As you set down the path to take advantage of the tremendous financial and brand-building benefits of channel sales, it’s easy to jump the gun. It’s not uncommon for those just embarking on putting their channel together, even those with impressive direct sales experience, to open the floodgates and start setting up every company that signs up through a Web form as a partner. Some companies may have managed to succeed based on this starting point, either by pure luck or by whittling down the initial onslaught of partners to something more targeted and effective. But there’s an easier way to approach it.
Having a clear strategy to identify an ideal channel sales partner will save you time and resources, not to mention make you money through higher-quality partnerships. The following three tips will walk you through how to identify, find, and cultivate relationships with your ideal channel sales partner.
1. Build out Personas Upfront
With the desire to start seeing the money roll in as soon as possible, it’s sometimes easy to treat exercises like putting together partner personas as busywork that keeps you from getting to the nitty-gritty of making deals. But don’t let those partner profile worksheets be buried under a pile of papers on your desk (or don’t let those spreadsheets be lost on your office shared drive, whatever the case may be). Doing the conceptual legwork to build out these personas is non-negotiable—it’s one of the most important steps you can take in building out your channel.
The following questions offer a good starting point for putting together a picture of your ideal partner:
What area or areas of business do you want your product to be sold in?
Is there a particular market you want to break into and a particular kind of partner that can help you do it?
Is geographical location important for selling your product?
Are there products or services you think your product could work well with as part of a package?
But these are only a few suggestions. What’s most important is that you think deeply about exactly what kind of partner, in an ideal world, you’ll be selling through, and what you can expect the partnership to do for you and your brand. And make sure that you write all of this information down—you’ll come back to it often.
2. Use Your Connections to Look for a Match
A partner that comes highly recommended from a business connection you trust is going to be a better bet than going in blind with a stranger, for reasons that should be obvious. There are fewer question marks, a proven track record, and maybe even a little more accountability because of the partner wanting to put its best foot forward.
So take your ideal list of partner qualities and start asking your most trusted colleagues about potential partners that fit that description.
Remember—a partner’s sales staff will be representing your product to the world. You’re going to want them to be ideal in their placement and their reach, but you’re also going to want them to be ideal in the way they represent your brand, the enthusiasm with which they sell, and the positive dynamic they have with their clients. You’ll have a far better idea of whether or not partners check all these boxes if you get in touch with them through someone you trust.
3. Keep Honing Your Idea of “Ideal”
The sales world never stops moving, and neither should your analysis of how to best position your product and what type of partner can sell it best. Keep looking for new markets where your product might fit and new products hitting the market that could change how you position your own in response to them. And while you’re staying on top of the critical task of knowing your area of business, refine your partner personas, keep tapping your contacts, and find the partners that can make your moves into new areas a reality.
Like success itself, “ideal” is a moving target. By always tweaking and cultivating your partner program, you can be sure to meet any market shift with a dynamic partnering move that keeps you on top.