How do you know that you are working with the right channel partner? Recent research shows that at least one third of channel partners are unproductive and damaging to both parties. The cause could be the vendor’s failure to properly support and motivate their channel partners. However it might be that they simply choose the wrong partner, one who cannot, or will not, produce results. So how do you select the right channel partner? Here are my suggestions, a set of criteria to help you select the best partner:
1. Market Focus
Determine your potential partners' specific target markets, whether they are based on geographic considerations or business type. Discover their current selling and networking activity. Is their existing customer base demanding better, more advanced solutions? Does their existing customer base suit your business in terms of size, location and application?
2. Target Market
3. Business Stability
How stable and secure is the channel's business model? Consider factors like size, viability, suitability for target market, management competency, their profitability and growth.
4. Financial Security Soundness and Structure
Understand the the channel partner's financial position. Request information about their revenue, size, growth, gross margin and profit, balance sheets and cash flow, are they a private or public company, how is their business financed?
5. Does their process and practice fit with yours?
Will partnering with you create a ‘solution conflict’ potentially reducing maintenance revenue, territory size or services? Are you able to provide new business opportunities, services and competitive advantage? Will your solution allow them to sell more and provide maximum potential revenue for you?
6. Skills and Experience
Does the channel have the skills and experience to sell and support your solutions? What is their sales experience, what might your solutions be as a proportion of their total revenue? What specialist skills can they offer? Who are their employees, their background and experience? What is their SE capability, their marketing strategy, their staffing resource and their contact level for their customers and prospects? Do they have the staffing capability for field sales, telesales marketing etc? How do they measure progress and customer satisfaction?
7. Technical Expertise
What specialist resources does the channel partner have? Do they have sufficient training plans, experience in network infrastructure, experience in presenting/demonstrations, knowledge of your implementation issues, the ability to be self-sufficient technically, a customer service mentality?
8. Who else are they resellers for?
What is the channel's track record, and their experiences, (good and bad) are they locked-in to any specific agreements?
9. What Knowledge do they have of you?
10. What is their Partnership mentality?
How committed is the channel to partner with you? Are they willing to dedicate staff to your business? Do they have lead generation plans and lead follow-up processes? Are they prepared to invest in demo-capability and training? Are they focused on a long-term partnership, willing to work together to develop a partnership plan and to commit to minimum targets ?
Remember that unlike direct selling, the sales relationship between you as the vendor and your channel starts after the sale. Finding the right partner is definitely the first critical step. After that the key to building a successful partner relationship will depend on the education and support provided by the vendor.
What suggestions might you have, as a vendor, to maintain the mindshare of a channel partner and to help them sell, sell more of your product so that they win and you win too?