Question: Do you treat your channel partners as part of your sales force?

Hiring a new sales person typically involves a detailed and rigorous process. It’s similar for most organisations, and you’re probably familiar with it.

First, recruitment and HR people profile the type of candidate that they think will fit the bill for the required vacancy. Their skills, experience, personality traits and so on. Using this, they create a focused job description and push it out to ensure the right people see it.

Once advertised and applications come flooding in, the team sifts through a pile of CVs and responses, shortlisting the strongest. It’s only after all this effort, preparation and diligence that anyone even sets foot inside the building to be interviewed… and of course, that process brings a fresh layer of effort and preparation in the form of interviews, exercises, offers and rejections and so on.

Eventually the decision is made, and the lucky recruit walks through the door to be treated to a comprehensive induction programme, introductions to key employees and team members of the direct and extended team, training and insights, as well as an outline of the company culture and specific ‘way of doing things’.

Sure, the successful candidate has previous experience selling in your space – after all, that’s why you hired them. But just because they’ve sold before, doesn’t automatically mean they know how to sell the way you need them to in their new role, with you. So, more investment is committed – until they’re a bona fide sales machine and ready to hit the front line!

All this requires a lot of time, effort and belief, and is designed to ensure the best results for the business and the individuals involved. It’s a logical and proven approach.

Do your partners get the same dedicated attention?

So, the question is: why is the same time and effort not always invested in the channel, and importantly, your partners? When it’s an equally important – and vital – part of an organisation’s sales team, often in fact contributing far more revenue than the direct sales teams generate.

Sadly, the reality is that channel partners rarely tend to get this kind of red-carpet treatment. There’s often no or little strategic selection process; no tailored, lengthy induction; no focus on philosophy, culture or behaviour. Too often, partners are assessed and chosen on very little more than their ability to fill out a registration form on that ever present ‘become a partner’ page.

Sales teams and third-party reseller partners both sell to the same people – end user customers – contributing to one end goal; to sell as much of your stuff as possible! So, why would you be so meticulous about one group, and so neglectful of the other? The disproportionate relationship that exists here between direct and indirect is astonishing. When you look at it independently, logically… why would you ever spend more time, effort, money on the side that is generating less revenue? And not commit more time, effort, education, support, tools, money to the area that is bringing in the most revenue – in order to see it expand and develop further?

More respect is needed.

It’s time to treat the channel with more respect – as the powerful, effective, impactful route to market that we not only know it is, but that it demonstrates time and time again when we compare direct against indirect. We spend too much time assuming that partners should know what to do and how to do it.

Instead of form-filling and assumptions, nurture chosen partners with the same care and attention as new employees. Take the time to educate and enable them, with a deep understanding of YOUR business, YOUR products, YOUR culture, YOUR objectives and YOUR way of doing things. Think hard about how you can leverage this approach to create competitive advantage, while providing a truly unique partner experience. That will motivate partners to work with you, every day. And remember, this isn’t just about when they become a partner, or when you are targeting them in a retention incentive or an uplift campaign. This is about how you treat them every day. And equally, if they are not performing, speak to them, give them a review, assess them regularly, find out what they think and what their challenges are… and if they are still not performing get all Alan Sugar on them! Sometimes it’s ok to accept things are not going to work out.

Along the way, be realistic. Establish how much information is optimal to bring the best out of partners, and how much might be overkill. How much cultural understanding do you give them about your business and methodologies? How much time do your top sellers spend with partners, training them in their preferred and proven sales success model? Create a model where you can minimise conflict and distrust, and instead embrace and exploit the fundamental principle that is key to the existence of your channel… successful and effective route(s) to market.

These are all questions that you need to answer. And in doing so you’ll reap the commercial rewards.

The benefits of positive channel partner relationships are well-documented. Partners are perfectly placed to push your products to new markets and in ways that might not be viable for your own organisation. Imagine how much more effectively they will be able to do that, if you’ve taken the time to properly educate and enable them in your products and brand values.

As a channel specialist, Purechannels takes partners seriously. This is what we do… everyday, for the world’s leading brands. We could do the same for you. You just need to ask. Speak to us and we will gladly take a look and give you some feedback.

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