Partnering Strategy
Min read

How to Build a System of Trust with Your Strategic Alliances

Vishal Kalia

Trust is at the core and center of every relationship. It varies from trusting a babysitter with your newborn to trusting an alliance partner to go to market with.

Trust is not given, its earned. It takes time to develop trust with your friends, colleagues, business and alliance partners over a set of consistent and predictable actions.

Trust develops thru relationships, but it can also be established thru the assistance of tools where you can track, measure, and set goals in a collaborative manner that operationalizes trust.

Xavier Le Baron, Sr. Strategic Alliance Manager APAC - Microsoft, puts trust at the center of true partnerships and shares his point of view during his podcast with Chip Rodgers, VP of Marketing and Alliances at WorkSpan.

According to him, “The true meaning of a partnership is when each side provides trust and presents a no-brainer value proposition to the other side."

He further adds that “Sometimes the best way to gain the trust of an alliance partner is to show that you are willing to trust them first.”But how do you operationalize trust within your alliance teams?Before we get to that, let’s take a glance at data that showcases how costly the lack of trust is:

  • 60% - 70% of alliances fail within 12 months of the announcement.
  • 40% of the MDF goes unused partly because there is a lack of trust and visibility on the ROI delivered by the usage of these funds.

Alliances fail due to lack of trust among both partners because they are unsure if both companies will follow thru on their promises & next steps.

What is the value of trust to alliances?

As alliance managers, you already know that many companies can not get to their next stage of growth without a robust partner ecosystem.

And trust & respect can be achieved when you have:

1. Open and effective communication

  • You as an alliance manager want to make sure that you are facilitating the flow of information.
  • I understand that alliances cannot be completely transparent, but they can be translucent. We must find ways to go to market with our partners that breeds trust by having an open flow of information when it’s needed.

2. Confidence and predictability

  • Alliance partners should be able to commit to common goals and expectations with certainty and predictability.
  • And without the consistent and collaborative drive towards common goals, trust among partners can be in jeopardy.

3. New opportunities and exponential gains

  • By the end of the day, it’s all about the revenue. You want to show that the alliance you formed is making an impact on the bottom line.

Why is there a lack of trust?

There is a multitude of challenges that alliance teams encounter during their path to forming successful alliances and establishing trust.

According to Gaurav Saini, VP of Network Success at WorkSpan the top 3 Challenges that breed lack of trust are:

1. Lack of operationalization of alliance processes across company boundaries:

  • Traditionally, alliances use a patchwork of broken business processes including manual data collection & reconciliation using siloed spreadsheets.
  • And soon after, nothing happens because the feet on the street never gets aligned with the value proposition and the vision that the leadership team had in the first place. Without a trustable shared system of record in place, there is no single source of truth between alliances.

2. Misalignment in goals & KPIs:

  • There is no system in place that offers a real-time, single source of truth for alliances to track all their alliance activity towards a common goal.

3. Lack of visibility & predictability in pipeline and revenue:

  • Due to the misalignment of goals, there is a lack of clarity and predictability in the pipeline. It makes both partners uneasy therefore it becomes breeding ground for mistrust.

As a result, it has been tough for alliance teams to go back to C-suite and say that they are going to drive 30% of the company’s revenue thru alliances with confidence and back it up with data.

And without a system in place that provides visibility, predictability, accountability, and the clout backed by the data-driven approach to GTM with your partner, there will always be lack of trust.

WorkSpan's alliance management system works like magic by operationalizing the processes to counter the challenges faced by alliance teams.

How do you mitigate the 3 Challenges?

Let's look at them one by one:

Mitigating Challenge #1:

Lack of operationalization of alliance processes across company boundaries.

Best practices for Operationalizing Ecosystems:

1. Operationalizing Joint Selling
  • It is imperative as companies are going to market together, alliances are becoming the key drivers to bring in revenue.
  • Managing joint sales plan and reviewing joint pipeline is still being done the old way via siloed spreadsheets. You, as an alliance manager are relying on sales tools to do alliance work.
  • You can operationalize joint selling process by using WorkSpan and establish a clear step by step process.
2. Faster solutioning
  • When you are taking 4 to 5 solutions to market with a partner, it is essential that you know as quickly as possible that whether or not this is the solution where you want to invest more time and resources.
  • You need a system in place that not only enables you to take the solution to market faster but also enables you to rally all the troops around it.
  • You also want to track the performance of the solution and make quantitative decisions on if you’re going to invest more time and resources into it.
3. Bang for your buck
  • Let's look at an example: imagine if large IHV is going to market with SAP; SAP has to sell their application, their SI partner has to go and deploy that solution and the customer has to buy the hardware. And only then large IHV sees an increase in revenue.
  • It is difficult to measure across many tiers of the ecosystem because of this selling dynamic.
  • This is where the Shift is happening, and we see alliances going from Proof of Execution to Proof of Performance. Traditionally, MDF was given to partners on proof of execution, but the shift to proof of performance is enabling alliances to make better data-driven decisions.

Mitigating Challenge #2:

Misalignment in goals & KPIs:

Alliances create a lot of value, but they have been poor in capturing and communicating that value back to their companies.

And if you as an alliance manager can not ‘quantify’ the value discussions with the C-suite, it would lead to a lack of trust because of misaligned & missed goals.

Best practices in getting value from Ecosystems:

1. Know your value
  • There are five metrics that any C-suite wants to look at: growing revenue, growing mindshare, accelerating time to market, driving innovation & boosting market expansion.
  • Imagine that you have a system that helps you show the value you have driven so far to the company CEO. And propose an alliance that could potentially help you get X times the revenue, X% more market share, etc.
2. Get quantified
  • Within the alliance teams, you need to “quantify” your discussions as sales and marketing have been doing it for years. Once you back up your proposals with quantifiable data & show real-time results, you will gain the confidence of the leadership.
  • It will enable them to align their goals and KPIs by considering your data backed and data-driven alliance proposals.
3. Pre-pipeline is crucial
  • There are 3 to 4 pre-pipeline stages per opportunity. Sales teams are really good at closing deals, but they lack the expertise to identify new markets. We have seen that alliances open up new markets and a new set of customers.
  1. Let's imagine that you go to your alliance manager at the launch of a new solution and get them to nominate ten accounts. Now you have ten new accounts for your company, but imagine talking to ten different partners, and then you will have 100 new accounts & opportunities to go after.
  2. And this is where alliances drive a big impact. However, what you are missing is the lack of a system where you can track the pre-pipeline. You can find that functionality built-in within the WorkSpan alliance management system.

Mitigating Challenge #3:

Lack of visibility and predictability in pipeline and revenue:

When there is a lack of clarity & predictability in the pipeline, it can block your efforts to maximize the value of your ecosystem.

According to Nithya Lakshmanan, VP of Product Management at WorkSpan, the C-suite can gain real-time visibility on the status of various solutions. And it would help them make quantitative decisions and determine where the money goes to maximize the value.

Best practices in maximizing value:

Now that you have started to show the value, the next step is to maximize it. There are three best practices to maximize value:

1. N-way ecosystem
  • When three or more companies going to market with a combined message, the risk is significantly lower for the buyer because the solution is pretested and multi-company.
2. Develop outside in muscle
  • Regional teams would always be better at selling locally. And you want to involve them as early as possible so that they can submit ideas to create better solutions.
  • Then, you can take those solutions to the market and see which one of those perform better, and make quantifiable decisions.
  • You can capture as many ideas as possible from the field teams and pick the ones that have the best chance of success. WorkSpan makes it easier for field teams to submit ideas & proposals.
3. Your Ecosystem cloud
  • You want to own your technology to track and measure your work.
  • Alliances can maintain their ecosystem to manage build-with, market-with and sell-with motions.

A good alliance management system should be able to provide at least three steps for you to build trust within alliances.

  1. Formalize alliance processes.
  2. Engage field teams, not only within your company but your partner’s company as well.
  3. Performance reporting, so you can track real-time data on how your alliances are performing.

With WorkSpan’s alliance management solution, you can check all three steps and operationalize your processes to build trust, save time and increase revenue.

To Sum Up

Trust is the core foundation of every relationship, and there are always challenges in establishing and nurturing trust. By operationalizing the processes with a tool such as WorkSpan, you can provide clear visibility, accountability, and predictability to your alliance relations. And from there trust can not only be established but can grow over time.

Want to learn more? 

You can gain further insights into operationalization of trust via our On-Demand Webinar where Gaurav Saini, VP of Network Success & Nithya Lakshmanan VP of Product at WorkSpan where they share their insights with real-world examples.

About Vishal Kalia

Vishal is the Director of Content Marketing & Social Media and leads our Alliance Aces Community. He has been in marketing for 14+ years and writes about ecosystem cloud, alliance strategies, and digital transformation.

Get the eBook here
Partnering Strategy
Partnering Strategy

Co-Sell Value Workshop

Find out how you score on ecosystem capabilities like processes, pipeline management, collaboration, self-service, automation, tracking and reporting.
Get expert guidance. Explore solutions.

Enter Your Email
Request A Workshop