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Channel Matters Blog > March 2015 > Matchmaking Between Customers and Partners

Matchmaking Between Customers and Partners

by Corinne Bartow
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How do you decide which partner to tap when a prospect or customer asks you for a recommendation? Many partner programs specify how those requests are handled by focusing on partner metrics such as customer satisfaction scores and partner business volume. But I strongly believe that the decision needs to be equally influenced by the specific needs of the customer. How will the partner recommendation impact their buying decision? How about the project success and longevity of your business with that customer?
 
Small organizations may be able to get away with informally handling each inquiry. But as you and your partner program grow, more structure is needed. Partnerships rely on trust, which relies on transparency and predictability in how such requests are managed. Your prospect or customer is relying on you to make a recommendation that considers their needs. Clear guidelines that help your employees understand how to assess those needs is particularly crucial as you scale away from day-to-day decisions being handled by one or two senior leaders.
 
So what factors should be considered? While they will vary based on your business, a few I have applied in the past include:
Vertical Expertise: Is there specific business or technical knowledge that will lend credibility and provide unique expertise to meet the customer’s needs?  
Solution Breadth: Does the customer need a wide breadth of expertise or depth of knowledge about specific technology? What other products are part of the solution?  Which partner(s) have the right mix of skills, including skills with other vendor’s products, and can best help the customer achieve their objectives?
Style and Culture Fit: Does the customer prefer working with big name firms, or are they more comfortable with a boutique firm? Is the customer and/or this specific project best matched with a low-cost or a high-value-add partner? Are there cultural concerns or advantages in matching the customer with a particular partner? 
Competitive Fit: When making a recommendation to a prospect, how will the recommendation strengthen your competitive position?
 
At the very least, spelling out these considerations for partners and customers will ensure both trust that you are being thoughtful and fair when it comes time to make the recommendation. To be even more prescriptive, you may even use weighted scaling that includes your criteria as well as partner metrics to arrive at a short-list of partner recommendations.
 
Successful scalability in partner programs is built on clear rules of engagement and guidelines.  Successfully growing and retaining your customers relies on bringing your best to the table.  And in this case, the best partner needs to be defined in terms of meeting the customer’s unique needs.
Last modified on 3/26/2015 3:08:41 PM
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