Nearbound 101: Partner Engagement & Discovery

How to engage and qualify partners

Alright so if you’ve been following along this month you know we’ve covered the types of B2B partnerships and how to build your target list.

This week we’re going to talk about engagement and discovery, and next week we’re going to close out this series with partner activation.

Engagement = contact that secures a meeting or conversation

Discovery = get to know each other to confirm alignment (qualification)

Let’s dig in.

How to engage and qualify partners


If you’ve done your detailed research like I suggested last week, this should be relatively easy because your list shouldn’t be that long (maybe 15 target orgs max to start) and you should have everything you need to personalize it.

The best case scenario will be getting a warm intro from one of your clients or other ecosystem partners.

The second best case is writing a thoughtful personalized note requesting a meeting.

Something like…

“Hi [Name] - We’re looking to establish [or expand] our strategic partnerships this year with [partner type - i.e. CPA firms]. I’ve heard great things about your firm from [shared client name or shared ecosystem partner name].

If you haven’t heard of [your company], we [brief explanation of what you do]. We see an opportunity to partner with firms like yours [enter reason or possible alignment].

Would you be open to a call to get acquainted and explore this further? Look forward to hearing from you.”

90% of the time if I’ve sent a note like the one above, with the right research prior, I’ve gotten a yes. Particularly if the recipient is a sales/business development/partnerships person. If they are a founder/CEO or partner, just understand they have less bandwidth and it might take a few pokes or a warm intro to get their attention.

Discovery & Qualification

Again if we’ve done our research, we should be 80-90% confident that there is alignment and mutual fit from an ICP and GTM perspective. However, we still want to use the first call with a new prospective partner to confirm this.

I find the easiest way to approach these calls, especially if you requested the call, is to lead with curiosity about the other party. Ask the prospective partner all of the questions that you want them to ask you.

This shows you 1) are interested in them and this isn’t ‘all about you’ and 2) you want to add value and 3) it helps you lead the witness a bit and get them to reciprocate and ask YOU the same questions.

For example, I’d likely ask things like -

  • So tell me a bit about your product/service, or, here is what I know about your product/service [say what you know], did I get that right or is there anything I missed?

  • Who are your top competitors and how do you differentiate yourselves so I understand how to position you to our customers?

  • Who is your ideal customer? Any specific triggers or events that would make someone a particularly good fit (eg recent funding)? Why?

  • How do you get most of your business today (referrals, marketing etc)?

  • Are there any industries you specialize in? Any geographies? Any you avoid?

  • Do you have any active marketing campaigns or initiatives I can keep in mind as I speak to customers?

  • Do you have any other formal partnerships? If so -

    • What has made them successful? Or unsuccessful?

    • Is there a specific person or department that manages (or approves) partnerships for your firm?

  • Are there any conferences or events you have shortlisted for this year? Any events you consider particularly high-value or ones you’d recommend we avoid?

All of these questions help you better determine how you can add value AND how strategic their go-to-market efforts are. Are they pro’s at partnering or will you need to lead the way?

At the end of the call, you should have a pretty good sense of their interest, commitment, and/or resources to partner with you. If it seems like there is alignment, try to get a 2nd meeting secured to discuss possible structures and initiatives (co-marketing, account mapping, etc).

I also like to segment my partners like I would prospects or clients - Tier 1, 2 and 3. Give the most time and energy to Tier 1, and less to Tier 2 and 3 accordingly.

Questions? Shoot them over! Next week, we’ll close out this topic with partner activation!

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With love and gratitude, 

Jess Schultz

Founder & CEO

Amplify Group