Probably the most common phrase spoken at trade shows, industry forums, or other gatherings of suppliers is, “I can see synergies between our companies, we should get together.” Unfortunately when the trade show booths are dismantled or the forum is over, and everyone runs to their cars or frantically checks their smartphones for the messages, the lofty goal of “we should get together” seems to get lost in the shuffle. Back at the office, the collected business cards quickly get divided into two piles, sales prospects and other. Potential partnering relationships always seem to fall into the “other” category that has a tendency to grow and get stale.
The above situation, all a generalization, probably happens to all of us on a regular basis. It is simply a fact of life in the frantic pace of business, with the focus on tactical issues, longer term strategic issues seem to fall into “when I have time” category, which seldom happens. The key to breaking out of this model and attracting potential partners is to change the perception from a strategic discussion about the future, to a tactical discussion about today. The quickest and most effective way to avoid this situation is to uncover and focus on a new revenue opportunity that benefits both parties. The quicker and larger the opportunity is, the more attention will be made to the potential partnership arrangement. Virtually every company is in constant need of increasing revenue. As discussed in the article in this series, “Revenue: The Wonder Drug”, revenue fixes almost everything. Unforecasted revenue, or revenue from an unlikely source, has special “healing” powers. If a company can make a strong case for its potential availability, partnering discussion can occur quickly.
Although it may seem paradoxical, to speed up the partnering discussion momentum, delay discussions about long-term partnering. Instead, focus on how both companies could pursue the immediate revenue opportunity. The concrete issues and approach formulation will keep the discussions from being hypothetical and keep them practical with the focus on what can be jointly done now to win the current business opportunity. The need for timely responses will keep the discussions on a tactical basis and avoid the “let’s study this approach” typically given to staff people that feel no sense of urgency to make a decision.
Even if the short-term opportunity does not materialize, the discussions will have provided a bi-directional increase in familiarity between the companies that may result in both organizations more aware of similar opportunities that may arise in the future. The goal is to find a specific objective that has a time constraint to provide an incentive for both parties to quickly develop a coordinated plan that will be appealing to a joint customer. Once that plan is developed, the nitty-gritty details of the partnering arrangement can be worked out. Without a doubt, the best way to speed up the process is to have a prospect specifically request that the two companies work together. The more real the identified opportunity is, the more likely that partnering discussion will proceed.