Imagine you’re going through the request for proposal (RFP) process. You send out a question set to a few potential partners, and then you play the waiting game until you receive the proposal submissions. Reading through them, it’s pretty straightforward as to what each company does. But who are they? How do they work?
As I’ve said time and again, a new business partner needs to be part of your long-term strategy. But the typical request for proposal alone just doesn’t cut it anymore; it doesn’t answer these questions.
It’s time for a new approach to finding a business partner by putting the focus on relationship building.
Don’t skimp on the amount of time and energy needed to find the best candidate for the job. The following process will help you find that “great” business partner and build stronger relationships:
Step 1: Define the role
During this process, you’ll need to take an internal assessment of your company’s strengths and perform a gap analysis. Our gap analysis tool, called ResultsBuilder®, may help with this. When determining what role you need to fill, think about how much support you require, what your budget allows, and whether you’d like a local or national partner to support your organization.
Step 2: Source your network
When searching for a partner, it’s okay to talk to other sources. Try speaking with other partners your company already has to see if they work with someone who could be a good candidate for you. Get input from a trusted advisor, or even speak with previous partners.
Step 3: Conduct interviews
Stop sending a lengthy questionnaire to interview your candidates; great partners are built from great relationships. It’s important to get to know the people that make up the organization. Try having an informal meeting over coffee, or just ask high-level questions that won’t drain the person you are talking to. Just getting to know one or two people at the potential partner firm can help you make your decision.
Step 4: Evaluate finalists
The best way to see how a potential partner works is to provide a behavioral question. Give them a business challenge to solve that you’ve created or had in the past. Then ask for a presentation of the solution to your decision-making team that is limited to 30 minutes, including Q&A. Indicate how many presenters you prefer attend, and be clear that it is not a service and product presentation.
Step 5: Make your selection
Now it’s time to review the presentations and evaluate the solutions. Take in all the information you’ve received for each candidate and then think about the gaps you need to fill with each one. It’s also helpful to go back to where you defined the role to ensure you select the partner that will fulfill your needs. Once you’ve made a decision, communicate it to all participants.
The next time you’re looking for a new business partner, remember that making your selection is like finding a key employee. If you think of it this way and make it personal, you’ll feel more confident in your choice and find greater success in carrying out your business strategies and accomplishing your goals.