Few organizations have the ability to reach every possible customers themselves. They can’t afford to hire enough sales people to cover the markets, they don’t have enough deep expertise in certain markets, they need to collaborate with others to provide a complete solution to their customers.
Most organizations have found they need to leverage some form of partner or channel to reach all the potential customers, maximizing their ability to sell and grow.
These partners come in all shapes and sizes. They may be strategic technology partners, they may be resellers, systems integrators, distributors, VAR’s, VAD’s, manufacturer’s reps, agencies, outsourced sales partners—or combinations of these various types of partners.
Ironically, while many organizations invest a lot in developing channel relationships–too often, the attitudes within the sales organization are, “They are the enemy.”
It’s manifested in a variety of ways—sometimes as blatant as open hostility and competition between the direct sales teams (inside or field), sometimes more subtly in terms of lack of information flow or failure to embrace the partners as partners.
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As a result, open or covert hostility begins. Partners stop listening, they focus their time on other product lines, they openly compete.
Sometimes it isn’t as blatant, a quite peaceful neglect on the part of everyone settles in. We tolerate them, communicate with them, they tolerate us, attend our meetings, get our information, pass some information back to us. In the end, through this benign neglect, the channel never quite reaches its potential.
Channel partners aren’t the enemy!
We enlist partners to build our mutual businesses—to create revenue and success for each other.
Without these partners, we can’t achieve the growth and market penetration we expect. Rather than treating them as the enemy, we have to treat them as extensions of our company, working with them to build our businesses.
We need to think of our channel partners in very much the same terms as we think of our own sales people, whether they are field direct or inside sales.
We would never think of withholding information our sales people need to be successful in developing business in their territories—it has to be unthinkable to withhold information our partners need to be successful.
We invest in tools, process, methods, programs for our own people. We need to invest in the same for our partners.
We know we need to help our people develop and execute their territory, account, and deal strategies. We know we have to set performance expectations, coach and develop our people to maximize their performance. We need to do the same with our partners.
We want to make it as easy as possible for our people to do their jobs selling—removing barriers, roadblocks and providing resources to help them succeed. Our partners deserve no less.
We know if we don’t provide an environment where our people can be successful and thrive, they’ll go someplace that does. So will our partners!
Together, we must create more value for our customers than we can create individually. But to achieve this, we must first create value for each other.
It seems trite to say win-win. Each of us (on both sides of the discussion) is comfortable with this, but only when we win more, always. But these attitudes create barriers to success.
Successful channel and partner development requires balance on both sides of the relationship. We each need to share in the resources we invest, the risks we undertake and the rewards we reap. Underlying this we are more likely to achieve success in the relationship if we share similar visions and values.
How does your partner and channel strategy and implementation stack up?