Gone are the days of solely picking up the phone or shaking hands on a trade show floor to attract and cultivate a relationship with channel partners. The sales partnership ecosystem has changed and we’re now dealing with two key realities:
- Everything is online
- Your partners’ expectations are justifiably high
We live in a world where so many things work as we expect them to – on demand, without friction, and with clear added value. Your sales partnership ecosystem wants this, too. Here are some ideas to help you recruit and keep great sales partnerships.
1. Define your ideal sales partner profile.
You’ve probably defined the buying process for your own company’s products and services. But what does the buying process look like when a sales partner is involved? Build your partner journey and partner profile to coincide with how your product is purchased, and not on how you want it to be sold.
Some questions you should be asking yourself include:
- Are there companies that have close relationships with my buyers?
- Would my buyers want to buy from them or be influenced by them?
- Are there companies that have contracts in place with my buyers that they would prefer to leverage directly with me?
- Who are the influencers that affect buying decisions?
- How do we bring them into the tent in a way the buyers would respect and the influencers would find mutually beneficial?
2. Align potential sales partnership experiences with the buyers’ decision making process.
To attain better outcomes with partner selling, you can leverage a variety of tools, including events, marketing materials, interactions, and more. Helping those partners learn what works with your products for other successful partners is only half the battle. Most successful partner programs actively help facilitate these interactions by making sure the sales partnership has the tools to align their sales process to the buying process. This will not only show your partner your commitment but will also give you needed visibility into their process.
3. Strategically engage with customers and partners.
Be interesting to your customers and partners by being interested in your customers and partners. Your customers and sales partners are hanging out online in places you want to be. You may be asking yourself how to create content that provides actionable insights pertaining directly to potential partners’ priorities. Connect with online influencers in the space you want to be. Be genuine and honest in your responses; try to “make a friend” and share insights that will be helpful to them and the community.
4. Tools are not to manage sales partnerships; tools are to enhance them.
If you want your sales partners to sell more of your products, faster, your partner portal should enhance their journey by
- Making communication with you clear and open
- Offering ways to learn independently about your products and efficiently seek answers when needed most
- Engage for marketing development funds and co-brand materials
These tools, in turn, will also allow you to learn about your partners. The key I am trying to impart is this: Don’t stop at offering information. Engage with sales partners and ask them why they are succeeding (or not) using whatever tools you have built for them.
Each year, sales partners analyze and remove vendors and companies – and also remove their channel partners. Using the data about what has worked for one partner will help you engage with other partners you think can succeed and help inform your ideal partner profile to add more partners, as well.
Everyone gets better and smarter as they do their job. After you roll out your partner program by building it into your buyer journey, you will learn a lot. After watching the digital body language of your partners engaging with your training and marketing materials (combined with the sales results) you should be ready to move to another version. Stagnation early will lead to poor results. Your partners will appreciate you going back to them and learning from their learnings and engaging your mutual customers in the process.