There are many benefits to incorporating channel partners into your sales strategy. Mark Elliott in his article on channel sales strategy outlines a number of key reasons why you would look to channel partners to help sell your product. These include:
• Geographic accessibility to targets
• Industry expertise legitimatizing your solution
• Customer segmentation based on size
• Cost-effective sales outreach
Just as we don’t advise a “spray and pray” mentality to B2B sales, it’s the same with channel partners. One of the biggest mistakes companies make when selecting channel partners is not being selective enough. It is worthwhile spending time building a channel partner persona in the same way you would build out a buyer persona for your product.
If you’ve had success with particular channel partners, this is a great place to begin. Start building your channel partner persona based upon the data points at your disposal, such as:
• Financial results
• Product or service performance
• Customer satisfaction
• Process and operational performance
• Marketing results
Beyond these data points, you’ll also want to look at the strategic focus of your potential partner. Do they focus on the problems that your end-user encounter regularly? I’ve found some channel partners might only have a tangential connection to my product offering. In that case, while they might check other boxes related to size and geography, they’ll offer very few qualified leads.
It is important to drill down and learn as much as possible about the types of customers your partner is working with and identify whether they are a match. This can lead to a more qualified leads coming from your partners.
Working with a client recently in the IT reseller space, he made it clear that if we were looking for larger enterprise buyers, we’d need to look at the largest resellers. This made it much easier to qualify smaller resellers that wouldn’t have the right kinds of clients we were looking for. On the other hand, we have another client in financing where smaller 5-10 person brokerage houses would be the perfect fit for the SMB targets we had. Understanding the right size targets are important.
While we live in a digital world where we can be connected to anyone in an instant, geography can still be a factor when it comes to finding the right channel partner. For instance, if there’s a twelve-hour time difference between you and your channel partner (and their customers), will you be able to provide the service and attention that they need? At the same time, this can be the exact reason you’ll want to leverage a channel partner that can address new markets beyond your current network. Just be sure to count the cost of supporting these kinds of sales when it comes to language and off-hours support.
In their blog post on finding great reseller partners, Allen Hoke and Dina Moskowitz noted that “Partnerships are about good relationships, but GREAT partnerships are built on solid mutual company success”. You’ll want to find partners that you can build a committed relationship with over time. Hopefully they will match your brand, or at least not present a conflicting message. A recent channel partner explained to me that he wanted to work with our client because as a new company, we were hungry, and hunting for new sales, with the same mentality they had.
As the partner will be representing your brand, be sure to reflect on your preliminary interactions with them. Does the partner:
-meet deadlines, follow through on tasks and return calls and emails within a reasonable time frame?
-present themselves and their products professionally in person and through their marketing and social media?
-have a track record of success with other partners, with the ability to provide references and success stories?
While I was advising start-ups at Innovation Factory in Hamilton, we put a lot of focus on their teachability, and their willingness to accept feedback. I believe this is an important trait to look for in your channel partners:
• Is there a deep interest in learning about your product or service offering?
• Are they asking smart questions?
• Are they updating their offering, or integrating your product into other offerings?
Why it Matters
While you might think a channel partner strategy is just a nice “add on”, built with strategic focus, it can be a central revenue driver. While you may not be paying a base salary to these partners, there is still an opportunity cost involved in finding the right partners that will drive significant ROI. Armed with this information, you can begin working on the messaging and value proposition around your product that will grab the attention of and intrigue your ideal reseller company prospects.