We recently spoke with a business owner who has successfully grown his business through partnerships. Partnerships you enter in order to get new customers can be tricky.

So we discussed: aside from the strategic opportunity, what does it take to make a business-development partnership actually work? 

Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about working with a partner in order to get more customers.


share values with your business partners
1. Do you share the same values? 

This is really important because any time you invite someone else to play a role in your sales process, you’re inviting them to set expectations for your customers. 


  • Does your partner have a tendency to exaggerate?  
  • Does your partner agree with you on what is considered inside and outside ethical bounds when it comes to sales and marketing? 
  • Are you equally as aggressive? Or are you aggressive in the same way?


partners prioritize partnership equally
2. Do you prioritize the partnership equally? 

In a business-development partnership, one party often gets new customers and the other gets some other benefit (commission, upsell opportunity, etc.). Given that the benefits are unlikely to be the same, will you both be equally committed?


If you’re always replying quickly to the other party’s emails but when you send something you don’t hear back for days, that’s a red flag. It can mean your counterpart does not prioritize this partnership as highly as you do. If this is happening you may find yourself disappointed when your partner becomes distracted with their other priorities and stops paying attention to your partnership. 


who owns customer relationship in a partnership
3. Who will own the customer relationship and data?


  • When the customer needs help, who should they contact? 
  • Do you both have a right to send emails to the customer? 
  • Can you both sell other products and services to the customer? 


Getting these questions answered upfront not only addresses key aspects of your partnership but also makes it easier for your joint customers to work with you. Consider what you can do to make your situation simple and non-confusing for your customers.


test drive your partnerships
4. Is there any way you can test-drive the partnership? 

Don’t have answers to all the questions above? See if there’s a way to run a time-limited, low-risk collaboration to get some insight into whether a full-on partnership is a good idea.

So why did the partnership work for the business owner we recently met? Because the service his business performed allowed his partner to stop doing something they no longer wanted to do. By no longer doing that activity, his partner was able to reinvest that time and money into more strategic activities, while also reaping direct cash benefits from the partnership itself.