Building the Partner Relationship: It’s a Lot Like Dating

For the sake of this post, let’s assume you’ve already looked carefully at your company’s situation and determined it is, in fact, the right time to start selling through the channel (or you might want to read my previous post, “Are You Ready to Dive into the Channel?”).

Now it’s time to find the right partners. It can be helpful with this process to get in a wooing mood. If dating is the process by which you find the right spouse, recruiting channel partners is the process by which you find the people best able to get your product in front of the right customers and close the deal. Building either relationship requires time, trust and mutual commitment.

Building the Trust

This is a big deal for any reseller. Partner organizations don’t manufacture product—all they really have to sell is their reputation and expertise. By presenting your solution, they’re making a big leap of faith with their customer that it will work. If it doesn’t, their relationship with that customer has taken a big hit.

Partners need to trust that you know what you’re doing. Expecting significant sales in the first six months is sort of like talking about marriage on the first date. It could indicate desperation or a lack of understanding about how healthy relationships work (probably both). It will probably indicate to a potential partner that your company lacks understanding about the requirements of building sales through the channel. Partners who know their stuff can smell that from a mile away. They’re likely to determine their time will be better invested with a more experienced vendor.

Mutual Commitment

Testing the commitment waters—determining your commitment level and your partner’s—protects you from an unbalanced and dysfunctional relationship in dating and in channel partner recruiting.

There should be equal commitment levels on both sides—from vendor to partner and partner to vendor. Never forget partners have their own agendas, and that your company and product have to compete for loyalty and mindshare with every other product the reseller may offer.

To protect your interests, you want to consider if selling your product will really be a win for the partner too. If it’s not clear to you how offering it will enrich the partner’s customer relationships, the commitment on their side may be lacking.

And then you also need to demonstrate the commitment your organization has to the relationship by offering all the tools necessary to ensure success—for example, an easy-to-use partner portal, training, some leads to take heat off the partner, and internal management support.

Now that you’ve found some great partners, what’s next? In the next blog post, Jason Jacobs will talk about how to on-board and keep those partners engaged.