Traditionally, there is a lack of integration between suppliers and the channel that makes partners feel less like extensions of the supplier and more like disconnected satellites that orbit around the enterprise (until they get knocked off course and spiral away, never to be seen again). This is an ineffective way of managing what could be tremendously profitable relationships.
Getting your partner program tightly woven into your overall sales strategy, the way it should be, begins with getting the right people talking. While traditionally those brokering partner relationships are siloed to sales, there are many more major players on either side who need to be involved to really make it work.
So it’s time to expand your idea of who’s important in a partner relationship, as we explore how to build the connections you need between organizational hierarchies to get a truly top-notch partner program in place.
The Chief Revenue Officer is the person in the C-suite who is most concerned with how the money comes in. So getting them in touch with the VP of Channel Sales is a critical step in determining exactly how sales partnerships figure into the overall revenue generation of the supplier. The CRO is concerned with the profitability of every part of the organization – that includes your partners.
The Vice President of Marketing makes sure that what the customer sees best reflects the company’s vision. The person in this role has the final say on the high-level standards for the way the whole company displays their product, and that has to extend to the channel.
Things like branding guidelines, marketing materials, and social media strategies need to be consistent across the board to present to the customer. From the customer perspective, a product is a product no matter who is selling it behind the scenes. Thus, you need to make sure that both the things sold direct and things sold through the channel have the same qualities, and the same level of quality. The Vice President of Marketing should be in the same room as the partner-side marketing pros to make this happen.
One of the most difficult parts of creating effective channel relationships is that direct sales sometimes feels that it’s pitted against channel sales. When your business is in competition against itself, nobody wins. But by getting Sales Account Managers working with, rather than against, Channel Account Managers, real collaboration can flourish. The channel side can teach direct sales people a thing or two about how partners can make their deals even better, and the direct sales can bring their inside knowledge of the product and its branding to the channel pros to help make sure they’ve got the best resources to go on to close a deal.
Internal IT can understand perhaps better than anyone what needs to happen in order to make real collaborative communication possible. You can talk all day about integration, strategy, and getting people on the same page. But you need an IT department that’s capable of seeing how the whole system is laid out – both internally and on the partner end – to really make it happen.
When the supplier’s Business Applications Team can move beyond the office walls and help partner tech teams implement the right tools for the right tasks, set up systems to collect the right data and aggregate the right insights, and offer support as needed, that’s the technological foundation of true collaboration – it’s the framework upon which a partnership is launched, built up, and fleshed out.
Building out these four inter-business relationships is a critical step in setting up your partners for success. Treating everyone as part of the same team, and having the right technological solutions in place to do it, is the way to turn a partner program from an afterthought to a central part of your sales strategy – as it should be.