I recently had an interesting business development conversation with a founder that I thought others might find interesting.
His company is just about to finalize a deal with their first marquee partner. He was wondering at what point he should start using their name in conversations with other prospects.
The social proof of another of big name in the space is tremendously valuable for them. It provides optics that can be leveraged to attract new partners/customers. Thus, the earlier they can take advantage of this the better.
One (dangerous) Approach:
You could start telling other prospects that you’re working with the partner despite the fact it hasn’t been finalized.
The upside is that you might be able to expedite landing additional partners.
The downside is that you risk the initial partner finding out that you’re leveraging their brand’s klout to attract competitors. This doesn’t reflect strongly on you as a partner. It could even cause a deal to fall apart.
Do they really want to take a chance on doing business with a young company that’s using their name to attract their competitors before a deal has even been inked?
A Better Approach:
You can still leverage with the likely relationship with the marquee partner without explicitly stating that you’re working together.
This can be accomplished by implying you might be working together using a more indirect statement. An example statement that I learned from the one and only Kenny Herman:
“Yeah, one of the things that [marquee partner] loves about us is that every customer gets a dedicated account manager.”
Did you see what I just did? I didn’t say that we were partners. I just said they love us which implies that we may be working together.
After you say this one of two things happens:
- They quietly accept the fact that you’re probably working with their competitor already. This will prompt more serious follow up discussions
- They interrogate you about whether you have a relationship with the company you name-dropped
Their likely rebuttal:
“Wait, so you guys are already working with [X]”
You can still leverage the likely partner without jeopardizing a deal using the same tactic: make an indirect statement that implies you’re working together. Here is an example of how to do this:
“We can’t speak publicly about that right now, but let’s just say we’re going to some announcements pretty soon that we’re pretty excited about…”
Again, I never explicitly said that we’re working together. I just used indirect statements to accomplish similar social proof while safeguarding myself from jeopardizing the partnership. #WIN
Note* I often use the “one of the things [X] loves about us” even when I have an official relationship with a company. It’s a much classier way to namedrop than saying “hey we work with X,Y, and Z.” It also prompts them to interrogate YOU about your existing clients/partners instead of you pushing it on them…but we’ll save how to make someone you’re selling qualify themselves to you and why that’s so powerful for another post ; )
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