Since partnerships professionals are working in an emerging field, they should handle their work with a nuanced approach—and that approach should be built on knowledge from the minds of seasoned professionals. In this installment of Partner School, Firneo co-founder and CEO Scott Pollack sat down with Jon Stenz of Google’s New Business Partnerships team, to unravel the mysteries of effectively prioritizing partnership opportunities.

The world of partnerships is dynamic and exciting, but finding the right partnership opportunities remains a perpetual challenge for people in this industry. Here, we’ll delve into the key takeaways from Scott and Jon’s conversation, exploring the frameworks and tactics essential for smart partnership prioritization.

Understanding Prioritization

According to Jon, partnership prioritization relies on creating customized frameworks that simplify complex concepts and relationships while considering your business’ goals and incentives. 

Some of the most critical factors related to prioritization include:

  • A potential partner’s appetite for success
  • Your ability to align with them
  • The establishment of clear, achievable goals

Setting SMART Goals

SMART (an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals form a critical component of partnership prioritization. During the interview, Jon stressed the importance of establishing clearly measurable goals with realistic timelines. Fact-checking and diving into industry trends can ensure the attainability of these goals.

Navigating the Balancing Act

Scott and Jon also discussed the delicate balance between relationship-building and transactional discussions. While interpersonal relationships are paramount in any partnership, Jon advised against over-indexing in either direction. Instead, initial meetings with a prospective partner should involve a mix of relationship-building and direct, goal-oriented discussions.

Qualifying Partners

Effective qualifying is all about asking the right questions. Jon suggested starting with high-level discussions about goals before gradually diving deeper into specific metrics and strategies. The overall goals of this process are understanding the potential for mutual benefit and aligning KPIs to avoid misaligned partnerships.

Understanding Goals and Incentives

The foundation of a successful partnership lies in a clear understanding of each partner’s goals and incentives. Jon emphasized the importance of aligning personal and organizational objectives, ensuring that all participants in a partnership share a common vision. Clear communication, transparency, and setting mutual expectations from the outset can set the stage for a fruitful collaboration.

Utilizing Data to Assess Partnerships

Jon went on to highlight the role of data in evaluating partnership potential. Drawing on his experience in various startups, he discussed the significance of understanding a partner’s real potential versus their perceived potential. 

By leveraging data to gain insights instead of merely presenting facts, partners will have the power to make truly informed decisions. With this in mind, Jon encouraged the use of third-party tools such as Semrush and LinkedIn to gather valuable information and assess a partner’s capabilities.

Artful Decision-Making in Partnerships

Navigating partnerships requires an artful blend of the data-driven insights discussed above with old-fashioned interpersonal skills. Considering the uniqueness of each partnership program, Jon suggested an adaptive approach. 

To make artful decisions, partnerships pros must look beyond the data, conduct meaningful conversations, and uncover factors that may not be immediately apparent. Jon emphasized the vital role personal belief plays in determining a partner’s potential, even if the numbers don’t fully support that conclusion.

Proactive Relationship Building

Jon underscored the significance of proactive relationship building, even when the fit might not be apparent initially. He also advocated for genuine, clear communication about expectations and potential obstacles as part of this process. By investing time and effort into nurturing relationships (even in the absence of immediate alignment), professionals can set the stage for future success.

Aligning Internal Stakeholder Goals

Internal alignment is just as crucial for a cohesive partnership strategy as external alignment. Jon discussed the importance of understanding not only your goals, but those of internal stakeholders. By fostering open dialogue and transparency, partnerships professionals can ensure everyone continues to work towards a common objective. To that end, Jon encouraged the free exchange of feedback within organizations.

Addressing Misalignments and Making Course Corrections

Finally, Jon advocated for early diagnosis and course corrections in situations where misalignments arise. By regularly checking in on agreed-upon success metrics, partnerships pros can proactively address any issues that develop. 

Jon also emphasized the value of tying everything back to goals. If things go wrong, this can enable partners to troubleshoot the situation together and get their partnership back on track.


As the partnership landscape continues to evolve, the ability to prioritize effectively remains a key determinant of success for emerging partnerships professionals. Prioritizing the right opportunities demands a blend of customized frameworks, smart goal-setting, and effective qualifying.

Jon’s wealth of experience in the partnerships realm offers a reliable roadmap for success. Aspiring partnership professionals can glean valuable lessons on goal alignment, effective use of data, and proactive collaboration from his expertise—and can continue to learn about the industry by signing up for Firneo’s Mastering Partnerships Strategy course.

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