At some point we all have to engage with partners both internally and externally who are challenging to work with. This is often a difficult situation requiring determination and diplomacy. You need to be clear in your own mind why the relationship is important, what the "win win" is. In the case of a channel relationship ask yourself why you need such a reluctant partner. In general, when confronted with someone who is problematic to work with, whether it be a superior, a peer, a subordinate, a client or an external business partner, what can you do to help forge successful relationships and build effective alliances? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Make the other party feel valued
When confronted with challenging relationships make the other party feel valued and included by keeping them informed. Acknowledge and recognize their contributions. Be prepared to listen and encourage a healthy exchange of views to develop an open robust relationship, which allows room for measured criticism. Remember that it is possible to make an ally of an imperfect partner without having to sacrifice your own principles and objectives.
2. Stay firm on critical issues
In all relationships it is important to stay firm on critical issues and remained leveraged until you have established a firm relationship. Be positive and honest delivering bad news quickly and staying in close communication. Work hard to maintain a positive attitude even when one might be hard to come by!
3. Be accessible and approachable
Your accessibility and sincere and positive approach is critical. Make people feel that you value their opinion. Be receptive, ask questions and most importantly listen. Recognize that your business partner has their own unique contribution to make, you alone don't have all the answers. Building an effective partner relationship involves a dialogue, not a monologue.
4. Be sincere
Nothing helps to develop a relationship more than sincere gestures, supporting others at a difficult meeting or accompanying them to a special event. Understand that partners have a natural inclination to be kept in the loop and be recognized for their efforts. If you work hard to develop an open relationship you allow yourself room for criticism. This will help you achieve the ‘win win’.
5. Be empathetic, try to relate to others
Successful relationships are forged if you know how to get the best out of people by relating to them both individually and collectively. For some of us this comes naturally; for others, it's more of an acquired skill. Fortunately, the more you do it, the more comfortable you become doing it.
In summary, know who you want to work with and why. Set the tone and example, show your willingness to accompany them on sales calls, answer the customer complaints, attend partnership meetings yourself! Stay in sync with these challenging people whether they be customers, employees or channel partners. What have your experiences been and what suggestions do you have?
Your channel partner is probably working with many vendors, so how can you keep your channel partner focused on working with you and selling your products? Here are my 7 tips to help you build a successful channel partnership.
1. Keep your channel partner's mind share
Keep your company, your products at the front of your channel partner's mind. Let them know why focusing on your product will be a benefit to them. Be visible and in communication with your channel partner, providing easily understood incentive programs, pertinent to their needs, along with regular training and discussion.
2. Explain the benefits of working with you.
Are you sure that your channel partner is clear about the benefits of working with you? Often partners may not immediately see these benefits, make sure they do. Keep following-up and refreshing the benefits of your products over the competition’s and how representing your products will mean increased profitability for you both.
3. Provide clear, concise training.
Make sure that the programs you offer positively impact everyone involved in the partnership, not just the top decision makers. Keep the training clear and easily understandable so that your product, not your competitor’s is the one that remains fresh in their minds and that your channel partner remains excited to be working with you!
4. Be in constant communication and recognize successes.
Ongoing communication and recognition of the team or individuals is critical to keep your channel partner engaged. Make sure that the channel realizes what support you are able to offer, ensuring that it is simple to access and use.
5. Involve your channel partner in long term strategy planning.
Involve your channel partner in your long term strategy planning. Let them know that you will support them through any market transitions and all technological developments. This will show the channel partner your commitment to a collaborative approach whereby you are both winners. Make it clear that your future plans involves them, and as such you are vested in their success. As part of this, send them qualified leads to show them your level of commitment to help them grow their business. Keep engaged and interested, providing reward incentives both at the company level and individual. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a channel incentive program and a channel promotion. A program should drive and change longer term behavior. a promotion drives short term goals.
6. Ensure your programs lead to attainable results!
Partners are looking to represent companies who will make them profitable. Make sure that any programs you make available really offer the best sales practices, ones that lead to results. Support this by providing good sales tools and accurate information within an integrated communications network that allows reps to share best practices and interact with product experts. Ensure timely payment procedures so that partner feels immediately rewarded for their efforts and that their company’s cash flow is kept on track
7. Provide Partner Accelerator Programs
Consider offering Partner Accelerator programs to keep the channel partner’s mindshare and to drive the partner’s behavior in a direction which is mutually beneficial. In addition, provide them with good business analysis, weekly reporting of their success, of their upcoming renewal business for the year. Stay on their channel weekly pipeline calls to track closure and teach the channel sales force to use those opportunities to drive new sales.
Always be looking for new and innovative ways to create trust. If your channel partner trusts you he will listen to you and want to continue to work with you which will ultimately drive new sales going forward and give you both what you want, increased profitability. Let us know what you experiences have been!