Lessons in partnerships: The value of listening to your partners


The old adage of maintaining strong and effective B2B partnerships goes back to maintaining any positive, healthy relationship – communication is key.

True collaboration happens when external business partners begin taking the time to actively listen to and learn from each other, instead of simply dictating terms.

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Open your ears

We all know that successful partnerships are more than just a purchase order. It involves setting up well-designed and carefully constructed streamlined processes for joint decision-making and collaboration. But don’t underestimate the importance of actively listening and engaging with one another.

Listening plays a critical part in all external business partnerships. Ask clear and well-thought out questions, take the time to understand one another and keep the dialogue open. This way, you can ensure your specific business goals and expectations are better aligned, even though your business operations could be very different. More importantly, by listening to each other you can learn from each other’s industries and identify new growth opportunities that can move both your businesses forward. This can be particularly useful in the e-commerce space where suppliers, digital service providers and developers can collaborate and actively learn and engage with each other.

Think long term

Successful partnerships are about moving beyond the short-term goals. You need to listen to each other and discover the true motivations for a long-term efficient and simplified business alignment. The ability to clearly understand and demonstrate not only what’s in it for you, but what’s in it for your external business partner, is one of the critical factors for a healthy business partnership moving forward.

The listening process can help clarify each business role, obligations and what the benefits are for B2B partnerships. By listening to each other, you can truly understand the value that each party is bringing to the partnership. This can be particularly beneficial if you are both trying to deliver a collaborative solution to potential clients. This way, you can ensure you are both on the same page and not second-guessing each other at various touch points within your customer base.

Grow together in partnerships

Through active listening and the exchange of ideas, B2B partnerships can also lead to a discovery of what they can do to help each other be more successful. Business partners can then identify what they should keep doing more of and pinpoint any ineffective activities they should be doing less of, in order to optimize productivity and growth for their businesses.

Significantly, this process can help you and your external partners identify potential cost savings that can drive a more healthy profit margin for all businesses within the partnership mix. This can be particularly prevalent in the digital space, where businesses that collaborate can learn from each other’s digital innovation strategies and big data insights, and identify potential cost savings by adapting to more tech-savvy solutions. This way, the partnership can lead to all businesses involved becoming more agile and cost-effective.

Even if you don’t always agree on your business decisions, or decide to do things differently, listening and engaging with each other means you will be able to constantly learn from each other, and open up the doors to the exchange of processes, services and solutions improvements. At the same time, the listen-and-learn model can clarify the core ground rules between each partner and help cement the processes and agreements you may need to put in place to protect yourself and your business.

Build trust

The listening process helps build on one of the most critical aspects of any profitable B2B relationship: trust. Demonstrate a propensity to trust by listening and learning from your external business partner, while offering an open dialogue where you can continually share and debate your ideas.

It’s vital that you build the foundations for an effective listen-and-learn partnership model today in order to reduce misunderstandings and miscommunication down the track. Over time, this will minimize risk, improve efficiencies and keep all parties focused on their shared, long-term business vision.

Discover more insights into effective business collaboration with our free ebook, Lessons from the top: Why business collaboration is vital to your business.