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November 01, 2015

DSA News

The Value of Building Strategic Partnerships for Your Business

by Melissa K Brunton

Click here to order the November 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Finding the right strategic partner to help a business grow and succeed is no easy task. A company needs partners who understand its goals and can help reach its objectives. The ideal business partner will apply their expertise and unique set of skills to help build a strong strategy and will be honest about what they can and cannot do for a company. With an array of options to choose from to tackle anything from your fulfillment and logistics needs to technology and salesforce solutions, it’s critical that a company asks the right questions and makes a decision that will ideally lead to collaboration and innovation. Building and fostering a relationship with a business partner can make all the difference in future success.

DSA Suppliers play an important role in helping DSA Members solve their business challenges. From back office software gurus to compensation consultants, our members partner with over 280 supplier companies. Many of these partners have been affiliated with DSA for over 30 years as Supplier Exhibitors on the Annual Meeting tradeshow floor and know the industry inside and out. Supplier company executives send their teams to engage in DSA educational events to research trends in the industry and develop new products and services to match companies’ strategic goals, while DSA Affinity Partners offer their products and services to benefit the salesforce and help DSA members grow. MECU Credit Union, Pro Insurance, UPS and others have developed programs approved by DSA’s Member Services Committee that are available to the salesforce as part of DSA member benefits.

Like with any new venture, it’s challenging to find the right fit in a strategic partner and to vet a company properly to ensure the most profitable decision. More important, perhaps, is the ability to build and sustain a productive relationship with a new business partner for long-term success. In our fast-paced world with extremely high customer expectations, it’s crucial now more than ever to have a true partner that shares your company’s vision and will help you get there.

In a recent poll of DSA members at the Perfecting Partnerships roundtable at DSA’s Annual Meeting, participants were asked to collaborate and develop solutions to the question, “How can companies select the right supplier based on their needs and improve current strategic partnerships?” As a result, more than 80 percent of participants indicated that it is important for them to work with an affiliated DSA supplier, as they are trusted strategic partners. According to the majority of participants, the most effective way to establish these working partnerships is through formal and informal networking events. The key to building the relationship is quality and consistent communication.


1. Know Your Needs: Before tackling the vendor selection task, start out knowing exactly what your needs are for the product or service required.

2. Begin Your Search: Now that you have your needs established, it’s time to begin your search.

3. Contact the Vendors: After compiling your list of potential vendors, contact your prospective partners to determine if the vendor can provide the right product or service, at the right time, for the right price.

4. Narrow Down the List: Solidify your selection by choosing two or three vendors and request client references, a formal bid and timeline.

5. Select a Vendor: Once you’ve selected the vendor, make sure to confirm the price, condition of deliverables and implementation process before signing on the bottom line.

Specifically, participants expressed a need for not only regular communication, but open and honest communication about the needs and capabilities of both parties involved. Participants suggested paying close attention to honesty and transparency, specifically when it comes to the longevity of a vendor’s service. If a prospective strategic partner promises to have the capabilities of continuing with a member through transitions, growth and other unforeseen obstacles, those promises are expected to be met.

DSA suppliers are always looking for additional ways to help our companies meet the challenges of an evolving environment. The DSA Supplier Advisory Committee is drafting a proposal for a new formal supplier review process. One of the ideas is a system similar to Angie’s List or Yelp, where direct selling companies would rate their experience working with a supplier. A review system could offer DSA members even more in-depth resources for supplier vetting and provide additional benefits to DSA members.

In an industry where building relationships and strategic partnerships are crucial to success, outsourcing the next major project with a trusted DSA supplier can open doors and take a company’s success to the next level. Searching for your next strategic partner? DSA has the resources you need to help you make your selection. For questions regarding affiliated companies and their services, contact Britta Shillingsburg, DSA Supplier & Marketing Coordinator, at

Melissa K BruntonMelissa K Brunton is Senior Vice President, Education & Meeting Services at the U.S. Direct Selling Association.