Questions To Ask When Forming Business Partnerships

George Labovitiz and Victor Rosanksy in their Smart Blog on Leadership discuss the advantages of partnering that is beneficial to mutual customers.  They cite as an example Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble, a key Wal-Mart supplier.  People from both companies were brought together to find means of serving the needs of their shared customers better.  It was discovered that each group had opposing views on how to address the issue.  Through the partnering dialogue, the two parties agreed to align their efforts to provide higher customer satisfaction which resulted in higher sales for both companies.

Many companies have discovered the virtue of partnering. When they don’t have all the skills or resources needed to truly delight customers, it makes sense to partner with a company that can contribute those missing pieces.

Consider the Wal-Mart/P&G story. These two giant companies knew that they weren’t serving customer needs as well as they should. Each considered how they could work together to do better. To explore that question, we facilitated a meeting in which 30-some senior people from the two companies entered into a dialogue. They quickly realized that each had different ideas about what Wal-Mart customers wanted.

Through a partnering dialogue, the two parties agreed on policy and process changes that would better align their efforts and deliver greater value to customers and to themselves. Those changes resulted in a 300% increase in P&G sales through the giant retailer over an 18-month period. And, of course, those sales were rung up on Wal-Mart cash registers.

Partnering like this can take the supplier-customer relationship to a new and higher level and improve each partner’s work processes. Here are five questions that you and your partners should ask one another in order to work together more effectively:

  1. What do you really need from me?
  2. What do you do with what I provide you?
  3. Are there gaps between what I give you and what you need?
  4. What problems might I help you with?
  5. Am I providing things you don’t need?


Answering these questions will help you and your business partners to help yourselves.

Here are a few more tips for partnering with external and internal customers:

  • Bring customers into your organization to meet face-to-face with people other than sales.
  • Use social media technology to link internal functions with external customers.
  • Ensure that meetings whose purpose is to improve processes include representatives of the affected functions.
  • Map each major process’ value chain to identify internal suppliers and customers.
  • Then bring them together with the goal of better understanding each party’s requirements and how each can add greater value. …

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