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Channel Matters Blog > October 2012 > Managing multiple points of partner contact

Managing multiple points of partner contact

by Cian McLoughlin
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Thankfully the days of Channel Partners being seen as poor cousins to an organisations direct sales force are rapidly becoming a distant memory. Increasingly global technology companies are looking to their Partner Ecosystem as the smartest and most efficient way to sustain their continued growth and expansion, while balancing their 'cost of sale' imperative. Whereas previously a Channel partner might engage with 2 or 3 key individuals from the Vendor, suddenly they're being exposed to a much broader layer of sales and sales management; these multiple points of contact must be managed carefully!

In recent years, revenues derived from Channel sales have begun eclipsing revenues stemming from Direct sales in many organisations. This is great news for companies that have invested in building robust and revenue ready Channel partners, but it also raises a new and interesting conundrum.

Whereas previously a Channel partner might engage with 2 or 3 key individuals from the Vendor, suddenly they’re being exposed to a much broader layer of sales and sales management. The direct sales force are keen to leverage the Channel partners industry expertise for vertical opportunities, the telesales team wants to use them to gain credibility and traction with new prospects, the consulting group is keen to leverage their product knowledge etc..

As with any business relationship, an inherent level of trust and professional credibility must exist between a Partner and the Vendor they represent. These relationships are often forged in the crucible of tough sales campaigns, hard fought wins and costly losses, but the most successful relationships invariably exhibit many of the same characteristics:

  • A clear alignment of goals between both organisations
  • A sense of mutual respect and trust
  • A set of consistent rules of engagement for sales opportunities

As many seasoned Channel Managers will attest, it can take months or even years to develop a strong relationship with a Partner, but it can be destroyed in a matter of days!

Which brings us to the conundrum, how do we expand and deepen the level of engagement between Vendors and their Partner community, without impacting and undermining the attributes that made these relationships successful in the first place? Here are a couple of strategies to consider:

  1. Ensure every individual within your organisation understands the value of your Channel and Partner relationships. This guidance must come from the C-suite.
  2. Develop a clear and concise set of rules of engagement for your Direct sales force, when engaging with or through Partners.
  3. Communicate and enforce these behaviours religiously.
  4. Provide a timely and transparent arbitration process.
  5. Develop a Win/Win culture, with the KPI structure and comp plans to support it.

When a market begins to change or evolve, it’s impossible to avoid the occasional skirmish or growing pain. Smart vendors will recognise that a few simple strategies, properly executed, can safeguard these critical relationships and set up a Win/Win culture which can sustain their revenue growth for many years to come.

 

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