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a blog by Chris Barrow

What to do in August when business is slower – and an insight on developing Strategic Alliance

There are some clients who bring out the best in you – and one of mine is Simon Reilly of Vancouver ( with whom I have just finished a spectacularly effective 15-minute phone call. Simon and I have enjoyed an email dialogue in recent weeks on the topic of developing Strategic Alliance relationships and I have shared with him my top 6 tactics: 1. make a list of s/a prospects 2. begin with the largest first 3. find out who the key decision makers are 4. ask the decision maker what their members/clients main concerns are 5. ask “how can I add value to your members/clients in addition to what you offer?” 6. ask for an alliance More on these 6 tactics is contained in our free tips sheet on the subject. During August, I myself will spending time with my business manager, Barbara Trotter, on a UK tour to meet our potential s/a partners in their locations to ask them the questions outlined above. Its a great use of time when sales activity can sometimes be seasonally low. But in speaking with Simon I reminded myself of something I knew 10 years ago and had forgotten. Remember number 2 above “begin with the largest first?” There is a trap for the unwary. The trap is to include large corporates in that list. What I should have said is “begin with the largest owner-managed suppliers to your niche first.” In earlier days I have tried to forge s/a partnerships with large corporates and found the following risks: 1. It can take an age to work from your initial contact, through higher levels of management, to find that key decision maker – time that you may not have available or have the patience for; 2. If the key decision maker is head office based, they may not be a key decision maker after all – it may go to committee and then you can wave goodbye! 3. what is promised on paper may not be delivered in reality as the people driving the operational side of the s/a may not have a vested interest in its success – it will not pay them a bonus or get them promoted; 4. even if you find your key decision maker, if they are promoted up, down or sideways later on, you will not only have to start all over again with their successor – but that successor may well see you as a threat to their security as the new broom sweeps clean. 5. even if your ideas work, head offices often suffer from “not invented here syndrome” – your ideas are great, but we didn’t think of them, so we don’t get bonuses or promotion. Lots of challenges there. Better to follow this course of action: 1. contact the top 10 relationships/clients in your niche; 2. ask them to name the top 10 suppliers of b2b services – but specifically request owner-managed businesses that they trust, respect and like – that will narrow the list down. Then you will have your existing relationships identify your top potential s/a partners for you. The key decision maker will be the owner and the owner will be far less likely to manifest the problems mentioned.

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