Published on 2013/07/11

Four Steps to Creating a Lasting Training Partnership

Using Relationship and Resource Selling to Develop Partnerships
Developing key partnerships with corporations can be a strategy for success for higher education institutions looking to generate a steady stream of business from employers.

I’m loving it; McDonalds. It’s in the game; EA Sports. Just do it; Nike.

Every day we are bombarded with brands. Every company has a sales pitch. Every company has an ad, whether it is commercial or print. We are a commercial society ad nauseum. And in spite of being bombarded constantly with sells every day, tomorrow will fare no better, because  more techniques and strategies will be employed to push a sale or service.

This inundation is not limited to business-to-consumer (B2C) sales but is also prominent in business-to-business (B2B) sales. In higher education, these business-to-business “sales” can be a substantial pipeline to reach consumers; but how do we avoid soliciting other businesses also busy selling their own services to students? It is through a concept I call relation and resource selling. Non-profits have the upper hand when it comes to this possibility because they already have a history of involvement in the local community. This sort of selling is a strategy Stephen Covey coined “win/win.” Relation and resource selling in the higher education industry is determining what potential partners are lacking and filling that void by serving as a resource, and then building a relationship with the client around the resource. This is then followed by “sales” opportunities with the client.

Covey said it best when he said, “seek to understand first, then be understood.”[1] Since we are in a difficult economic time, everyone’s sales tactics seem to be exacerbated to the point of irritation. How we can avoid becoming a nuisance to partners who are bombarded with information is by doing as Covey says, seeking to understand the nature of what our clients need (filling a void) and then being understood (making a sell). With this style of selling, we are no longer viewed as solicitors to be avoided but, instead, a welcome part of a company’s strategic plan.

Steps to Implement Relation & Resource Selling – B2B

1. Be Clear About What You Need

Recruiting at random is just as frustrating as cold calling. Deciding on what it is you need as an educational institution — usually, increased enrollment — gives you a plan to follow and also a way to assess your results. Unclear goals only make partners leery about doing business with you.

2. Know Your Potential Partners’ Needs

Read the strategic plan of potential partners. It contains a wealth of information including what they lack or need. Knowing this information can be the basis of the partnership because their weakness may be your strength.

3. Develop a Win/Win Offer a Potential Partner Can’t Refuse

Upon reading the strategic plan and pulling out all of the weaknesses the partner has that you can assist with, develop an offer that makes them want to build an alliance with you. In this tight economy, institutions and businesses are all too eager to allow someone else to “absorb the costs.” These may not literally be expenses; rather, shared responsibility of ensuring tax dollars are used appropriately and shareholders are kept happy. Helping the potential partner see why they should do business with you helps them open up to your long-term “sales” needs by sending potential enrollments your way.

4. Go in For the Kill … I Mean, Sale

After the partner’s guard is lowered, they no longer view you as a nuisance but, rather, as a key partner. You can then develop a pipeline which will send word-of-mouth opportunities your way. Having a good partnership leads to a relationship with the partner, which can result in increased enrollments for your institution.

Many higher education institutions have relied on their own strength marketing to customers, but developing partnerships with other schools and businesses in the community can lead to reduced spending on advertising campaigns and more reliance on fortifying strong relationships. This is a marketing tactic that has proven time and again to be the best and most economical method to attract and retain customers.

– – – – References

[1] Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, (New York: Free Press, 1990)

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Readers Comments

Rob Young 2013/07/11 at 8:17 am

It’s vital to have an understanding of the potential partner’s expectations and objectives before entering a partnership. This may seem like common sense but, having worked in higher education administration for more than a decade, I’ve seen many cases where institutions partnered up after simply assessing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and determining fit that way.

On paper, having a partnership where one partner’s strengths are the other’s weaknesses seems like it would result in a win-win situation, but that’s not always the case. It’s important not to overlook one partner’s expectations and its plans to measure success to ensure there are common, or at least complementary, objectives between partners.

That way, there will be fewer conflicts about which partner is getting “the better end of the deal,” how the partnership should evolve and so on.

Tawna Regehr 2013/07/11 at 2:06 pm

This is a helpful article. All too often, an institution will identify its weaknesses and then go about trying to resolve them through its existing capacity. This article presents a much more logical approach, which is that an institution should seek out partnerships with those whose strengths are its weaknesses. It’s an acknowledgement that an institution can’t be all things to all people — and that this is okay. Focusing on your strengths and finding partners to fill the gaps will go a long way in resolving existing issues while conserving limited resources.

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