Do You Really Have A Partner?

The following post was written by Josh Caldwell, who is a Sr. Account Manager in our Boston office.

I work in sales. Anyone who looks at my profile can ascertain what I do. Yet, even I being as sympathetic as I can be to fellows of my profession; there is one thing that grinds my gears. The more than liberal use of the moniker “Partner” within the business setting. So I want to take a look at three groups of “Partners”.


I get emails daily, possibly hourly, that always start with a friendly “Hello Partners!”. Most of the time from someone I don’t know. These are easy to dismiss as flagrant spam attempts at selling. There is however, a more devious use of partner that I see a lot more than I would like…

Category Two: Rubber-Stamp Partner

Companies that use partner as a staple of their business on the surface, but lack true follow-up. A pillar of their values is their partnership with their clients. Yet these companies use partners as a buzzword, a facade, and do nothing on the back end to live up to that title. What does a partner actually do for you and your end users? Are they rubber stamping their marketing materials to buy into the goodwill associated with this term? They might even throw it in their name as concrete evidence of their commitment.

Maybe we need to bring a different term into our lexicon, because these types of companies operate under the guise of partnership, when really it is another sales technique. They just happen to be slightly more crafty than the email spammers.

Category Three: Symbiotic Partners

Then there is the third category; the true partners to you and your organization. This is the area I like to associate myself with, and I hope my ‘partners’ would agree. (I know what you are thinking, “of course you would say that Josh, isn’t that a little self-serving? Presumptive even?”) You’d be right, but let me explain because this is a distinction that matters:

If I sell a company a product/service that fills a need, that doesn’t make me a partner. That means I have done the bare bones of my job, and I have a client. Having someone on my client list doesn’t make me a partner… period. Providing value and insight outside of my core competencies as a company…that makes a partner. 

For example, my core competency is to source talent in the IT space. If you have a role, I fill it (with my stellar team of recruiters of course).Transaction complete. However, what I offer my partners goes beyond this transactional conversation. I provide that partner with market intelligence, forecast trends, and anticipate needs.  I help out even without the guise of a deal. I invest time, money, and resources without the promise of ROI because that’s what a partner does.

Let me go deeper.

Example One:

We had a client whom was looking at creating an international team in an area that we as a company can’t staff in -Pakistan. They had an idea of what they wanted to do, but had a lot of blanks to fill. What was market rate for these rolls in that area and  what were possible cultural barriers of creating a team in that area? Within forty eight hours we had a comprehensive breakdown of market rates for their team and what to expect. Did I see $1 from that? No.

Example Two:

We had a client that was looking at creating a new role at a location they had just purchased. This role needed very specific technology experience. They asked us to assess the market for sourcing this type of role. After some due diligence we were able to track out a population density map for that skill set in that area. Turns out they had 85% of the available resources internally. The chance of finding another candidate with that skill set was almost 0%. So instead of posting the job and seeing no traction for months on end we were able to save them time and money and they ended up training within.

So when you look through your list of partners, where do they fit on the list? Are they paying lip service to the idea of a partner? Or do they truly provide value outside of the transaction? -You’ll be surprised by the answer.


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