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Despite the numerous benefits of selling through the channel, partner relationships are not without their challenges. We asked some of the top channel leaders their advice for problem-solving and overcoming conflict with partners:
1. Resolve issues immediately.
“In handling competing vendors, I take the approach of spotlighting the unique differentiators our technology presents and ensuring that our product meets their client’s needs. It is crucial to be transparent with our partners, as the end goal is to ensure the client’s satisfaction. If the experience is not positive, not only will it negatively affect the partner/vendor relationship, but the partner end client relationship as well.
In regards to resolving conflicts, nothing works better than transparency, honesty and being timely. Resolving issues immediately earns the respect of your partners. Even when the resolution may not be in a particular partner’s favor, knowing that the problem is addressed upfront prior to consuming their time and being transparent in why you came to a certain conclusion always seems to be respected by all parties involved.”
– Ken Tripp, Director of Channel Accounts at Netwrix
2. Sometimes you have to sell direct.
“We had a conflict between our traditional wholesalers and online resellers. We solved this by fully embracing selling online ourselves. We were afraid that our traditional customers would resent us for being competitors. However, once they realized we were able to control pricing integrity that the previous online sellers had destroyed, they made peace with it. Ultimately, we were able to reorganize an aggressive-looking move into a protective one.”
– Andrew Tjernlund, Owner of Tjernlund
3. Lower your expectations.
“The biggest issue we had with our partnerships was trust. In the beginning, both businesses are exuberant and actively promise to help promote one another. I learned that ultimately, nobody cares about your business as much as you. You have to start expecting less unless it’s you selling your own product. Over time, I’ve learned to reduce my expectations of our partners.”
– Scott Krieger, Creative Director & Web Developer of Studio 54
4. Differentiate your offering to prevent overlap.
“One of our main issues is a conflict of interest. It’s a double-edged sword when you and your partner work in similar industries. On one hand, you have similar targets. On the other hand, there can be overlap with your offerings. I think the best solution is to better filter the partner list. You need to find that partner that has a stable stream of irrelevant customers for them, but relevant for you. Plus, a specific agreement is a must-have.
The other issue is the competition between vendors. Most vendors will have at least a handful of partners. To guarantee the best fit, your company has to offer the best conditions to cooperate. That’s why it’s important to develop the communication culture and quality delivery of services to win the competition. In our company, we have a particular landing page with a list of services and rules on how to do business with us. It helps to build transparent and efficient relationships.”
– Maksym Babych, CEO of SpdLoad
5. Demand high-quality deals.
“Low-quality deals are a common issue. Since partners are not a part of your company, they’re less invested are more interested in their short-term interests. Therefore, they tend to optimize to get the maximum return with the least effort. That tends to result in lower quality deals that either have a lower customer lifetime or have a lower chance of renewing or buying again. It’s best to only reward players after a certain threshold proving that the deal was higher quality.
Another common issue is brand alignment. Getting outside players to market your offering in an aligned way with what you intended can be a huge challenge. This requires adding in-depth terms and conditions that require your indirect sales partners to market your products in an aligned manner.”
– Kean Graham CEO & Founder MonetizeMore
6. Maintain control over your pricing.
“One of the biggest challenges of indirect channel sales can come from providing the vendor or reseller with too much control over pricing or distribution outlets. A vendor deeply discounting products to get them out of the door (such as if they themselves are in financial difficulties) can soon devalue your whole brand, and result in abandonment from your other vendor channels too.
Providing some leeway for price flexibility to vendors (particularly those serving different niches or geographical markets) is fine and often necessary, but integrate minimum pricing thresholds, and add a legal buyback caveat in the case of vendor liquidation or financial difficulties.”
– John Moss, CEO of English Blinds