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When searching for your first channel partner, it’s important to make well-informed decisions. It comes down to two crucial components: gaining knowledge, and evaluating the potential channel partner to determine if they meet your criteria for partnership. That means you need to know what questions to ask, and what areas of their business to look into closely. It also means that before you choose your initial partner, you need to have a robust evaluation process so that you’re choosing the best channel partner for your needs..
Know What You’re Looking For
Your channel partner needs to fit your business needs and help you sell your product. It’s a great idea to have a set of criteria to see how each prospective partner stacks up against the others.
When creating your ideal partner profile, consider these four areas so that you can ensure you add partners that are the best complement to your business, and can help bring value to your customers. And remember, here is not really one size fits all for channel partners.
Training and Experience
What are the current training plans for their employees or any other channel partners? If you have a set of training tools to use in the channel, you should have some confidence that there will be follow through. Likewise, you want to know that if your staff needs any aids for selling the partner’s product offering, you won’t be left empty-handed.
Get an idea of their current experience as well. In the long run, you will both be benefitting from the channel partnership, but if you’re carrying the weight early on while they are still getting going, that’s good knowledge to have.
Their Other Partners
There is plenty of knowledge to be gained from looking into who else a prospective channel partner prospect is partnered with. Have those partnerships been successful? Are any of those businesses at odds with the mission, vision or focus of yours?
In some cases, it might even make sense to contact some of their former or current partners. Find out if their other partners have positive, negative, or neutral feedback. Some of that feedback could play into your decision to move forward with a particular partner prospect.
What type of market focus does your prospect have? Have an idea of whether it’s geographically dependent or specific business types. This can come into play in the future when you are vetting an additional partner, and whether you’ll have sales teams from multiple partners working within the same area. Right now, it means you’ll be well versed with their current customer base.
Also take a look at their target market and strategy. What has brought them success before, and how do they plan to continue that success in the future? Make sure that you’re satisfied with the response.
Business and Financial Security
In short, are they going to be around at this time next year? This can be a sensitive topic, but both you and your partnership will be stronger as a result of having this business-critical discussion out of the gate. After all, you’ll both be making investments of time and resources to make the partnership produce results. You’ll want to make sure there is time for those investments to pay off.
On top of having enough stability in their financial structure to stay afloat, you also will want to make sure that they have a business model that will not be at odds with yours. You can have differences of opinion as to how to manage and operate a company, but growth and how well they mesh with your target market should be something you can find peace with.
Evaluate the prospects
This requires you running down the criteria that you set up and comparing how well each prospective channel partner fits the bill.
Your evaluation process should not leave anything to chance. You’re trusting a very integral part of your business with the channel partners. ‘Good enough’ at this juncture, isn’t going to take your partner program very far.
It might seem counterintuitive that you would be devoting resources to vetting channel partners and turning away prospective partners because they’re not a good fit. But you’re spending time and money in the evaluation process in order to optimize the investment you’ll need to make in onboarding, training and activating your new partners. Devoting resources to signing the best fit partners will save you a lot of time and resources in the long run.
Over time, the knowledge gathering and evaluation process will become less time intensive. As you add more channel partners to your lineup, your familiarity with the routine will allow you to move quicker than the first round. But that’s also why it’s quite important to establish a robust process right away, so that you are immediately working toward positive outcomes.