Having spent majority of my professional career in partnerships roles, I feel that probably the tech company erred on the margin of extreme caution and probably lost out on a good candidate.
Managing alliances is as challenging and rewarding as a people management role and requires a very high degree of EQ and IQ. In fact, I would stick my neck out and say that it is probably a tad bit tougher, given that the alliance manager has no direct control over either his/her internal teams or with the partner’s teams. And while a direct people management role comes with its fair share of nuances, managing an indirect team or alliance partner brings its own complex flavour to the mix.
Imagine having to be in a position to provide a 60 second elevator pitch to the partner CEO and then running off to meet the legal folks to persuade them to keep the language in the yet to be signed contract as is. And while you are at it, the partner sales team will need your assistance in engaging with an important client! Throw in a couple of internal roadblocks, personality clashes, channel conflicts, justification to senior management on the need to invest in the partnership, multiple time zones/teams, QBRs etc etc. and I’m sure you get the larger chaotic picture! Trust me, and don’t let the image on top fool you..a lot of times there will be people pushing and pulling in different directions, but that is where a partner manager’s true test comes in bringing people, processes, strategies and mindsets together for a common goal.
Having said that, here are some life learnings on strategic partnership management for fresh blood joining the big bad world of alliances management:
- You are the partner’s advocate in your organization, they are your customer….showcase mutual synergies and long term opportunities.
- Communicate frequently and keep in touch even when you don’t have an agenda item to discuss.
- Partners are organisations and not a single person so they will have diverse opinions, respect them, trust them.
- Partners also have business models: While as an alliances manager, you would want maximum share of wallet & mindshare along with alignment on joint strategic vision, one should realize that the partner will also move in the larger interest of his/her company & there will be times when alignment won’t be possible & priorities may change.
- Pick an internal champion & ensure he/she truly believes in the power of the joint partnership and grow from there.
- Measure and quantify the health of the partnership as often as you can. Use a good old excel sheet or a fancy cascade model, but do that diligently. What gets measured gets done. Period.
- Disagreement is healthy. If both sides agree all the time, then one of them is probably not required. As Einstein said, "If I were wrong, wouldn't one be enough?"
- The total is greater than the sum of parts. No matter how large your organization is, the right strategic partner brings in elements that will help it achieve greater heights and yes, 1+1 can often become 11!