Friday, May 06, 2011

 

What your channel partners want (in addition to sales)

Whether you drive the majority of your revenue from channel partners, or simply count on a loose partner network to drive referrals, we can all stand to have better relationships with those who also have access to your current and potential customers.

Most often, we manage these relationships too narrowly. We focus on the sales pipeline and processes/procedures to increase its output. Clearly that's important, but every partner values far more than direct sales. To differentiate yourself and drive significantly greater value to your partners (which in turn will mean more attention and customer volume back to you), have a strategy for delivering value in these areas as well.

Relationships & Introductions
This isn't just about customers. It's about other potential partners, service providers, industry influencers, press, potential employees - the list goes on and on. Know your partners well enough, and listen frequently enough, so you know who else they need to work with.

Expertise
If you understand the product, market or industry better than your partner, take this as an opportunity to educate. Most training programs with partners are formal and focused on the product. Make sharing expertise with your partners a regular thing. Articles you've found, analyst reports, new research all count, help your partners sell better, and deliver immediate, progressive value.

Access
Especially for your most important partners, open up your organization. Give them access to executives, product managers, researchers. If you trust them not to make regular late-night calls, give them your cell number. Even if they don't use these things very often, the fact that they can will make a difference.

Leverage
There are countless ways you can help your partners appear bigger than they are. List them on your Web site. Invite them into your next trade show booth. Promote them on your blog, in your next ad campaign. Help them take advantage of discounts by bundling buys with you. Leverage comes in big and small packages, but each can mean a lot to a partner who wouldn't otherwise have access to that opportunity.

New Ideas
When's the last time you brainstormed for or with your partners? Whether or not they're involved in the idea creation process, they'll appreciate whatever you can give them.

Execution
I guarantee your partners don't have as much bandwidth to execute as they'd like, no matter how big they are. Can you help? Would it be easy to add their needs to a project you're already executing? Can you offer to bundle buys or email campaigns or even just shipping stuff to the next event?

I'd love to hear your other ideas for differentiating and driving value to channel partners. What's worked for you in the past or currently? As a recipient partner, what are you or would you look for in addition to the list above?

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