the root of today's conversation -- direct sales, professional services and partners working at cross purposes instead of collaborating to best meet the client's needs. The organization wants partners to deliver unique added value, but the rules of engagement and the segmentation work was never done. Everyone is frustrated, including the client who is now drawn to a different vendor-partner team that at least appears better aligned to meet their needs.

Even when an organization does not start out highly-skilled, a relentless commitment to alignment coupled with smart investments will get them there. But it doesn't happen overnight and too many organizations lose patience even when they are well along on the right path. Many of the world's most well run firms tap expert, objective assistance to help assess their needs, accelerate the learning curve and assure adoption of best practices. What are you doing to improve your go-to-market alignment and to better focus your sales channels investments?

Last modified on 9/9/2014 7:36:31 AM
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