I often hear: if you don’t ask, the answer is always “no”.

Sure. It never hurts to ask, and it takes courage to ask for a hand-up. By asking a coveted partner to align with you, you find out if you’ve earned the “yes.” But, the real truth is, the one who is asking is the one who brings less value to the affiliation or transaction. The one on the receiving end of the request holds all of the power and, by the nature of the proposition, offers more perceived benefit to the opportunity at-hand.

One of the five soft skills we help our clients to implement is the ability to form powerful partnerships, in order to grow their circle of influence exponentially. But this skill is the last of the five skills that we help our clients hone, for a very specific reason: you have to bring equal value to the proposed partnership. If our clients master the vital first four soft skills, the partnerships happen with no resistance; and often our clients are approached for partnerships, because they are attractive.

Business owners rush to ask for a leg-up or a big contract way too early in the process.

First, you must develop your clarity in messaging; otherwise your potential partners will not understand what you are bringing to the table.  Once you have clearly articulated your value, you have to back that up with credibility. You SAY you bring value, but can you prove it? Beyond clarity and credibility, you have to show scalability. Otherwise, your business is not able to grow, and no one wants to partner with a business that is stagnant. That’s like roping your ship to a cement block; eventually that stagnant partner is going to drag and slow your progress. Fourth, you have to show that you have visibility in your market; in your community, on line and in the media.  A highly-visible company that is known for its clarity, credibility and growth potential is a very attractive partner.

I saw this strategic-but-fundamental progression play out this morning. A coveted partner that we have been working to align with for three solid years asked us to play ball today. But, it took a three year grind to show that we earned this partnership, and we didn’t stop giving direct value to them until this new strategic partner truly stood up and took notice…and they came to us with a proposition.

Our new strategic partner said the magic words today at our meeting: “This should have happened before now. We know that you sharing this partnership with the community will get a ton of visibility, which will help raise the awareness of our objective.” 

Boom. Equal value, mutual respect.