As the tech industry faces economic headwinds and M&A activity continues to rise, solution providers are relying more on channel partners to drive sales. Partner-sourced revenue is attractive for many reasons, namely because many of the costs associated with channel sales are variable and not fixed, like the hiring investments in direct sellers. As a result, this represents less risk for the provider. In fact, channel sales represent 75 percent of global commerce today, making a successful channel key to growth. Here are the five top strategies for recruiting the right partners to ensure your channel program’s success.
1Build consensus on the ideal customer profile before targeting channel partners
The marketing and sales teams have likely developed customer personas. However, it’s not uncommon to have a lack of alignment around personas throughout the company. Therefore, as you refine your channel program and recruit new partners, it’s essential to ensure you have accurate and current customer personas to identify the partners that can best help you reach your ideal customers. Along with basic demographic information, additional questions to consider in the persona refinement process include:
- Why would a customer buy from you over a competitor?
- What are your customer’s pain points, and how does your product or service address them?
- What problems do your products or services solve?
- How do your customers make money?
- What are the most popular products or services your clients purchase?
- What factors are your customers likely to consider before a purchase?
- What do customers tell you they value about your products or services?
2Deliver a great channel partner experience
Instead of highlighting the value of a solution or service, focus on the channel partner experience by ensuring the following elements are firmly in place:
- Solid pre-sales support to help close deals and build a strong reputation in the channel.
- Easy onboarding of your channel partner and their customers.
- Exemplary post-sales support, including technical resources, accurate billing, and timely payment of commissions.
Additionally, solution providers must offer valuable benefits to stand out and build solid and long-term relationships with partners and their customers. Specifically, beware of the trap of competing solely on SPIFF and commission wars.
3 Go where partners gather instead of waiting for them to approach you
Since channel partners are an extension of your team, invest the time and resources in recruiting them like you would a top sales rep within your company. Show up in the places where partners are most active in the real world and online. This includes channel publications, podcasts, webinars, industry events, LinkedIn groups, etc.
Don’t wait to follow up once you’ve made a solid connection. You should assume the partner is also hearing from your competition. In your follow-up email or call, be sure your message is personalized while highlighting the benefits they’d receive from your channel program. Don’t wait until the event is over to connect; it’s far more effective than waiting until after the event.
4 Use Technology Services Brokerages (TSBs) & Distributors
TSBs and distributors are tremendous allies in connecting your company with top-selling partners. They can also help manage compensation and partner service inquiries and conduct training and certifications on your company’s solutions. The larger TSBs and distributors also host partner conferences, creating additional opportunities to interact with highly engaged partners.
On the other hand, TSBs and distributors can also be gatekeepers, ensuring only those solution providers with the best channel agreements are presented to partners. Being successful with TSBs and distributors requires solution providers to commit time and resources to cultivate relationships and presenting compelling partner offers. When first entering this channel, providers should limit the number of TSBs and distributor partners until they find what works and what doesn’t.
5 Assess and Refine Your Partner Engagement Model
Regular assessments and continuous improvement are vital to building and maintaining stronger channel partner recruitment and engagement. In terms of measuring partner performance, detailed quarterly business reviews can ensure partners are performing as expected. On the one hand, you’ll see which products are performing best for your base. On the other, you see which partners are top performers. Periodic reviews also help you identify partners that are not engaging or may have been poached by your competitors, as well as any changes in the competitive environment requiring attention. In addition, using a third party to find out what your partners think about your program through surveys, interviews, and advisory councils can also reveal areas of improvement.
Knowing When to Say No to a Potential Partner
For many solution providers, the sales cycle ranges from 12-18 months. As a result, the wrong channel partner can significantly impact business. Don’t be afraid to say no to a potential partner or eliminate partners that are no longer engaged or performing.
Spending time and energy on partners with the same goals, values, and vision will lead to success. Investing in the right channel partners is a force multiplier for business success today.