Perhaps it’s too simple to be called a “formula” for success, but in today’s small- to medium-sized (SMB) marketplace, a powerful combination still rises to the top: carefully nurtured strategic partnerships along with good old fashioned “word of mouth”. It might be tempting to dismiss these “tried-and-true” methods for generating business growth, but in a world where it can be easy to get caught up in the latest fads, some new information shows that these relationship- and trust-based methods can still pack a wallop for creating awareness and influence. Let’s dig a little deeper into this new information:
One Plus One Equals…
In an article by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a small business owner was quoted as saying that “The main objective [of partnerships] is the true synergy of one plus one equals five.” While that conveys the essence of the value of strategic partnerships (at least the ones that work), it might actually sell short the true potential of the partnership. The truth is that, in the case of strategic partnerships, one plus one can create the kind of reach and influence that can be exponentially greater than going it alone. Think about it: by gaining a well-qualified and committed strategic partner you gain quick and easy access to the people in your partner’s sphere of influence. That alone increases your awareness and influence many times over.
Strategic partnerships can help you gain access to potential new customers or referral sources. Imagine gaining an advantage over your competition by creating an exclusive arrangement with a supplier, or getting a much-needed introduction (with a personal endorsement by your partner) to a key decision-maker you had been unable to reach on your own.
Of course, strategic partnerships shouldn’t be entered into lightly. When forming an alliance, make sure it will be a “win-win” for both parties. Make sure you each bring skills, talents, products and/or services to the mix that strengthen both businesses. Be careful to align your businesses with balance. If one party does most of the heavy lifting, the partnership will likely fail.
The NFIB article recommends first mapping out a plan based on your purpose, and then identifying possible partners based on brand alignment, location, complementary products, your respective abilities to deliver, and a shared target market.
This Just In…
The Harvard Business Review last month published an article called The Freelance Economy Still Runs on Word of Mouth. It cited a new survey conducted for MBO Partners, a company that provides services to independent workers, or “solopreneurs”. In this era of online “e-lancing” opportunities, the survey found that not only do most independent workers still get their projects and assignments by word of mouth this method is even more important to the most successful solopreneurs. In fact, the survey found that 84% of solopreneurs earning more than $100k per year get most of their assignments via word of mouth. This compares with leads coming from online talent marketplaces (2%) and social media (1%).
Word of mouth, of course, is built, in part, on referrals by satisfied customers. But it also requires having an engaged professional network. According to Steve King, partner at Emergent Research, the firm who designed the MBO Partners survey, “networking is sales now.” A prior study conducted by Emergent Research found that networking ranked significantly higher than traditional sales and marketing in a list of attributes important to success as an independent worker.
At Sales Xceleration, we find tremendous power in the 1-2 punch of creating strategic partnerships while encouraging word of mouth. Unlike navigating the protocols and hierarchies in corporate America, this tandem works particularly well in the SMB market space which has more direct lines to key decision makers. Because of this, and because the small business owner’s predisposition is normally to seek services from outside experts vs. adding to internal staff, the SMB market continues to prove lucrative for experienced professionals such as the sales leadership Advisors of Sales Xceleration. Of course, because success in the SMB world demands a different approach from corporate America, Sales Xceleration teaches our Advisors how to create key connections and leverage the power of strategic partnerships and word of mouth.
If you would like to learn more about how Sales Xceleration can help you develop the necessary skills to reach and serve small- to medium-sized businesses, contact us today at 844.874.7253.