3rd May 2023 | Written by

The Synergy Mirage: Why FOMO Partnerships Are Rarely Worth the Hype

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a phenomenon that costs growth organizations insane amounts of time and energy. For smaller companies looking to grow, no FOMO situation is more seductive than a “partnership” with a big company. 

How do I know? Because I wasted over 1,000 hours on a partnership in my first SaaS company, InQuicker. So please, for the love of your employees and customers, let me share with you the 3 big mistakes I made and how you can prevent your team from making the exact same mistakes.


Mistake #1: Falling for the “partnership” mirage

With our software, patients were able to book emergency room appointments in advance. It was a groundbreaking idea back then, and my partner and I were excited to see where it would take us.

In the early stages of building our company, we found an opportunity to partner with a huge emergency room management company.  If we could sign a partnership with them, we could go from 20 customers to 1,000 customers overnight! We could expand the business rapidly and achieve huge success. 

We imagined all of the possibilities. It felt like an opportunity to win the lottery, so we set out to buy our ticket. I started networking with their executives and after 3 YEARS and over 1,000 hours of work,  they agreed to a deal where their salespeople would sell our product. 

After all those long hours and years of back and forth, this agreement was our dream. Our Powerball winning ticket, lottery dream!

Except there was one problem. We hadn’t actually sold our software to any of their customers. We had just signed an agreement for them to sell our software. But that shouldn’t be hard to figure out right? 


Mistake #2: Underestimating the game of “Sales Telephone”

When we signed the agreement, the executives were so excited about the potential of our partnership. But as they started trying to get their team on board, others within their organization didn’t see the value.

This was a new problem for us. We hadn’t ever sold “through” another organization before. Our customers had come from direct sales. Implementing our software, communicating the benefits, and getting everyone on board was going to be a game of “sales telephone.”

But how hard could it be? Surely we could figure out how to equip them to sell our product right? Wrong again. 

While the executives had seen nothing but synergy, we hadn’t factored in human imperfections and misalignments as the message cascaded down from Executives to VPs to Managers to Sales Reps. 

When it got to the salespeople, they challenged the value, pushed back on selling, or simply didn’t take action. 

By the time our software was telephoned down 4 levels, it had gone from “This is amazing!” to “This is another new thing executives say we should do.” 

This really leads to the 3rd mistake…


Mistake #3: Not calculating a realistic ROI. 

Between our product being “just another thing” for the salespeople to learn and the friction to learn it, they left our product in the bag.  We did everything we could to pump out materials and establish buy-in and create spiffs, but we simply didn’t have enough ammunition to mobilize the machine. 

By the time we moved on from the partnership, we hadn’t sold 1,000 customers. We hadn’t sold 100. We didn’t even sell 10. 

We sold exactly 3 customers.

Yes, you read that right. 3 Customers. Those 3 years of work led to 3 customers. 

If we had spent those 3 years building out our direct sales strategy, we could have built out a core sales engine that could acquire at least 100 customers a year indefinitely. But instead, we had chased the mirage and wasted so much time and energy in the process. 

We had Fear of Missing Out. 

But in the end, what we really missed out on was building the fundamentals of a strong business.  So to help you avoid this fate, here are my tips for Saying No to FOMO Deals and Partnerships:

  1. Don’t fall for the partnership the mirage: Just because you see potential synergy in a partnership doesn’t mean that synergy will come true. Take the time to validate the synergy, the sales process and what the realistic return might be. In order to do this effectively, play what is known as “red team.” Tap someone in your org to poke every single hole in your game plan and start listing out all of the risks.
  2. Test the game of “sales telephone”: A product or service may look great on paper, but if you can’t sell the salespeople, then it isn’t worth pursuing.  Perform a “beta test” with just one salesperson. If they can sell your product or service, then double down. If they can’t, you just saved massive resources.
  3. Calculate a realistic ROI: Don’t get swept up in the promise of a partnership and assume that it will automatically lead to huge success. When we think the potential return is limitless, we throw limitless resources at the opportunity. If you are more modest in your expectations, you will be more judicious in the resources you spend.

Partnerships can be a game-changer for a business, but they can also be a huge distraction if we don’t approach them with the right mindset. At Addictive Leadership, we train hundreds of companies in a proven process that empowers everyone to Say No to the wrong opportunities so that they conserve enough energy to Say Yes to the right ones. 

By investing the right amount of time and effort on the front end, you can avoid falling into the trap of FOMO partnerships that suck up unqualified time and resources. Instead, apply the discipline of challenging synergy, testing the game of telephone, and making smaller qualified bets.  That way, when you do bet big, you will KNOW it’s on something that will take your business to the next level. 

Interested in learning more about our Self-Leadership System to Say NO to FOMO partnerships? Reach out to us here!