I hate it when people say “I don’t watch a lot of TV.” Trust me, I’m not that important. But with two-year-old twins at home and a two-year-old SaaS company growing like wildfire, I’m just going to say it and live with the consequences:
I do not watch a lot of TV.
Other than SharkTank. And Billions. And while I could fill the next few paragraphs with brilliant advice from Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec, let's take a different, more edgy route. Because it’s what I heard a few weeks ago on Billions, a new drama about business, wealth and corruption, that made me think of the single biggest problem that has been plaguing the channel for decades...yes, I said decades. Like the 80’s and 90’s:
Now freeze-frame the very last frame. Because YOU - yes YOU - have made that exact face more than once when talking to a partner - whether it be your other half, such as in this case, or a VAR or reseller across the country.
Partnerships are funny, aren’t they? There’s really no arguing it - if trust and communication break down, the status quo takes over, and the relationship becomes one-way, you’re in trouble. And deserve to be. Because as my next favorite line says:
Amen. And in the channel, where appreciation comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes, it’s dollars and cents that talk the loudest. So, unless you’re focused on making your partners and their sales reps just as appreciated, empowered, and, ultimately, financially successful as your direct team, then it’s time to make some changes. But as Wendy Rhoades so eloquently states, “It’s not easy to do.”
Notice she didn’t say “It can’t be done.”
Because though not easy, it’s a challenge that all businesses and business leaders must overcome. But, where do you even begin when it comes to your channel partners? The answer is closer than you think.
Start by taking a minute to think about the culture of your organization - its vision, mission and culture. Study after study has shown that the highest performance business cultures thrive on values that are rooted in teamwork, collaboration, and empowerment - especially when benchmarked with data. The worst performing? Well, their values are rooted in management and control.
Let me put that in bold caps: THE WORST PERFORMING BUSINESSES HAVE VALUES THAT ARE ROOTED IN MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL.
Luckily, the last several decades (there’s that word again) has brought forth some of the most innovative and dynamic thinking we’ve ever seen in business culture and leadership. Thanks to thought leadership such as Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last” and Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” and “Built to Last,” many of today’s most business leaders actually are trained and focused on building high-performance, collaborative, empowered, and appreciated teams.
The problem? Today’s business leaders don’t consider partners or resellers to be part of their team. And how could they when they’ve been taught that as a business, they:
must take “complete control over the productivity” of channel partners
build separate technology stacks to keep partners siloed from the rest of the organization
have “skilled concierges” to run marketing campaigns on their partner’s behalf because they’re “not smart enough”
check each and every potential sales opportunity to make sure there isn’t a conflict
Remind yourself - these are the people who are face-to-face with your customers. Representing your brand. Building relationships on your behalf. And selling for you on a volunteer basis, even though they may not see a cent unless a deal is closed.
Sound like a partnership to you? Me neither.
And that’s why I encourage you - I’d beg if I could - to start thinking about your channel partners differently. It’s the old 1+1=3 adage that very well could have been in your wedding vows - the sum of two wholes really can be greater than its parts. Not necessarily only through technology, but through methodology. By empowering them with knowledge and content, by collaborating with them regularly, by focusing on your shared customer, and by welcoming them into your brand and culture from the top down.
NOT with management and control. NOT with PRM or TPMA. And NOT by making money from them.