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Succesful Partner Programs are Relational, Not Transactional
April 23, 2020

In a rapid, competitive sales market, it’s all too tempting to focus solely on closing a deal. But if you want to supercharge your success it is time to move beyond this short-sighted goal. You must create a motivated, innovative, and cohesive team to drive your channel partner program. Ever heard of transactional vs. relational (sometimes called transformational) leadership? Let’s start with a comparison. A transactional partner program revolves around established processes, with the goal of completing tasks and meeting outcomes. A relational partner program focuses on building relationships, and inspiring growth and innovation. The end goal is creating a motivated team that works together toward common objectives. 

A relational partner program is resilient and prone to find success, today and in the future. Here’s how to evolve your channel partner program from transactional to relational.


Connect with people, not just processes

In a relational channel partner program, forging a deep connection with your indirect sales team is a priority. Relational leaders listen and make connections with their employees. They keep a finger on the pulse of the partners within their channel ecosystem by listening to what’s said and observing what’s left unsaid. Acknowledging a team as a group of individuals with different skills, knowledge and goals—instead of just cogs in the sales wheel—is the foundation of relational systems. It creates the mutual respect, trust, and loyalty needed to work well together.


Go beyond the training basics

A transactional channel partner program may provide the basic knowledge required to close a sale. A relational one sees educating and equipping their indirect sales team as an investment in long- term success, so it goes above and beyond to help them grow. Empowering people takes effort, time, and resources, but the eventual reward is well worth the effort.

A relational channel partner program has a thorough onboarding process, ongoing sales training opportunities, and impactful marketing collateral which is easily available. Partners aren’t just deal-closers who move from Point A to Point B, and relational programs allow partners to feel connected to a greater cause than simply closing a deal.


Teams that work together succeed together

Everyone works together in a relational channel program rather than having every salesperson for themselves. It’s about collaboration, sharing knowledge and pooling resources to work together on goals and problem-solving. It could be via online events or workshops, brainstorming sessions, mentoring programs, or invitations for feedback or ideas. In today’s new normal, channel leaders must take advantage of online conferencing tools such as Zoom in order to maintain relationships and encourage teamwork with partners. 


Openness and honesty are the best policies

An environment of openness and honesty allows for a relationship to flourish. Partner relationships are no different. That’s why being fair, accessible and truthful is important to building a relational channel partner program.

An inclusive and collaborative culture is pivotal – everyone understands what’s going on, from top to bottom. Whether information is shared through meetings, communiques, or a partner portal, there is a process established for disseminating information. Being honest about not-so-nice-news is just as important as sharing happy news. Openness goes a long way in preventing disgruntlement and friction. Informed partners are engaged partners.


A bottom-line focus is shortsighted

It’s ironic that a transactional environment, despite its focus on the bottom line, is actually less likely to bring about achievement. Success in this modern sales world depends on adaptability and innovation. Getting buy-in and commitment from every member of the team helps drive success. That’s why a relational channel partner program is today’s ideal. Focus on building relationships and motivating your team and success will come naturally.

Ali Spiric