More and more companies are opting for a sales channel strategy as a key factor in increasing their market share and revenue over time. Finding and forging collaborations with partners who align to your objectives is not easy, but with certain level of commitment it is possible.
I have witnessed various frustrating collaboration attempts between companies who partner to sell more and end up breaching their collaboration agreement. Here is some of the lessons I’ve learned during the past couple of years working in the development of successful partner channel programs, hoping to help you consistently beat the market over time with a great commercial capability, if well structured.
1. Choosing your partners
Most companies create a partner programme to add value to their offering:
Technology Partners: companies with hardware or software, required for our product or adding value to it.
Integrators: IT consultants that provide software to enhance their customers’ processes. This type of partner works well with technology companies. For instance an integrator is a consulting firm that integrates a billing management program to streamline purchasing processes, which had previously been done by hand.
Prescribers and multi-service resellers: Companies whose customers match our target, and who will refer us to their clients whenever they detect a need we can cover. Besides prescribing services, resellers do surveys to elicit interest in our product.
Distributors: Organisations that serve as a channel between our company and the customer. If they stock product they can help greatly to service large orders or demands from customers located far from our headquarters.
2. Having a channel sales program in place brings only benefits
No matter the size of your company — a large company or a start-up — we encourage you to include both direct and indirect sales channels in your sales & marketing capability. Having partners can entail several benefits which would be otherwise hard to obtain. We summarise them here:
Direct communication channel with many target-profile customers.
Footprint where we are not physically present.
Backed by a well-known brand (especially interesting for start-ups). Young or inexperienced companies can prove their reliability by associating their product with brands that are already established in the market.
Advanced, market-tested technology.
3. Always showcase your product’s appeal
The Partner Programme document requires your utmost attention. This document will be your cover letter to companies you wish to partner with, so be sure to include information about the product/service (summarising as much as possible).
4. Be prepared to give in return
From the beginning of your negotiation, future partners will want to know what you expect from them and, of course, what they can receive in return. The best option is to create partner categories with different responsibilities.
It is very important that any type of partner has access to the necessary support in order to cooperate with you. Technology partners will need product codes and support from our IT team. Integrators must be certified in our product before focusing on technical sales and installing the product at their customers’ sites. Finally, distributors, prescribers and resellers must be certified in the commercial sale of our product and will often need sales support for a period of time.
5. Seize the market
The launch of any product or service must be tailored to the market, based on data. An partner sales programme is no different. When a new indirect sales channel is designed, we must carry out a market test to confirm if the programme is really attractive and effective. Otherwise, we must change it to get new partners on board. Once validated in a small controlled market, we can roll it out at a larger scale.
In short, a winning sales strategy over time through a partner programme is a process that requires a lot of thorough attention. Cheer up! it seems tough at first but it does get easier with experience.
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