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Channel Matters Blog > February 2014 > How to Hold Effective Planning Sessions With Channel Partners

How to Hold Effective Planning Sessions With Channel Partners

by Rich Blakeman
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In a multi-channel organization, fostering collaboration between sales professionals and channel partners is essential. The best way to do this is to hold regular, effective planning sessions. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most challenging aspects of working with channel partners for sales professionals who have spent their career in a direct-sales model.
 
The problem is that most of these sales professionals aren’t accustomed to thinking about the goals of others. Even when they have to collaborate with their team to close a large account, it’s assumed that everyone has the same goal – winning the business. When asked to work with channel partners, they often take the same approach. Their planning sessions amount to little more than a deal-by-deal review of revenue opportunities conducted with a “what have you done for me lately?” attitude.
 
4 Partner-Planning Essentials
Effective partner-planning sessions require the sales professional to approach partners with more than just their quota in mind.
 
Understand the partner’s value focus – We covered the three types of value partners recognize in the post What do Partners Really Want? While the organization may have channel account managers responsible for partner value, it is vital that sales professionals understand the partner’s goals and objectives.
 
You can have everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.Zig Ziglar
 
To get what they want, sales professionals have to acknowledge that there is often more motivating the channel partner than closing the next deal. Understanding those motivations will allow them to create win/win scenarios. It’s a skill that high-performing sales professionals should already be adept at as it isn’t all that different from what they do every day with prospects.
 
Think strategically – Sales professionals need to think beyond the opportunities in the sales funnel. What are their long-term territory objectives? For example, if a sales professional wants to penetrate a new market, how might channel partners help them achieve the goal?
 
Thinking about it this way helps the sales professional assess the skill sets and aptitudes of the existing channel and identify the need for additional development or new recruits. Once they have a promising partner, understanding the partner’s long-term goals will allow them to suggest business investments that prepare the partner for the opportunity.
 
Set the right objectives – The goal of the planning session is to set executable and achievable objectives. Again, understanding the partner’s long-term goals is vital to gaining their agreement on objectives.
 
Objectives should also be more than revenue based. In the above example where the sales professional wanted to penetrate a new market, the objective set might be to invest in additional sales and support resources with experience in the market. The ultimate goal is additional revenue, but while the partner is still making the necessary investments, there should not be any revenue numbers tied to the objective.
 
Include the right people – It should be obvious by now, but there is a difference between funnel reviews and partner-planning sessions. While the sales professional should continue to hold funnel reviews with key frontline sales professionals in the channel organization, planning sessions are conducted with managers and executives within the partner’s organization.
 
Fostering collaboration between channel partners and direct-sales executives may be the area where I spend the most time helping my clients. It is certainly one of the most challenging for many of them. If you have ideas or questions on this vital topic, add your thoughts below or reach out to me at rich.blakeman@channelenablers.com.
 
 
Last modified on 2/26/2014 11:56:37 AM
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