The last decade has brought more change and innovation to partner sales and marketing than any other time in history – including the advent of television. But at the end of the day, what’s really changed most is the connection points that unite buyers and sellers. In today’s world, with the overwhelming amount of content available online, it is a fully accepted fact that, for the first time, it is the buyer who is now in charge of the sales cycle – and those buyers know more about you and your competition than ever before.
When it comes to IT and the channel, the most critical test for IT vendors and their partners will be their ability to not only attract new customers, but to service and keep the ones they have. In other words – it’s no longer about simply “generating the ‘A’ lead.” Today it’s about “being the ‘A’ solutions provider” for hyper-informed prospects who expect you to know their pain points.
In the ‘A’ lead model, “BANT” (budget, authority, need, timeline) has long been the criteria to vet qualified leads. But what are the qualifications for an ‘A’ solutions provider?
Prospects look for thought leaders who are:
- Experts in their field.
- In tune with the industry.
- Known for providing great solutions.
- Financially knowledgeable.
- Technically savvy.
- Socially conscious.
So how do you prove that you have these qualifications with so much other noise out there?
You concentrate on the three Cs — content, collaboration and the customer.
Turning prospects into qualified leads and future customers for your partners requires you to be good at content marketing; there is just no other way around it. But how do you make an impact with limited time and budget – especially when it comes to your resellers?
- Create original content that is compelling to your prospects and reusable in different formats. Then post regularly and consistently (Note: slapping a partner’s logo and contact information on one of your white papers doesn’t count).
- Comment on posts and articles on industry specific sites or groups. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and share success stories or best practices.
- Retweet pertinent information that you have read elsewhere and think customers and prospects would find valuable. Sometimes, it’s the thought that counts.
- Engage in online conversations that your partners and their customers are having. Social is a great place for listening and adding value. So don’t just throw money at a snazzy LinkedIn profile and hope they come find you.
Remember, your partners are often the primary individuals standing face-to-face with your customers. Collaboration with their executives and sales reps is just as important with them as it is with your direct team.
At the end of the day, channel success relies more heavily on your ability to deliver a near seamless experience for the prospects and customers shared by you and your partners.
How can you help your partners make their customers successful?
- Make it part of your culture – from the top down. Learn your partner’s mission and vision for the company. And, have them learn yours.
- Be relentless in knowing and understanding exactly what will make your customers feel successful.
- Make every customer feel unique – because they are. And communicate regularly about their changing business needs, how your product or service is succeeding (or falling short) in solving them, and any adjustments or industry best practices that might help.
- Benchmark, evaluate and revise your contributions through communication and collaboration.
One of the best examples I’ve ever seen of this is with Infusionsoft, a hyper-growth SaaS company. Last year, at their I-CON partner summit, CEO Clate Mask took the stage in front of their growing partner base and said this:
“At Infusionsoft, it is our sole purpose to help small businesses succeed. And as our partners, as the individuals standing face-to-face with the customers we’re proud to share with you, it’s our purpose to, together, help you help small businesses succeed.”
Partnering wasn’t just a piece of Infusionsoft’s revenue plan. It was a core component of their overall purpose – one that would be executed together with their partners and with the customer top-of-mind.
And that’s why you see so many of today’s top partner programs belonging to businesses who have cultures where collaboration and the customer are always front of mind. And, where strategies and capabilities are in place to drive their message forward with outstanding content that can be easily shared and evangelized on nearly any platform, at any time.