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Even as the IT industry climbs from the recessionary hole of recent years, companies are making the decision to remain conservative with their spending. There won’t likely be a return to the days of “free-spending”, when time, money and resources were abundant. Unfortunately, too many sales reps see this decision as a hindrance rather than an opportunity to make money by becoming the solution to their clients’ problems based on the partnerships they form.

During the 90s, organizations moved away from one-stop shopping to choosing all aspects of their IT environment. They built their own infrastructure based on best in class products. They had the luxury to devote staff to selection and integration of multi-vendor products. IT staff was available and many thrived on doing research to understand the minutest differences between software offerings, their capabilities, and their technical direction. They prided themselves on being more knowledgeable than the people selling to them. In short, they were seeking the next cool technology to spend money on.

Today, the IT survivor companies either have fewer resources overall, or have made the decision to remain conservative with their spending. This has forced IT professionals to continue to do more with less. As they research today, they do so from the perspective of how this application or component or middleware will help do the business of IT more effectively in support of the overall company. More non-IT people (line of business managers) are involved in IT decisions and have less interest and time to figure out product specifics and details.

With people and time resources at a premium, business executives are relying on the expertise of vendors to help them identify the right solutions and to pull those solutions together. They still want best in class solutioins, but they no longer want to invest their resources to find them. They are looking to their primary providers to provide cross-vendor, one-stop shopping with expertise.

Next page: Why this is a golden opportunity

Your Golden OpportunityYou can be the one-stop provider for your customers through partner relationships, both formal and informal. While organizations establish partnerships and alliances every day, the true partnering occurs at the rep-to-rep level. And, as a manager, it’s your role to accelerate partnering within your team.

To get started, each rep has to figure out which partners to focus on for their individual territories and account sets. Which companies have product or service offerings the customer in the territory would value? Which companies, partnered with you, could emerge as a combined strength in servicing the customer? If you aren’t already formal partners, should you be? Or, can you try working together to determine if you should formalize the relationships between your organizations?

Encourage reps to work with reps from other partner companies where there are complementary products or a synergy of services relationships. Beware of the “Big Dogs”, those companies that already own the markets your reps are targeting. They don’t need your company and won’t stand behind your partnership. Look instead to companies working to establish or strengthen their market share.

Once you have identified the companies best suited to partner with you in a specific territory, find the right people to approach. Look for reps from partner companies that see the potential return on the time invested and are willing to make that investment. Launch the relationship by developing a joint lead generation and sales strategy or by identifying an account to approach.

Next page: A Worksheet for Success

A Worksheet for SuccessDetermine how you will find leads – the programs, events, campaigns you will execute jointly. Together decide who will do what tasks in each.

Whose list will you use? Who will the email come from? Who will do the presentation? How will you each follow-up?

As you plan joint sales strategies, anticipate the problems you could encounter in your partnership. What if a company doesn’t want to work with both of your companies? What if you already have a relationship in an account with a competitive partner? Who owns the client relationship?

Coach your reps to execute on the plans they have developed with the partners. Push them to trust the partners enough to try the relationships. Encourage them to actively build a give and take partnership – and not sit back to wait for the opportunities to come to them from a partner.

For the secrets to help you manage your partner strategy to success, visit KLA Group’s website to request a free Sales Partnering Action Plan worksheet.This worksheet will start you down the path of partnering success.

Kendra Lee is the President and founder of KLA Group, LLC, a services company that focuses on helping small and large businesses improve their sales results across their organizations. The company, which specializes in the IT industry, helps people in every department that deals with customers including sales, marketing, consulting services, customer service and support. The company can be reached at 303-741-6636, or at