Partnering with other companies and vendors is nothing new, but it is also a great way to improve your brand awareness and consideration by adding indirect feet on the street to your sales force. It’s also equally important to have a great partner experience, just as you would a customer experience, from pre-sales to post-sale support
When recruiting and on-boarding new partners, build good faith and trust as quickly as possible. As the partnership grows and develops it is even more critical to constantly stay on top of those needs to avoid anyone feeling like they are being taken for granted. Have the goal of continuously promoting and moving the partnership forward towards joint success.
Sometimes partner-programs grow too fast and the teams that support them get inundated with tactical responsibilities that reduce their ability to give the proper amount of support. Subsequently managers and support teams start working in a reactive capacity only focusing on the immediate low hanging fruit or responses to competitive bids and RFPs.
Here are three pillars for building successful partnerships:
1). Be Proactive: Don’t wait for your partners to start producing revenue without any effort from you. If you sit back and wait for it to happen, you will be waiting a long time without much to show for it. Instead, bring your partners opportunities where you can work on deals together and continue to build your trusted advisor status with them. No one wants to be first to the party, but once it’s going, you can’t stop the dance.
2). Be Supportive: When partners have needs for sales tools, technical sales support or pre-sales consulting to help them win the business, always give them the support they need. While this can get tricky with larger programs that have thousands of partners, try to build a program that is more selective in partner recruitment and that has the right number of channel managers and marketing support to work with them. If you have a program that can only support 100 partners based on your internal resources and budget, make sure to plan accordingly. Not supporting the partnership can quickly turn you into a brand that falls out of favor.
3). Be Responsive: Numerous times partners will call me when their channel managers didn’t get back to them quickly. Because indirect channels are about producing new streams of revenue and because partners typically won’t waste time where they are not making money, you can bet that if they contact you it’s typically for a good reason. There are always exceptions to the rule, however, respond quickly to your partners with a sense of urgency. This will show them that you care and value their partnership, and it contributes to them working hard to ensure your product or service is selected over the competition.
To be sure that you are truly being proactive, supportive and responsive to your partner’s needs, ask them to provide feedback. Simple surveys are a great way to periodically elicit input. When was the last time you asked your partners how you were doing and are there any additional pillars that you might include specifically for your business to provide value to them?