Building Productive Sales Channel Partnerships

A sales executive told me about the problems that his organization was having with making their channel partner strategy work. The list was long. I asked him, “Then why in the world do you have a partner program?” His response: “Because there is no other reasonable option.”

Channel partner strategies are put in place for a number of reasons, including:

Provide access to new markets and customers
Lower the cost of sales
Offer a richer, more competitive solution to the customer
Reduce risk
Your aspiration is that, in total, your joint partner proposition will allow you to uncover new business opportunities and enrich your offering. But with these potential benefits come a myriad of problems, including:

Channel contention
Less control of point of contact with the customer
Compensation and incentives to direct and channel salespeople
Customer satisfaction issues and responsibility for resolving them
Pricing issues
Partner loyalty and mindshare
How can you add more heft to your channel partner strategy so that the benefits take center stage and any problems that arise are easily managed? The best place to start is with the customer and build solutions that address the customer’s needs and opportunities most effectively. A joint planning session with your existing channel partner around a specific account, market, or business-to-business opportunity can lead to actions that improve the results for all parties. A conversation structured around the following discussion points can be productive.

Target your markets.

Who are your most important joint customers?
Which customer segments can most benefit from your products or services delivered in conjunction with your partner?
In what way do you need to evolve and adjust your strategy to meet the requirements of your customers and marketplace?
Define your joint strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).

For the solutions you jointly sell, what is your customer’s biggest SWOT that you are focused on?
What is the current SWOT for each of your organizations related to addressing your customer’s most pressing needs?
What are the biggest issues you have working together?
Reexamine your joint value proposition.

What are the biggest successes you had during the last year?
What motivates your customer to buy?
What are the biggest issues your customers have with your companies and your solutions?
Define your metrics.

What are the most important three or four things that you can work on together?
Who will be responsible for them?
What are the milestones to ensure that you address them?
How will you be measured?
How will you manage so that you activate joint initiatives effectively, keep momentum, and recognize progress?
Develop your partner marketing and communication plan.

What is the best way to jointly communicate your strategy to your customer and respective sales teams?
What elements need to be included in your communication plan to ensure cross-organizational relationships and momentum?
By helping your partners strengthen their product portfolio, reduce risk, and grow their revenues, you will ultimately create the highest possible valuation of your business.

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