It is a common misconception that some Partners are proactive and others are reactive and to form a successful partnership, you should only recruit those that are proactive.
True, some partners may operate in a more proactive manner, but in reality, Partners aren’t too different than your own sales team. They will proactively sell the products they are familiar with to the customers they know best, but at the same time, they will also react to customer requests and simply fulfill an order when approached with a specific need or asked about a specific product.
How they sell your product depends a great deal upon how well they know and understand it. If you want them to be proactive, teach them how to sell it, what to look for, how it works with complimentary and competitive products, and how to uncover customer needs. Teach them as you would your own sales team.
Is your product targeted at a specific type of customer or industry? If so, the partners you recruit should be experts at working with those customers or within that industry. Many Partner organizations operate within very defined, targeted customer segments and industries. Other Partners have been created to reach into a broad set of industries with a very large variety of customers.
A common mistake that some vendors make when recruiting Partners is to focus only on those who work within their specific industry or customer base, while disqualifying those larger Partners who seem to have a very broad reach. In reality, those large diversified Partners have teams who are dedicated to specific customers and industries. They will often be just as successful as the smaller, focused Partners due to their relationships and purchasing agreements which are in place with customers.
Channel Partners are not usually tied to a single product or vendor. If your product or technology fills a niche that isn’t addressed by other vendors, then an obvious strategy is to recruit Partners who carry products that compliment your own. Conversely, if your product is one of many in an over-saturated market, then you’ll probably need to adjust your recruiting technique to search for Partners who either aren’t selling your competition, or who are looking to replace their current vendor with one who better meets the needs of their customers.
Highlight areas where your product out-performs the competition. Additionally, some Partners will purposely carry multiple vendors with overlapping technology simply as a means to provide multiple options for their customers. Keep this in mind when researching Partner candidates, and speak with them before disqualifying.
Many vendors have made the mistake of believing that the struggle ends when the contract is signed. However, once you’ve identified and recruited your new Channel Partner, the real work begins. Treat the partnership the same as you would a new employee – They will need frequent training and encouragement, along with hand-holding of opportunities in the short term while they are still becoming familiar with your company and products. Be patient while they come up to speed, and communicate regularly.
The more time and energy you invest up front, the better they will perform over the long term life of the partnership. A Channel Partner is an extension of your own internal sales team, treat them as such. With clear expectations, frequent communication and training, and working side by side to serve the customer, you will form a lasting partnership that is truly rewarding.
The Channel Management team at Operatix has a wealth of experience in developing and managing global Channels for clients in the tech sector. Working with Executive teams and sales teams in organizations throughout North America and Europe, Operatix enables Channel sales teams to accelerate success and focus on the important aspects of the Channel plan.