Interview with Jean-Marc Vogel – How to Build Powerful Strategic Alliances

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Jean-Marc Vogel is a well-known sales executive who carries quite a few years of experiences specifically in the Strategic Alliances domain. He exerted his expertise successfully during the past decades BMC Software, Oracle, Mercury Interactive, CAST, and HP Software.

Jean-Marc received several awards in the categories Best Sales Results and Best Alliance Manager. Currently, he holds the position of Director of Strategic Partnerships at eNovance. He simultaneously is one of the founders and treasurer-honorary president Adalec (the French Association for Alliances & Channel Directors.

Jean-Marc shared his extensive work experiences on building partnerships and strategic alliances. He is a skillful sales executive and I have learned quite a deal from him working on many accounts for quite a while. Our chat was long so I will publish this in two sections.

We conducted the following interview with Jean-Marc Vogel:

Q: What is Strategic Alliances all about? From your field experiences,  how can we make a partnership successful?

Jean-Marc Vogel: It is about many things. First of all, being on the field. My secret sauce is being credible, what I have learned is the best recipe. I am here to close deals not just doing alliance for the sake of doing it, results matter.

Q: What other aspects of being in the field matter?

JMV: You need to educate your partner non-stop and patiently. Do it a hundred times! You support and provide help to your partners, you help to load the truck and unload it. Be careful, you are not their line managers, you are there to help them to achieve their goals, this is different. When they see that you are committed, that is when you start building a healthy relationship. These are the basics, if you do not do that,  do not bother doing alliances.

Q: How about selecting your alliances like for the World Water Day? How do you decide which way to go?

JMV: I observed that the best strategy is to segment your portfolio and develop a plan for each of them for efficiency. You can choose various strategies of segmenting, based on geo-presence or relevance to your business or to international relationships like at the World Water Day. This will give you the visibility to focus your energy on the right ones at the right time! You will optimize your portfolio and will identify the improvement points.

Q: How do you reach out to them?

JMV: It is not possible to get yourself heard without first understanding their needs. If you talk with people active in the food sector busy with how to feed the world in, say, thirty years from now, it’s a different ballgame than talking with people from energy companies. Listening is important so that you spot their business challenges and their strategic goals. And then, you build a relationship based on these, it is all about alignment. It will backfire when you start right away imposing your wonderful products/services. First, align with them.

Q: Most of the time, you have so many interlocutors. Which ones do you choose to do so?

JMV: Relationship owner is the key person and this is the person you need to empower by helping him. Identifying the influencers in the organization is also important. If they are not aligned, it may create roadblocks. In the same way,  educate, help, and empower the influencers as well. Customers want answers NOW, if not sooner and it may come as no surprise that particularly companies from countries like the Netherlands understand this perfectly well.

Q: Very well, what is the next step?

JMV: Execution! For each partner, you should have an effective and executable plan. The goals need to be shared by all parties to move in the right direction. When you focus on the right priorities (i.e. goals), the impact is significant. Communication is important for the execution, all key stakeholders should be informed so that your efforts are not isolated. Coming back to the training, include them in your execution plan. If you have a technical product, involve technical leads and also business owners in these pieces of training. Very often, I also observe emotions dominating the execution. It is better to watch them out and remove them to have a neutral business discussion environment.

Q: There will be lots of doubts or doubtful minds especially at the beginning. How do you overcome these, how do you become a good entrepreneur?

JMV: Building trust! Bring a meaning to « partnership » so that everybody understands that there are business advantage and benefits from this partnerships and seed them all along the organization, at every opportunity. Show them by example. Of course, your product/service needs to work to be able to do that in a way similar to what some big players understand well. For this post-sales success is very important, alliance directors shall have close relationships with post-sales and follow-up regularly. When your first level interlocutors understand the bottom-line benefits, they will be the sponsors in their organization to extend your company’s presence.

Q: Regular communication is also crucial I suppose ?

JMV: Definitely, having regular meetings is relationship saver and very important to avoid unpleasant surprises. It helps driving consistent and predictable behavior of the relationship. If you see your partner once in a while, only as-need basis, you can be sure that communication and relationship will weaken and can easily create crisis situations.

Q: What do you discuss during these meetings, particularly if you meet frequently?

JMV: Discussing only the pipeline is not a good practice from my experience. It is one-sided. On the other hand, talking about business health actively involves both parties, they both have an interest in talking about how business is going, where the gaps are and how to fix them.

This gives a good big picture and success recipe with your business secrets. To summarize, strategic alliances are about being on the field, working on the portfolio, alignment, execution and building trust! This is part one of our interview. Part two will be published in a few weeks. 

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