Allbound loves inviting guest authors to contribute to our Partner Sales Acceleration conversation, and today’s blog post is from Jill Fratianne, Channel Account Manager of the HubSpot Partner Program.
Having worked at HubSpot for the last 6 years, I have had the unique experience of watching us grow from a startup to a 1,500-employee publicly traded company with 3 international offices. One thing is for certain, we would not have gotten there without the strong channel program that our team has tirelessly built and continues to fine tune.
Pete Caputa lead the charge in the early stages of our company, going against the advice of even CEO Brian Halligan to focus tremendous efforts on our channel program. We are so grateful he did. The program generates almost 40% of our company revenue. Not too shabby. But how do we get our partners to resell and service accounts for us? How do we develop partner loyalty? For the last 3 years I have focused on developing my own partners as a Channel Account Manager.
Here are 5 guiding principles that remain true:
If you think about promising tools that aren’t out yet, don’t. If you think about promoting pricing or discounts that don’t exist, don’t. Just don’t. Your partners will be with you forever ( or not ) based on the words and promises you make them. Don’t over promise and don’t be tempted to tell them exactly what they want to hear. Just recently, I had a prospect of one of my partners that was evaluating marketing automation tools, almost yelling at me to promise things on our product roadmap “because the competition promised they would someday.” I had to stand my ground, take the heat, and say, NO! I can’t promise that. No one was happy in the room, but short term frustration is way better than a long term disaster of unhappiness.
Don’t put important updates in emails assuming your partners will get the notifications. With major policy changes, updates, lead registration, commission changes — although it isn’t always a pleasant phone call, PICK UP THE PHONE. Remember, your partners are busy and don’t live within your company walls. You may need to repeat yourself many times, but remember communication is the best way to instill loyalty.
Something interesting that we do at HubSpot is allow our partners to know what’s coming out about our product before the general public. It makes them feel included, allows them to not be caught off guard when prospects ask them about HubSpot updates, and absolutely builds the trust / transparency factor. We make them sign non-disclosure agreements prior to the webinars or announcements. So far so good. We try and treat them with the respect they deserve as working adults.
Be helpful in every aspect of the word. That’s what real partners do. They don’t just focus on the products they sell but are willing to pitch in and offer advice on every aspect of the business. That builds trust and it’s rewarding to develop business consulting skills. Remember, your partners won’t be selling your products or services if there are other major business issues brewing. Help them!
For the most part, your partners generally don’t care about your internal quotas, sales numbers, or if you are in the hot seat. They only care about their business and their customers and, quite frankly, you need them to. Understand that ego goes out the door when understanding partners needs and even your own needs as well. The second you get nervous about your own numbers, they sniff it and run. Stay calm and understand it’s your responsibility to make them feel like they are #1, not you.
Building a channel, partner or VAR team is critical to any business, some more than others. Finding the right balance of partners takes effort, desire and perseverance. Just remember, if they don’t trust you, you will be a thing of the past quickly. Be the bearer of bad news early and often if need be, and you will win them forever.
Jill Fratianne is the Channel Account Manager of the Partner Program for HubSpot, a software company that is an authority on internet and Inbound marketing. While coaching marketing agencies and companies of all shapes and sizes to win in business and the internet, she has seen thousands of business, business owners, employees, and people with no marketing background what-so-ever transformed by an internet age where the smart, coachable, and creative individuals hold the keys to success.