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Channel Matters Blog > August 2011 > Partner Recruitment: Getting It Right!

Partner Recruitment: Getting It Right!

by Greg Nutter
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For those who live and die by the numbers, September is the beginning of either the most exciting or most depressing selling period of the year - it’s the time when sales professionals discover whether they have enough prospects to make their year. Likewise, channel managers discover whether or not they have the right partners in place and begin deciding whether recruiting new resellers should be one of their New Year’s resolutions. For most vendors who sell through channels, partner recruitment can be the greatest point of failure so getting it right often means the difference between program success and a lot of wasted time and money.

As the old saying goes, “If you think hiring professionals is expensive, try hiring amateurs”. Channel partnering decisions are precisely a case in point and the consequences of “hiring” the wrong partner can be significant in terms of lost revenue, high support costs, and damaged brand image, to name just a few.

There are three important considerations to successfully recruiting the right reseller partners:

1) Partner Profile

A Partner Profile tells you what kind of partner to recruit and, perhaps even more importantly, what kind of partner not to recruit. Provided you’ve made some decisions regarding the customer segment you’re targeting and the products you want the channel to sell, you’ve gone a long way towards defining what your ideal partner must look like. Resellers very rarely open new markets – they take products to their current markets and customers using their existing selling, implementation, and support skills. Key selection criteria must include selling and technical competency, current customer profiles, sales cycle profiles, whether they sell applications or infrastructure, and the degree of synergy between their products and yours. A mismatch at the sales skill level is the most common gap which almost always translates into marginal performance.

2) Supporting Programs & Tools

There’s lots of demand for good resellers today and to snare one you’ll need to convince them that your program offers more opportunity than the last vendor who called. While product capabilities are important, the most compelling way to differentiate yourself is by demonstrating you have the programs and tools to support them throughout the sales cycle: prospecting, qualification, sales cycle development, selection, installation, and ongoing support. Many vendors put a lot of emphasis on product related support tools but programs that train resellers how to successfully sell the solution are considerably more effective. This entails a whole lot more than a 1 hour PowerPoint and a few product related spec sheets.

3) Recruitment Operations

Here’s an analogy for you:

  • Have you ever seen someone driving around with a “For Sale” sign on their car - any idea how many people actually sell their car this way?
  • Have you ever seen a vendor’s website with a page that asks potential resellers if they want to sign up to sell their products - any idea how many partners get signed up this way?

If you answered “not many” to both questions then you understand that trying to passively drive a complex sale simply doesn’t work. Unless you’re a Microsoft, IBM, SAP, or other well known product company, very few prospects will apply. Even worse, the ones that do apply often won’t fit your ideal Partner Profile. Signing up reseller partners that will successfully drive business involves targeting partners that match your Profile and assigning sales people who have both the time and skills to manage the selling and contracting process. Treating partner recruitment as a part-time, ad-hoc project won’t deliver much in the way of results.

In his 2005 book entitled “Winning”, Jack Welch pointed out that “Nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the field. All the clever strategies and advanced technologies in the world are nowhere near as effective without great people to put them to work.” Having a great product and a good story isn’t enough to get the right resellers beating a path to your door. Developing and implementing a solid recruitment strategy makes a big difference.



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