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Channel Matters Blog > September 2013 > Finding the Perfect Channel Partner

Finding the Perfect Channel Partner

by Geoff Wright
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In our Channel Success Essentials workshop, we ask what should be a rhetorical question: Which is better?

A. To recruit 100 partners to end up with 5 productive partners
B. To recruit 10 partners to end up with 5 productive partners

The obvious answer is B. Managing a channel partner, even an unproductive one, requires overhead. The ratio of Channel Account Managers (CAMs) to partners varies between industries and organizations, but for the sake of the discussion, let’s assume a ratio of 1:20. In option A, the organization will end up needing 5 CAMs to manage 100 partners. In option B, one CAM can manage the entire channel. In both scenarios, the sales results are similar.

You could argue that the first scenario doesn’t require five CAMs since the partners are unproductive. That’s probably true to some extent, but sometimes the least productive partners are the most “high-maintenance.”

Furthermore, if your CAMs are responsible for recruiting and developing partners, recruiting 100 partners diverts their focus away from enabling and managing those who have already made a commitment to your organization.

Still, I’ve had more than one CAM tell me that their recruiting targets are set so high that the criteria for authorizing partners is little more than the ability to “fog a mirror.” The technical name for this strategy, if you can call it that, is “passive recruitment.”

I suspect a few of you are cringing right now as you recognize the attitude in your own organization. But before you decide you need to hire better CAMs, let’s make sure we understand the root of this self-defeating behavior. These CAMs are incented to sign everyone and anyone because of the targets and criteria (or lack thereof) set by management.

In setting recruiting targets at such high levels and failing to define the ideal partner, you’re inadvertently telling your CAMs and partners several things:

  • I don’t know what kind of partners to recruit.
  • I have no idea what it takes for a partner to be successful.
  • I don’t trust my CAMs to figure it out.
  • I don’t have any confidence in my current channel either, and I’ve pretty much given up on them.

Not really the best messaging for long-term channel success.

Solving this challenge is a relatively straightforward four-step process:

#1 Market Mapping – Using a tool like Channel Enablers Market Mapping, determine the channel strategy for each of your markets, including the type and number of partners needed.

#2 Partner Profiling – Develop a profile of the perfect partner. In the Channel Success Essentials workshop, we provide a template that the participants use to identify the ideal attributes as well as weight them to create a prospective partner score. In reality, there is no “perfect partner,” but those who earn a score above a certain target level are prime candidates for recruitment.

#3 Set Appropriate Targets – Sorry, but this is one of those situations where “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” It’s tempting to create the ideal partner profile and set high recruitment targets. After all, the more great partners you have, the better you’ll perform, right?

Not so fast. There is a law of diminishing returns. When you recruit more partners than the market will bear, the better partners, those who score highest in your profile, will no longer recognize the value of the opportunity. Eventually, the only organizations interested in partnering with you will be those who can do little more than “fog a mirror.”

#4 Recruit – Now that you know the ideal profile to recruit and you have realistic targets set, it’s time to turn passive recruiting into active recruiting. Make no mistake, this is a sales activity, and your channel recruiting team should follow the same best practices used by any other salesperson in your organization.

Of course, this is only a high level look at finding – and recruiting – that perfect partner. Of course, the path from strategy to execution isn’t always as easy as it looks.

Let me know what questions you have, and I’ll do my best to show you the way!


Last modified on 11/18/2013 9:13:46 AM
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