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Heather Townsend

The Excedia Group


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What to do if you have too many strategic partnerships with other trainers


One of the corner stones of any independent trainer's marketing strategy needs to be collaborating with other like-minded trainers, who share a complementary network or target market. After all, the more people who can bring you in to help with their clients, the greater your reach and influence.

However, it can become all too easy to enter into strategic partnerships with other trainers, and not get the impact or results you want from them. How many coffees have you had with other trainers where you agree to help each other out? How many of these coffees have actually lead to any new work for you? In this blog post, I explore the downsides of one-too-many strategic partnerships, and how to decide which ones to keep and which ones to ditch.

When you are a small coaching and training business like us, one of the best routes to market is via others. We are in the rather nice situation where we have quite a few, very credible training businesses wanting to partner up with us. However, these potential partners are competitors of each other. Not so good.

Our problem is a real problem for many trainers. After all, when you know who makes a great strategic partner for you, it becomes easy to find it.

Why is having too many strategic partners a bad thing for your training business and time?

Before we go any further, let’s examine why having too many strategic partners is a bad thing for your training business. Or should I say, you and your focus?

Firstly, strong strategic partnerships between trainers take time to build. They don’t happen overnight or by magic. Any decent strategic partnership is based on seven things:

  • trust
  • friendship
  • opportunity
  • credibility
  • regular communication
  • shared goals
  • business and personal values alignment

To build up the trust, credibility and friendship takes time. The time that you are talking, meeting, doing things for each other, is time which you could be billing your clients. In effect, until you have started to generate business from the relationship, everything you do before that point is investment. There is no guarantee that the investment in the relationship which pay off in the long term. Therefore, the more strategic partnerships you are juggling, the less time you have to actually focus on working with your clients and finding opportunities to work with more clients.

There is also another reason why you don’t want too many strategic partners. Very often a strategic partnership works in the long-term because each of you knows that the other sends you work. However, if you know that the person you send work to is also sending it to your competitors, it can be a sticking point. Not just a small sticking point, but a big, whopping, sore point. The sort of sore which can niggle at the relationship glue, and eventually, break it down. Therefore, you have to be very careful that you are not, to use an analogy, ‘putting it about a bit too much’ with your strategic partnerships. 

How to decide on which strategic partnerships to keep and which to ditch?

This is a difficult question, because, very often, many of the seven essential ingredients are present in a relationship. However, it will be the missing ingredients which will hold the clue to which strategic partnerships to stick with.

I was talking with one of my new strategic partners last week, trying to work out when to send him work and when to bring in his known, respected and trusted competitor. They both, on the surface of it, offered the same skill set. When we talked this through, actually, we realised that the question would resolve itself over time. Over time, one relationship would develop faster and stronger than the other. This could be because we are working together on mutual clients more often, or because we are socialising together more often. However as a result, this will be the person who I will refer in more and more as time goes by.

At this point in time, do we know which relationship will win out? Not at the moment. More importantly, that’s OK – as long as I am honest and open with both parties, then the question will resolve itself over time. Of course, I could keep on both strategic partnerships, and between the three of us we could grow the size of the pie bigger for all of us. For me, that’s the ideal scenario.

What should you do now?

Before you start ditching or starting new strategic partnerships, take a moment to reflect. Who in your network have you either a formal or informal strategic partnership? The agreement could be written or verbal.

Go down your list and rank each person for the 7 ingredients we talked about in the 1st part of this article. You may like to ‘weight’ the ingredients. You may find that opportunity is more important to you than friendship. Then answer these questions:

  • Who is your most important strategic partnership? What do you need to do to make it even more effective?
  • What is your least effective strategic partnership? Do you ditch or focus on making it effective?
  • Are any of your partnerships bringing you into conflict? If so, what can you do to reduce the tensions?
  • If you needed to increase your chargeable time, which relationship would you spend less time with, as it wouldn’t impact your business development in the short, medium or long term?

Author Credit

Heather Townsend helps professionals become the Go-To-Expert. She is the author of the  award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’ and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 1000 professionals at every level of the UK's most ambitious professional practices.

Heather blogs regularly at Partnership Potential, How to make partner and Joined Up Networking

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Heather Townsend


Read more from Heather Townsend

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