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Wow, There Are a Lot of Partners Out There! Choosing, Engaging and Developing the Right Partners
December 16, 2016
Wow, There Are a Lot of Partners Out There! Choosing, Engaging and Developing the Right Partners


This post is part two of a six-part series. Want to start at the beginning? Here you go.

Much like Aziz Ansari questioned in his book Modern Romance, it can be challenging for channel sales and marketing leaders today to know how to engage partners, choose the right ones and develop relationships in a market full of potential partners. The Paradox of Choice, a book written by psychologist Barry Schwartz, offers a concept and an explanation of why humans often experience difficulty making and committing to decisions.

Too Many Choices Cause Anxiety

The average consumer is constantly flooded with options from menial decisions, like which brand of shampoo to buy, to major decisions, like deciding on a job option or romantic partner. Schwartz argues that the sheer number of choices available cause consumers anxiety because they struggle with the consequences of their decisions. This theory has been explored and experimented with many including Shankar Vedantam (Hidden Brain, NPR), Malcolm Gladwell, and countless universities.

The relevance of this concept on navigating partner relationships is two-fold. The first being how an organization chooses how to engage with partners. An organization that is seeking a partner has endless options, although not all of them would be ideal fits for the organization to reach their goals. According to Vaughn Aust, Executive VP of Marketing and Product at MarketStar, an organization should funnel their partner prospects similarly to how they would a customer prospect. This narrows down the options and saves your organization from either wasted time with a partner that is not a good fit or becoming paralyzed or stalled from the mass options of partner choices.

Additionally, Schwartz argues that consumers are overwhelmed and therefore paralyzed when it comes to making a tough decision and the effects are lasting. Simplification is key. To stand out in a sea of options for both your partners and consumers, simplicity and differentiation are paramount.

Embrace Simple Processes

There was an experiment done at Harvard exploring the Paradox of Choice and happiness with students. Students were asked to pick between two photographs that they equally enjoyed and were comparable in almost every aspect. Half the group was told that they would make a decision and it would be final, while the other had four days to choose. Those that had to make a final decision in an instant were significantly more satisfied than those that were given the four days. This is because of the simplicity of the process.

People often believe that having options will make them happier because it will allow them to make the best choice for them. However, when a decision or process isn’t simple, the consumer is unsatisfied with their decision. The problem with the two photographs is that they were comparable in almost every aspect, making the decision for the student tedious, wearing and unsatisfying. To make the decision of choosing you as a partner easy, you need to simplify your process and convey your differentiators in a clear manner to make you the only choice, leaving your partners and consumers satisfied without a doubt.

For any organization, being too similar to your competition can be a death sentence, but this is where your partner ecosystem can help differentiate you in the market. As Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, stated at CO:LLABORATE 2016, partners are more important than ever because they facilitate a customer success approach to ensure recurring revenue through subscriptions by helping tackle challenges that would create a poor, complicated experience for consumers.

A true partnership is based on how the two entities mutually benefit each other. If your partner is a not a good fit for you and your organization, it is unlikely that they will be for your customers, resulting in unqualified leads, a lost deal, or a mess for your customer success team. To avoid these pitfalls, it is important to understand your market, competition and define clear concise differentiators to build a successful relationship with your partners so that you can both reach your goals.

The Take-Aways

  • Establish clear differentiators from your competitors for both your partners and consumers.
  • Always have a simple and well-planned process once partners are engaged. The less strenuous the process for your partners, the better.
  • Filter, Filter, Filter! Don’t waste time and energy on partners and methods that aren’t a good fit for you and organization