Timing is everything
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about timing, specifically how doing things (e.g., executing a partnership) as quickly as possible isn’t always best, despite the highly en vogue “move fast & break things” startup mentality.
As a general rule of thumb, I try to take action on everything that comes across my desk within 24-48 hours. That could be following up after a call/meeting, responding to an email, addressing a social media mention, whatever. I don’t always meet this goal, but I strive toward it. (In fact it’s one of the things Jared holds me accountable to as part of Skype/Microsoft’s official performance reviews.) Prompt responsiveness is crucial to building good rapport. It’s also tremendously helpful in maintaining momentum during deal-making, which often stagnates without continual touch points to move things forward.
But I’m increasingly learning that there are times it’s advantageous to be a bit more deliberate, particularly when communicating with a potential partner. If played correctly, slowing the pace of response has upside. Not appearing too eager. Posturing for better terms. Buying time to think through options or gain (more) leverage. Using the silence to gauge how interested the other party truly is.
Knowing when to employ which tactic is something I’m still trying to figure out, but it’s clearly something decided on a case-by-case basis. A few important considerations:
1. Overall pipeline. Where does the partner/deal in question fit in the larger context of everything you’re doing? Do you need this first to open other opportunities (i.e., be the first domino to fall)? Or are you better served holding this for later because it has a lower (or different) value than more immediate priorities?
2. Product announcements. Are the partners part of a product launch or subsequent to it? What’s the story you want to craft to the press & general public? Will the partnership announcement be lost in the buzz around the new product or do those narratives reinforce each other?
3. Multiple partners. If you’re trying to launch with several partners at once, you’ll likely face a chicken-and-egg problem: partners won’t commit without knowing who the other confirmed partners are. It’s a delicate balancing act moving each individual relationship forward at the same pace. You want to get them all to a point you feel confident the deal will close before doing the big unveil, working through all the other issues first. Another wrinkle is if you engaged some parties before others, meaning you’ve got to move them all along at different speeds so that everything is ready at the desired date