In part 4, we consider the Partner Plan – how we recruit and work with the right partners.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Does your partner plan work?

If you’re working with partners do you have a formalised plan for targeting, attracting and developing your partners? Or do you sign-up anyone that’s interested, and worry about the lack of active partners?

Most companies have some type of plan for how their partner programme will work. For example, a Gold, Silver, Bronze style tiering and associated ‘benefits’. But building these from scratch or improving existing programmes can be a major strain on your resources. However, if you take an integrated sales, marketing, production and commercial perspective, you can ensure that the programme will meet the business objectives. And that applies whether you have a simple requirement for resellers or a need for complex global technology commercialisation.

For our experience we know that building the programme must be accompanied by testing the commercial model early in the process. This will expedite the internal acceptance of the partner programme. In addition, providing clear, objective identification of target partners makes recruitment and qualification a lot easier.

We have developed standardised tools and templates for this process. But to create value, a programme must align with both the solution and the market. In a competitive environment, you also need to ensure you differentiate your plan.

What is a Partner Plan – isn’t it just a programme?

The Partner Plan identifies the activities and programmes required to guide the implementation of the Partnership Strategy.

Why do you need it?

Most organisations wanting to recruit partners will have a well-developed partner programme. But this may be inflexible, incomplete or not support your future business objectives and strategy. If the commercial model is missing, there may be ongoing delays in signing up and motivating partners. Without good partner identification, you may expend effort on attracting and negotiating with inappropriate partners that eventually walk away. That may bring the whole programme into disrepute.

What are the key activities?

Partnership Framework Diagram - 04

Partnership Commercial: Getting the structure and scope/limits of your commercial relationships agreed early on is especially important for larger organisations, but it’s also helpful for start-ups. The Partnership Commercial plan covers the commercial strategy, the preferred commercial model(s), and who should be involved in creating them; for some organisations, this may be a simple reseller agreement, for others a complex Joint Venture agreement. In all cases, the output clearly sets out the commercial relationships, options and limits of authority.

Partnership Programme: The Partnership Programme describes the structure of the relationship with partners in detail. Typically you need to include how you will select, tier and incentivise partners, and how you recruit, on-board and manage them.

Partner Identification: The Partner Identification document converts the Partner Requirements (discussed in an earlier post) into a description of the partners or type of partner to be recruited.

Do you really need all this stuff?

Well, the level of detail needs to fit the purpose. There’s no point in developing detailed plans if you don’t even know if there are partners that want to work with your company. On the other hand, if you recruit the wrong partners and they’re ineffective or enter into commercial agreements that prevent you working with the right partners, you will need to do a lot of un-picking at a later date.

In future posts I’ll delve into other parts of the Partnership Framework. For an introduction, read the Introducing the Partnership Framework post.