More so than ever, the sales landscape is built on networks and relationships that enable companies and individuals to support each other to achieve strategic goals. Thanks to an increase in technology and tools, as well as a proverbial leveling of the playing field, channel partners can communicate, collaborate, and benefit each other.
As we’ve written before, building successful partnerships and strategic alliances is contingent on your ability to do your research, identify the right partners (partner personas), and set shared objectives that are achievable for both parties. However, in the case of inspiring partners to interface with each other, it’s up to you to put in the legwork to create a trusting, collaborative environment.
While these interactions may manifest themselves in different forms, partners who partner together form mutually successful alliances. Collaboration is the mother of all successful relationships. And organizations that encourage partner-to-partner (P2P) relationships benefit from the increasingly diverse capabilities of resellers.
To help illustrate how to do just this, we turn to Cisco, a company whose incredible, lasting success has always been heavily embedded in its channel-partner ecosystem. Just how important is the channel to Cisco? Partners handle more than 90 percent of the company’s business, according to Jarrod Weise, partner content manager at the company.
The Rise of the Channel Ecosystem
The channel landscape is evolving into what Cisco calls an ecosystem, according to Weisein an episode of The Allbound Podcast. “It used to be that IT did a lot of the work and had the buying relationship—and there’s still a lot of that going on—but now we are getting into a world where lines of businesses are getting involved, and developers are getting involved, so what we see is this kind of explosion of partner types,” he says.
As this suggests, in the past, IT teams handled a majority of end users’ technology needs. These days, however, these same customers work with an array of channel partners in different intervals to help solve business problems—not just IT problems. They may start with a consulting firm to develop a roadmap for transformation and migrate to partners that can design, deploy, and operate software solutions. From integrators to consulting firms, there’s an increase in the type of partners a customer may interface with.
Reimagining Channel Hierarchy
Partners now have increasingly diverse skill sets that not only cater to the needs of their end users but also benefit vendors. As Weise claims, enterprise, multibillion-dollar partners are now looking to partners for expertise and innovation. “[Y]ou have partnerships who historically focused on hardware who are now understanding this shift to a software world…and now they’re looking to their peers saying, ‘Where should I be partnering up and collaborating?’”
As this illustrates, teams can leverage the power of P2P collaboration by reimagining their organizational hierarchy to value the expertise of their partners.
Weise uses the example of a leading producer and manufacturer of carpeting that relies on its partners to guide projects. The company treats each of its six partners as a “board of directors” that reports to the vice president of infrastructure to manage projects collaboratively. Not only does this encourage partners to work together, but it also inspires creative solutions that may not be developed otherwise.
Introducing Partners to Each Other
Another way for organizations to create profitable P2P relationships is by introducing them to each other. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? To encourage channel partners to interface with each other, Cisco hosts in-person events, such as Cisco Live, wherein it brings together its partners from across the country. In doing so, these partners learn how to truly benefit each other.
This event encourages partners to communicate and collaborate in new, creative ways in which outcomes are driven by the entire committee. Because they deal in specific industries by nature, partners can greatly improve each other’s offerings by providing unique solutions to challenges.
Ultimately, it’s up to your organization to know how to inspire collaboration across your different partner types. This starts with your initial approach. As more and more partner types enter the fold, it’s important for your channel to scale accordingly and learn how to support their unique needs.