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!
This is the first in my series of blogs about channels. We will be discussing how to implement good channel strategy. How to identify, select and recruit the right partners, how to make the partnership successful for both the vendor and the channel and the best ways to support channels.
Developing a partnership with your channel
When developing good channel strategy much is said about being a partner with your channel but what does that actually mean? Google defines “partner’’ as: 'A person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, esp. in a business or company with shared risks and profits.' Most vendors do indeed talk about their relationship with their channels as a partnership but all too often go on to complain about their performance; that they are not selling their products, they are not producing the results they had been promised or expected. Why might that be and whose initial responsibility is it to ensure the success of the relationship
1. Selecting the right partner
I would suggest that success of this type of business relationship rests initially with the vendor. The first part of their strategy is obviously to select the right channel for their distribution. The ‘right’ partner is one who shares with the vendor a mutual desire to want the relationship to work. I will go into more detail about this selection in my next channel blog. The vendor should then ask themselves are they committed to this success and do they feel that their potential partner shares this commitment
2. Provide on going channel support
“Ask not what the channel can do for me but what can I do for the channel?”
- How do they intend to contribute to that model in terms of revenue opportunities and bottom line profits?
- Do they have the resources to implement a joint and formal business planning process with their channel partners?
- What programs and services do they have available to help the channel partner optimize their performance?
- Do they have the capability to implement new and innovative channel partner programs and make program improvements?
- Are they able to offer incentives, and promotions to the channel partner and do they have the infrastructure to be able to effectively support these initiatives?
- Are there performance measurements available to determine achievement?
- Are there systems in place to provide further support to the channel partner when required and decision processes to consider further investment in the partnership?
3. Communication strategy.
The vendor should also consider their communicator strategy.
Do they have effective communication strategies in place to successfully compel their channel partners' participation and action?
Are there channel communication strategies and tools to be able to leverage the partner portal(s) and social media effectively?
Are there dedicated members of the vendor’s team responsible for channel partner communication tasked with accessing progress and providing support such as helping the partner develop a quote or close a deal?
4. Assessment strategy
The vendor should develop an assessment strategy and view it as an on going evolving process and commitment.
Are they able to devote time to assess their channel strategy based on market shifts and/or the competition?
How up to date and aware are they of market trends and competitive strategies that may significantly impact their channel business?
How effective and accurate is their assessment process?
Are their partners capturing new customers and making inroads into new markets? Opening up new markets and acquiring new customers requires an innovative approach and more resources.
5. Training and support from senior management
How is the vendor motivating and training their channel partners to invest in new markets and customers?
Are they prepared to provide the support and training to make this a successful partnership?
How vested is the senior management team in the channel’s success?
In essence is the vendor really committed to their channel partner’s success, to the partnership, truly sharing in the gains and losses, risks and rewards in working together?
As a channel partner how much of this rings true for you and as a vendor how much of this do you think is relevant and accurate? Are both of you doing all you can to make a successful channel partnership? Maybe you have other great suggestions, if so I would love to hear them!