The opportunity in the channel is well documented and often discussed. The last economic downturn led to many businesses leaning themselves to the extent that now their best chance for scalable growth is via indirect sales channel partners. I speak with channel sales & marketing pros each day who recognize the tremendous opportunity to grow through partners, but are paralyzed by the perceived challenges of progress. Part of the reason for this is the tendency for people to overthink and overcomplicate.
At the heart of any partnership is the mutual goal of growth. Working together is inherent to the success of the partnership, and patience is a key quality that needs be practiced by all parties. As a result, growth via indirect channels should NOT be a tomorrow expectation, or even a next week or next month expectation. But, if you create a common vision and consensus strategy for the success of the partnership AND make it easy for each organization to hold itself and each other accountable, the path to success becomes a lot clearer.
Make Progress Progressive
Realize that a perfect system for streamlining your indirect sales channel is a work in progress just like your partnership.
Start simple, honoring the basics of what is needed for success and then add new layers of technology, functionally and convenience over time to fortify the partnership at a pace that is manageable for you and your partners.
Once the foundation is established, the resources and tools you implement to support that progressive partnership can then grow and scale along as the value of the partnership is realized. Delaying the advancement of the partnership until the perfect system and process is in place just pushes back the time to value and ultimately the revenue growth you want. Plenty of technology exists out there to support the partnership and make it effective, but it’s best to choose a simple path forward. Overthinking it may create more time and budget pressures than your partnerships can bear. Even long-standing partnerships can get sidetracked when implementing the perfect technology or process becomes a distraction.
[bctt tweet=”Delays from attempts to implement the perfect system pushes back time to value of your indirect sales partnerships.”]
Manage Partner Expectations and Earn Their Patience
Does the thought of working toward the “ideal system” as part of (vs. prior to) the partnership make you feel anxious? It shouldn’t. All businesses understand resource constraints, and your best partners will appreciate your honesty. All you need to do is set expectations around the resources you have, your plan for constant improvement, and a rough timeline of when you expect to have those improvements in place. Follow through on those promises, or manage expectations clearly as things change, and your partners will continue to be patient with progress, especially if their basic needs continue to be met.
Let Your Partners Know You Aren’t Perfect
If vulnerability isn’t your thing, and you’re not quite sure how to let partners know your partner management infrastructure at the start isn’t exactly where you expect it to be down the line, here’s a message you can send which hopefully helps your partners understand and appreciate your effort to speed the partnership to market.
The work that we do with your organization is very important to us. The services and customer expertise you bring to the sale of our products supports the accurate implementation of a complete solution for the customers we both want to serve.
We understand that the cost of onboarding, training and enabling your sales and technical staff on our products can be a challenge to manage along with your core business. We want you to know we’ve taken steps to invest in our partnership through processes and technology that will make it easy for you and your reps to get exactly what is needed to effectively sell our products. Please understand that investment is ongoing and that the early resources we roll out is just the first step.
We expect those resources and systems to grow and scale with our partnership so the work we do together is simple, streamlined and productive.
Partner success is a balance of people, process and technology. Don’t overemphasize one over another, and instead of asking what is everything I need to do today to make this partnership a success, simply ask what is one thing I can do today to continue to improve my partnerships.