Developing thriving channel partner relationships takes time, energy, money and careful consideration. It entails clarity, taking a long term approach and creating a shared definition of what success means for both parties to make things fruitful. It's an integral part of any go-to-market strategy as it helps with distribution and scaling your business
In my last post on channel partnerships, we explored various kinds of alliances you can forge to propel your business growth. Now let’s look at what not to ignore and what to keep in mind as you develop your channel sales strategy.
1.Identify Your Business Goals - Often in a hurry to grow, B2B businesses jump into partnerships without taking time to get clear on where they are business-wise and what they hope to achieve. But misaligned priorities and unclear goals often lead to weak and short lived relationships. Not to mention missed revenue opportunities.
Begin by building a strong foundation and ask yourself -
1.What are your business goals ?
2.Is your business ready for channel partnership in terms of - infrastructure, personnel needed, finances and expertise to manage a partner program?
3.How will the alliance benefit you - financially, strategically or otherwise?
4.What are your expectations from your ideal channel partner?
5.Who are you target clients?
6. Is your sales cycle clearly defined? Is it short, straightforward and working for you?
2.Identify Your Ideal Vendors - Not every vendor you meet will be suited to you, you want to identify who will be best fit for your business. Just like you develop an ICP for your ideal customers, it helps to create the same for targeting right vendors. Some questions to ask as you evaluate your options -
1.What are their values?
2.What are their business goals, objectives, pain points and challenges?
3.How do they treat their customers ?
4.What approach do they take with other vendors?
5.What is their style of functioning?
6.What is their reputation within your industry?
7.What are their areas of strengths and weaknesses?
8.How do they compliment your business and product/service?
9. Who serves your target market best?
10. Are they a technical fit for you?
3.Identify The Number - Success isn’t achieved alone but how many partners do you want in your partner ecosystem? You want to ofcourse look at your business goals as well as your potential partner capabilities to deliver on them -
Size of vendors and their customer base you are trying to reach
Markets they operate in - locally, nationally and internationally
4.Build A Partner Obsessed Program - Putting your partner's needs, challenges and goals ahead of your own will allow you to create successful long term partnerships.
Communication Best practices - Managing a well-run partnership requires open, honest, respectful and transparent communication. Think of communication needs on your end - how would you like your ideal partner to communicate with you? How will the information flow between two parties? Who will be responsible for what? More specific and clear you are, chances are you will eliminate room for confusion.
Agreement - You will be entering into an alliance for the greater good of both parties. But sometimes even with the best intentions, things can go awry. Not only do you want to keep in mind terms and conditions for creating an understanding, but also situations and clauses around - deadlocks, exit and so forth.
Incentives - You want to adequately reward your partners for accessing their customer base and their efforts in promoting you. Think about commission structures, fees and additional incentives. For example - BigCommerce offers its Affiliate Partners - industry standard commissions for enterprise as well as SMB referrals.
Some ideas for additional incentives could include-
Complimentary dinner, tickets to exclusive events
Training - Think of what kind of educational needs your partners may have when they sell or resell your products. Think - sales, product and implementation training. What kind of sales and marketing materials would you need for each of these? Or man power to onboard, train and service before and during the engagement.
Promotion - Your customers will need your help in terms of providing them with relevant content that can be used on their website, blogs, email and social media campaigns. You want to make sure you have them brand ready.
Metrics - How will you be tracking your partner’s performance? Think of creating dashboards so you can track every - referral, click, sales you make on account of your partner. Also you want to track - ROI, Attrition Rate, Average deal size, Margin by partner etc. to ensure the effectiveness of your program.
5.Partnership Platform - Your partnership management needs will vary from being simple to complex depending upon how wide you want your ecosystem to be. And you will want to rely on software and tools to help you be successful in your efforts. Explore platforms such as - Crossbeam and Channeltivity to see how they deliver on your channel relationship management goals.
Channel sales strategy is successful when both parties truly believe in each other's abilities, trust and are aligned in their commitment to grow and support and one another.