Going International: How Do You Find the Right Partners?
From the first day DWC was founded, we knew we wanted to go international. The Dutch market immediately seemed too small for our big ideas. There was only one thing still missing: an international partner. But how do you find good international partners? That turned out to be a great challenge. In this blog we will tell you all about our struggles, and what we learned in the process of finding the right partners.
How to Localize Potential Partners
One of the first challenges we faced with finding international partners had everything to do with localization. Where are these potential partners hiding? Where do you look for them? One way we tried to connect with international partners was at international fairs. And that usually turned out to be a good way to go. The benefit of meeting potential partners at a fair is that you can talk to each other face to face right away with the first talk. That is important for making a connection. If you talk to someone face to face, you can better tell how he responds to the things you say, what emotions he is showing, whether he is nervous or very confident, etc. That helps with the orientation towards the most suitable partners. In addition to meeting people at fairs, we also look towards other large brands in our field. What partners do they have? Could they be a match with us too? The benefit of searching for partners this way is that you know this partner already has experience in your field and with your type of product.
Finding the Right Match
But once you have found a potential partner, how do you know he is right for you? We learned (the hard way) that it is all about expectation management. In the beginning we didn’t really focus on this. We were happy when someone said he was interested and wanted to work together. If his website looked good, and he seemed trustworthy, we would just go for it. Looking back now, we often should have asked more critical questions before agreeing to the collaboration. What is his plan with our product? How is he actively going to contribute to the partnership? We are looking for a go-getter. Someone who calls up his network and arranges meetings. Someone who thinks ahead about what materials he is going to need to impress his clients.
Another thing we find important in a partner is whether he is transparent. Does he communicate well and keep us updated with any changes or new developments? And how does he solve potential problems? These are all questions you can ask a potential partner right at the first meeting.
During the first meeting you can already find clues about a potential partner’s way of working. Is he actively asking questions? Curious about the business plan? If he doesn’t ask any questions at all, or isn’t even a bit curious about the specifics of the product and the business, then we can tell right away it probably isn’t a fit.
Evaluating the Network
We also learned it is important to thoroughly evaluate what a partner can bring to the table. Is his network relevant for your product? Is he supported by large sales teams spread across the country? Or is it just one person covering a country the size of the United States. You want to consider how large the area that he is covering really is. If it is a large area, with many potential customers, you will want a partner that is supported by a large team.
Also, it is helpful to look at what other products he is representing. Are these products similar to yours? Does his style match with your style? If the potential partner has many products that are similar to yours, it could be a plus. You will know he has experience in selling something alike. On the other hand, you might need to be wary of whether you will be provided with enough attention from this partner. Perhaps you are just one of many to him, and you will not receive the focus you need.
A Moment to Review Can Be Valuable
Something we never really did in the past, but that we would definitely recommend now, is to plan a reviewing moment of the partnership every so often. At this reviewing moment you can evaluate if the partnership is still working as you want it to work, and whether you are both still on the same page. We often noticed that a partnership wasn’t really proceeding as we expected or wished it would. But without something like a reviewing moment, it is very difficult to decide whether you are going to end the partnership right away or just wait a bit longer and see where it goes. If you choose the second option, you will likely go ahead with the partnership far longer than you wished you would have. This dilemma will be less of a struggle when you have clear moments scheduled in which you force yourself to decide to stop or go further ahead.
Although we have many great partners spread all over the world, from India to Chile or Russia, it still remains a challenge to this day. We are nowhere near finished with our search. We would also like to increase our focus in Europe, and are still short of partners in countries like Germany, Belgium or Italy. Another aspiration for the future is to spread our business around the American continent. And also in this region we would like the support of a good fitting partner.
So if you know of any potential partners in these regions, or if you are one, you can always give us a call!