Prioritizing prospective partners

Once a target list of prospective partners is identified, what criteria can be used to prioritize it?

There are several major criteria as well as a number of checkboxes that can be considered.  While not all the boxes need to be checked to have a successful partnership, it will be tough to expect much from partners who don’t score well on the key criteria.  As always, guidelines can help you be strategic, but there are plenty of instances where partnerships are opportunistic–based on the old business development adage that the best deals are the ones that keep coming back to you.

Key criteria:

  • Alignment of goals/business models
    • Similar target buyers (industry, size, title, use cases)
    • Joint value proposition that appeals to prospects
    • Joint agreement on definition of a successful partnership (partnership objectives)
    • Incentives on both sides that encourage cooperation and sales
    • Ability to create working relationships between sales teams.


  • Attitude
    • How interested you both are in working with each other–in other words, buy-in acoss both organizations.
    • The influence and objectives of your champion within the partner. No matter how ideal the partnership, if the internal champion doesn’t have the juice to get it done, you will spin your wheels.
    • Ability/willingness to execute joint plans.


Now for the checkboxes:

  • Technical compatibility: your solution and theirs will need to integrate to lesser or greater degree and both company and partner will need skill sets that can handle the technologies.
  • Size of partner sales force: how many reps can you expect to be selling your product?
  • Partner sales skill set: if your product requires a solution sell, for example, does the partner’s sales force have that ability?  You’re hiring a sales force so they should look like the folks on your team.
  • Experience working with partners: look at the percentage of revenue your prospect derives from partners, the names and types of their other partners, their reputation working with partners.
  • Business reputation: not only do you want to work with those with a solid reputation but their brand may lend credibility to your efforts.
  • Financial strength: just like any investment, you want to make sure it’s a good one.  It’s tough to spend the effort closing a deal only to find out your partner is slow in paying you.
  • Cultural fit: values, decision-making–some companies work well together and others don’t.  You should get a sense for this in the course of partnership discussions.  It’s important to get as much face time with your counterparts as possible so each of you can get a true measure of the other.
  • Strategic advantage: Can the partner create strategic advantage by taking you where you want to go?
  • Number of implementations performed: if relevant to the form of partnership being discussed, this may give you a sense of how much experience your prospect has.
  • Compatible average selling prices and pricing models: it’s tough for your partner to resell a $200K license when theirs is only $20K.   Likewise, if they charge per user per month and you charge upfront, that won’t work either.  It just means you need to work out consistent pricing and set parameters if you’re concerned about the new pricing model bleeding into your market.
  • Ease of training sales, pre-sales technical support, implementation team: How well do the partner’s existing skill sets match your own? How ready is your product to be handled by others?
  • Partner uses your product: some may give preference to those partners who use your product in their business.

Finally, a couple tips:

  • You may want to prioritize geographically closer partners higher–it can make your life easier assuming you’re spending a lot of time with them.
  • Avoid wasting time on prospects who can’t say “no.” The best deals are the ones that keep coming back to you with enthusiasm.

Next: Recruiting Partners.

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