Up’s and Down’s of building a successful Partner Channel

23rd August 2019 by james

Businesses are always evolving and looking for viable ways to grow their customer base, a partner channel can often be deemed a viable route. In essence, a partner channel is simply an extended arm of a company’s sales team assisting in closing more business. It can seem like a no brainer for every business to have other organisations do their sales for them, but is this the reality and can it really be that easy? There are many things to consider when looking to have external sources sell your product or service.

Partner knowledge

More often than not, we assume our products and processes are sublime and easily understood. When on-boarding a new partner, it’s vital that they understand not only the core features and benefits but every single nut and bolt. Your partner needs to have the ultimate knowledge to deliver the right solutions to their customers. The reality is, if they don’t feel confident they know the product or service, they will be very reluctant to promote and push it, especially if it seems complicated or causes them a headache.

Margin

In a perfect world more partners mean more sales, and ultimately more margin. Sometimes this is not the case. When creating and developing a channel-based sales funnel, the margin share and cost pricing needs to be attractive for all involved. If your business aims for the Ryanair model of sell it cheap, stack them high, you may need to review the ‘sell’ price to keep enough in it for both business and partner. Likewise, if your pricing model is high, your partners may struggle in a more competitive industry.

Support

There are always two levels of support to be aware of. How your partners support their customers and how you support the partner.

When a new partner starts the sales process, they will initially require a lot of hand holding to learn the do’s and don’ts. Does your business setup have the capacity required to support this? Then of course when something goes wrong for a partners customer, there is now a middle man involved, therefore putting more emphasis on your business to have strong SLA’s.

If you train the partner in everything in the first instance, this can often ease the support calls and give the partner the confidence to truly support their customer base on your product.

Recruitment

On-boarding new partners can seem a daunting task, however if done right this can be instrumental to company growth. The core issues usually faced with bringing on new partners is finding the right partners. A partnership is a two-way street, and you will need to on-board partners who are invested in your product / service and can execute all that’s involved to ensure the customer experience is no different than if they had purchased direct. Bringing on new partners is resource intensive and wasting this resource can cause issues. Have a strict criteria of the types of partners you’re looking for and stick to it. Bringing on the wrong partners, who may not understand the industry or have the right support channels, can have the opposite effect of what your business is trying to achieve.

Know your market

Most organisations claim to know their industry, and they’re probably right. However, with building a partner channel you are now becoming a wholesaler. In some instances, this can be a completely different business model than selling direct. Understand who currently dominates the wholesale space, why they dominate, and what you can do to improve it is vital for success. Adding value but keeping the same core methodology to channel partners is key. If partners are used to doing things in certain ways, changing this up may make them reluctant to change supplier.

Grade your partners

Now you’ve decided on the criteria of a channel partner, it’s essential to grade them, this can be internally or publicly. Grading partners, allows you to focus your time and energy on the right type of partner, who’s either performing or has the potential to perform.

When a partner is given a grade, this can also drive them to perform at a high level in order to reach the next grade, which can sometimes come with extra benefits.

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