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I have a quote from you, “When collaboration is defined by those who don’t understand it, everyone loses. Collaboration isn’t ad hoc or hodgepodge. True collaboration is systematic and effective, it creates that which no individual would have created on their own because there’s more information among us than there is collected between us. And some problems are solved, some ideas are generated only when your peanut butter is mixed with my chocolate.” How have you seen this really put into practice when you talk about selling and working with channel partners? When there are people who are really selling on your behalf and they’re not on your payroll, they might be across the world from you, how do you effectively collaborate with them?
It starts with having an open mind. The greatest insights and the greatest innovations are not always revolutionary, there are more often smaller evolutions. For example, Airbnb, which created a revolution, was itself a small evolution on things that were already out there. Our brains are an incredible association making machine. It really is associations that create innovation, and there’s a reason that the words “partnership” and “association” are almost synonyms. The idea of making connections between different ideas, and the word for making connections between different people, both is association.
So when your mind is relaxed we make associations. Archimedes solved this incredible problem of determining the gold content of the crown in the famous story where he said, “Eureka.”, not while he was agonizing over the problem, though he spent time doing that. But when he finally took a break from the problem and immersed himself in the tub and the water level rose he shouted, “Eureka,” and the solution to the problem of measuring the gold and the crown was in displacement. So he made this association between the water level rising in his bathtub, and the water level rising if you were to immerse a crown in a measured beaker.
What does this have to do with partners and channels? Well, it has to do in part with how to identify partners, how to identify potential channels, and what is going to be the nature of the partnership. We have ideas about who would make a good partner for our company, we make ideas about how our product relates to other products, but those ideas are most often what our executive mind was able to come up with.
The executive part of the brain, the one that agonizes over problems, is not nearly as effective at making creative associations as a much looser network called the “default mode network”, which comes alive when we play and that executive mind is distracted, the editor is distracted. For example, if you’re networking among people who serve the same people that you do and you’ve got only your executive mind on, you’re going to miss incredible associations if your mind is narrowly focused.
There was a piece that you wrote where you talked about how the best networking night of your life was when you were in a large room full of business people for two hours and you left without a single substantial lead and you said it was one of the best nights. A lot of sales people might say, “Well, that sounds horrible.”
If you go to networking events to get leads you’re doing it wrong. It’s not a lead getting event, there’s a reason it’s called a networking event, it is an event for building your network. If you think about any network, it’s not that the hub, you or me, is connected to everyone in the network. It’s that there is this living, breathing, series of connections. Like this is connected to that, connected to that, connected to that, connected to that, or I am connected to you or connected to that other person, connected to that other person. LinkedIn is a really good example of this, it shows you whether you’re a 1st connection, 2nd connection, 3rd connection or further.
It was a great night of networking for me because I tightened the weave. I went out and connected myself to other people…none of whom were leads but that doesn’t mean that the connection is any less present. I also connected people that I was meeting with to people who were already in my network, so I expanded my network and also tightened the weave. At another event, I made a ton of connections for someone in my network named Rhonda, who happened to also be at that event and we were walking our separate ways.
I kept meeting people whom I knew she should meet, and so I would grab them by the elbow, gently, and say, “You’ve got to meet my friend Rhonda, she’s doing stuff that you’re going to want to know about.” And I would walk them across the room and find Rhonda. I connected her probably to 10 different people that I met that evening. None of those people are likely leads for me, but she wrote a Facebook post that mentioned me and talked about how many people I had connected her to and somebody else responded to that and said, “That’s the kind of guy I want to meet” and so I met somebody else named Trisha.
Now, Trisha is like I am, an associative thinker and a connector. We met simply through me connecting Rhonda to a lot of people and Rhonda finding it remarkable. Rhonda remarked and Trisha then wanted to meet me. Trisha has now connected me to people who are definitely going to do business with me. In fact, I’ve already served some of the people in Trisha’s network. That is the kind of thing that happens when you’re out there. So I went to a couple of networking events, and I went and gave because that’s what there was for me to do that day. I’m not saying that I never get leads when I’m actively networking, I also certainly have my eyes open for that but it’s not my sole purpose.
You’ve talked a lot about this, “Got Your Back” culture, about the six different levels of commitment with this idea of “I’ve got your back”. I think it’s really interesting, and I think it could be applied to determining the kind of relationships that partners have and the levels of practice that even align with partner tiers.
Something that you were just talking about, trying to support and understand how to help your partners thrive is a way of having their back, to tie it into networking…there are two ways of doing it wrong. One is to go out and be a go-giver, and just give and give and give. You also have your mind narrowed to, “How can I make everybody else’s lives better?” And if you don’t also have your mind open to, “And what’s in this for me?” you’re going to miss all those opportunities and you’re going to fail that way as well..
Sometimes value is generated in the form of creating for them and sometimes it’s in the realm of creating for you, and sometimes it’s in the realm of creating for both of you. So that’s a pretty advanced, “got your back” level of play. In the article that you’re talking about I started with level one of “got your back” which is, “I’m not going to throw you under the bus.” I think that when we get in bed with the wrong partners and the people who are really in it for themselves, when there’s a problem, when there’s a customer complaint, if you’re in bed with the wrong partner maybe they will throw you under the bus and say, “That’s not our fault that’s Jen’s fault. Jen over there at Allbound created this problem that you’re having.”
Level one would be really even under duress, you’re not going to throw them under the bus. Level two, gets up to, “If you’re in distress I’m going to help you out.” Now let’s skip some levels. The really high level of play in, “got your back” is really knowing what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses as my partner, and as a part of my team. This isn’t about transaction, this is about really aligning to support our customers.
I’m going to develop my skills, I’m going to develop the features of my product to complement yours, I’m going to find resources to eradicate the weaknesses between us and really serve our customers to the best of our ability. I’ll look for ways to fill in the gaps, I may even look for ways to bring in third partners that are going to fill in the gaps that really are outside our areas of expertise. And I’ve always got my mind on that question of, “How do we build value between us?” Not just for me, not just for you, but how do we build value between us in ways that really support our mission?
To learn more about collaboration, culture, the importance of building relationships and more tune in to episode 33 of The Allbound Podcast.
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Want to hear more? Subscribe on iTunes. Also available through Google Play. The Allbound Podcast explores the evolving fundamentals of partner-based selling in the SaaS and subscription economy. Featuring some of the industry’s brightest minds in channel sales and marketing, episodes of The Allbound Podcast delve into how and why indirect sales and marketing has long been, and continues to be, a proven medium for accelerating growth and success. And how traditional “channel” models are being transformed into efficient, connected ecosystems to supercharge sales and drive customer success while keeping costs low. Subscribe on iTunes