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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 46

February 1, 2019

#46 Dustin Avol: Finding the Win-Win in Strategic Alliances

Dustin is the Director of Strategic Alliances at Smartsheet, a cloud-based work execution platform.

Currently, Dustin is the Director of Strategic Alliances at Smartsheet, a cloud-based work execution platform. He came on the show to give us an inside look at some principles he’s learned through his experience with strategic alliances.

Alliances Are Puzzles; Not Scales

Any partnership must be beneficial to both sides. The benefit each party derives does not have to be equal, but it does need to be a win-win for everyone involved.

If you’re always looking for a 50/50 deal, you might end up in a stalemate.

Don’t look at partnerships like a scale, trying to make sure each side is equal. Instead, make sure there’s a good fit. Like a puzzle. The pieces should fit together, complementing each other to make a more comprehensive whole. Find a partner that has gaps your competencies can fill and vice versa.

Also, think long-term.

Relationships develop over time.

After all, business development is all about building relationships, right? Look for relationships that offer long-term value to both sides. You may need to give and take in the shorter term.

One more thing - Dustin mentioned that, because of his sales background, he was used to a short feedback loop. You win the sale, or you don’t. Either way, it happens fast. In business development, be prepared for the feedback loop to be much longer. It takes time to build and nurture relationships.

Developing New Products With Your Partners: 3 Things to Consider

When creating new offerings with strategic partners, Dustin said there are 3 primary issues to consider.

First: look at your customers. Where do your customers see the benefit? Customers are a valuable resource. Gather intel from them, and listen to them. Figure out what they need.

Second: think about how you can provide customers with an offering that will benefit them in a way they don’t realize they need yet. A commonly cited example: No one knew they needed a smartphone until they became available.

Finally: ask what constraints are we working with as far as resources. You may have amazing ideas for new offerings, but you’re ultimately limited to the resources you have.

Think big, understand your constraints, then execute your ideas.

Get Outside

As Dustin learned growing up playing beach volleyball, if you’re invested in something, poke around and look for opportunities to be involved. You’ll be surprised at what opens up.

This translates to strategic partnerships and business development. Be interested. Be invested. Look for ways to get involved. Show up to events. Not with any agenda — just show up and meet people.

Dustin says those connections usually become valuable. It starts by you becoming valuable to them. So, focus on how you can provide value to others.


As we mentioned above, partnerships should always be a win-win, but they may not always be a 50/50. Stop focusing on what you can get and think about how you can provide value.

Be open to helping others.

Your network is an asset: In building relationships, you never know what might happen. Build a network that will be an asset. Put together your own puzzle pieces. Perhaps a member of your network will turn into your next alliance, your next source of Intel, or your next boss.

Finally, get outside and get involved.

Listen to the podcast here.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Alliance Aces Podcast, or visit our dedicated Alliance Aces page.

This episode is part of the Alliance Aces Roadshow. Watch the video interview on Facebook.

To contact the host, Chip Rodgers, with topic ideas, suggest a guest, or join the conversation about alliances, he can be reached by: