Which Comes First – Lead Generation or Partner Recruitment?

“I want to be working with a channel, but which should I be doing first?” This question comes up regularly on LinkedIn groups. It may sound like a chicken and egg question: How do you service leads without partners, and how do you engage your partners without leads? The fact is you need to be doing both, but there’s probably more risk in starting with partner recruitment. Here’s why:

New partners need to build trust in your company and product before they begin selling.

No matter how big or small they are, partners’ # 1 motivator is to respond to their clients’ or prospects’ needs. That’s their bread and butter. The technology or service they sell is part of their overall reputation. If they’ve never used your solution, offering it to their clients means they’re taking a risk and putting their reputation on the line. If it doesn’t work, their reputation with their client has taken a hit. Giving your new partners leads who’ve already indicated, “yes, I wanna do this,” helps them build trust in your solution more quickly.

Leads give them practice recognizing the problem your product solves.

This is especially true if your solution’s not well known. If partners don’t understand the buzz words and catch phrases that indicate the need, the opportunity will pass. If they have no track record with the product, they’re not going to see that your solution is something clients might be asking for. Sending leads primes the pump. It starts the conversation so partners learn how to work with and position you.

You’re competing with your partners’ other products.

When partners have 10, 20, 100 products on their line card—and they’re going to have to work twice as hard for yours, they’re not going to do it. If you don’t have any market traction, if you’re not able to pass leads over to partners, you’re not going to be able to really start working with that partner organization. You’re only going to be able to sign them up and hope for the best. Because, unless you’re already a nationally known product, no leads means partners have to start from scratch.

If you’re generating leads, there’s always going to be someone within your company who can sell it.

Having leads and no partners is an easier problem to solve than having partners but no leads. The CEO can always sell the leads if no one else. But if you have partners and no leads, those partners aren’t going to take a risk on you. It’s not so different from dating—partners will take things cautiously. But by providing some leads, it will help your visibility with partners, and it will give them opportunity to practice selling your solution. They’ll start seeing some success, and the faster they have success with your solution, the faster they’ll ramp up to becoming a better partner for you and one who will feel more comfortable inserting their existing accounts in your solution.