One of our main focus points is to help clients design, introduce and develop their own indirect channel to help them reach new markets, and consequently sell more of their products/solutions. But, what happens if after you do this, you realise that your channel partners aren't selling as well as they should be? You might feel like it is time to give up, or to find new partners, but before you do that, have a think about some of the considerations below.
Channel partners, managed correctly, can provide a wide array of benefits for your business. Renowned partners can offer you credibility and even scalability in the long-term. However, things are not always quite so "happy-go-lucky". To truly benefit from the advantages of working with partners, you both have to work in alignment and ensure that you have the same vision and goals in the short and long-term.
What might have gone wrong with my channel strategy?
You did not do sufficient research. Think back to when you initially chose your partner as a good candidate to work with your business. Did you carry out enough in-depth research to check how well trained or experienced their sales reps were with products like yours? Did you look into which businesses they have worked with in the past to see if there were any issues with them? First impressions of a company with a popular and recognisable name in the market can often be deceivingly positive without digging a little deeper.
You underestimated the commitment. You could be forgiven for thinking that for choosing one of the leading players in the market as your partner, they wouldn't require a lot of time or training to understand your product. This however, is a common error in smaller businesses and can lead to unrealistic timelines and objectives. It becomes even more relevant if your solution or product is particularly complex.
The partnership is more beneficial to you than it is to them. Channel partners are selfish by nature. If you have created the next best thing since sliced bread and it's flying off the shelves, then of course they are going to be eager to push it. It looks better for them and can also increase their average order size when selling it in addition to their own solutions. Imagine however, that you are a start-up, or a small, relatively unknown organisation in a saturated market. What do you have that would make a partner want to push your product over another that might generate more immediate results?
Your expectations were not aligned. This is a trap that any business, of any size, can fall into. You see how well one company is performing in the market, and the results they are achieving with partners, and you want in. It is easy here to assume that success for others in a similar business or industry will automatically mean success for you too, but that's more than often not the case. You and the partner you choose to work with need to align expectations as well as objectives, stating clearly how you both plan to achieve them, and putting in place a plan of action in the case that the expectations or objectives are not met.
So, what do you do now?
What is it they say in business? It's not what you know, it's who you know. Building and maintaining long-term relationships is probably one of the most important business skills you can develop. A personal touch in business is what leads to loyalty, and if you have a partner that is loyal to your business and its products, you are already halfway there. So, make sure you listen to your partner's needs, and be on hand to answer their questions because at the end of the day, it's your product they are selling so the end responsibility falls with you.
When we work with our clients, we make sure to spend proper time designing and creating simple, but effective salesware which is easy to understand for all parties. A good start is half the battle, and by developing a powerful sales kit for your partner (including product/company presentations, call and email charts, etc...) you are not only making their life easier when it comes to promoting your offering, but you are also reducing their workload, which is always going to be an upside, especially when it's highly likely that they are already working with various other companies. Make sure to provide enough information here to ensure your partner can easily understand the upselling and cross-selling opportunities within your company (if you have a CPQ software in place, this might be useful to share with your partner).
Make sure that your partner of choice is the right size for you to match your supply and demand needs. What I mean here for example is, you might have found the perfect partner for your cloud-based solutions, but if the company is too small, your supply will quickly outgrow them. On the other hand, if they are too large, your supply will not be enough to cope with the demand, creating extra stress for you and your partner.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Call your channel partner, email them and if you are located close enough to one another, arrange a face-to-face meeting on a regular basis. Encourage the same levels of communication from them as well and ensure that they know exactly how and when to reach you if necessary. The more you both communicate, the easier the process will be, and the better your results and sales will be as well.
Going indirect and working with channel partnerships is a two way street and if you are aiming to achieve mutual benefits, you must be willing to provide your partner(s) with the information and tools necessary to do their job professionally, efficiently, and effectively.
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