It’s an age-old sales challenge. You identify a largely untapped market for your product or service but your knowledge of that region or sector is limited. You want to test the waters but without further investigation investing in new staff or infrastructure isn’t yet justified.

Which is when you discover an organisation that already has the distribution resources in place.

What if they could test the market for you? After several conversations, the deal’s done and you now have a presence in a market that could transform your business.

You sit back and wait for the sales to roll in. With limited success. So why isn’t your channel partner producing the goods?

In this blog we discuss why channel why channel selling often fails and the four factors that can make or break a successful channel partnership.


Identify what your ideal channel partner looks like

Ask a sales director what his ideal customer looks like and they’ll probably be able to explain them in detail – right up to their favourite show on Netflix. However, the same doesn’t always apply when it comes to partnerships. Which is why you need to create a profile of precisely what your ideal partner looks like. To narrow this down you need to define:

  • Whether you are looking for exclusive relationships or organisations that have a wider reach but are also offering competitors’ services or products.
  • Whether they align with your long-term business objectives and values
  • If they have the capacity and expertise to help you achieve your goals.

Once you have defined this then you know precisely the type of organisations you should be targeting. However it also means that you can audit your existing partnerships.

Your business objectives may have changed since you entered these partnerships – do they still fit into your business and sales strategy?

And most importantly are they producing the desired results?


Ensure your channel partner is engaged in the process

While the idea is that your channel partner is doing most of the heavy lifting for you, you can’t expect them to do all the work. While incentivisation is important (which we’ll get on to in a bit) you also need to ensure they have all the tools available to them to sell your product or service.

So, you need to take the same approach as you would in managing and coaching your sales team – you need to take a tailored approach and get under the skin of the business and create a true partnership, with a long-term strategy. It’s not just about running the occasional webinar with your partners.

Alan Morton, joint managing director of SBR, says: “We’ve seen the biggest success between clients and their channel partners is when they’ve taken some of their sales techniques and imparted that on the partner sales team to help themselves.”

Unfortunately, our research has revealed that 60% of organisations that use channel relationships channel selling don’t have a partner programme or process in place – rather than being proactive they sit back and hope for the best.

An integral part of this process is to create a joint business plan.

The purpose of the joint business plan is to establish:

  • Why the partnership been created
  • What is the win-win scenario for both parties and how will this be executed?
  • What are the collaborative objectives?
  • What does that actually mean in terms of tangible activity moving forward?

Most essential is setting expectations. If both parties are aware of what’s expected from one another then both parties can be held to account. This reduces the chance of any unpleasant surprises, as the relationship develops.


Track as much channel data as possible

One of our favourite sayings at SBR is that “Without data, all we have is opinions.” However, 40% of organisations that are involved in channel selling don’t track as much data as they could. Which is integral to maximising partner relationships.

Without data you don’t know:

  • How often partners are pitching your product or service
  • How often your partners are pitching a competitor’s solution rather than yours
  • If there are certain solutions that are selling better than others.

So if you don’t know what the problem is then you don’t know how you can make life easier for your partners – whether that’s providing better information or content at the prospecting stage or coaching on handling specific objections.


Create the right incentive

As we have mentioned above, when you have the right data it’s easy to spot problems early on. If you’re not getting the results you hoped for it could be down to the fact that your partners’ sales team, to be blunt, don’t think it’s worth their while.

Again this is something that needs to be clearly addressed in your joint business plan. You need to be very clear about what you’re offering in terms of renumeration but also in selling the benefits of the long-term relationship – how it’s helping their organisation grow as much as yours. A simple way of demonstrating this is with a commission calculator. Because, shockingly, most salespeople are money orientated.

However at an organisational you need to emphasise the potential revenue and profits that can be achieved by selling your solution.

As Tim Hillier, principal consultant for SBR says: “A good partner manager, much like a good sales manager, is someone that’s looking to unlock that discretionary effort –  to inspire the partner and ultimately the wider sales organisation team to go out and sell more of your products and services.”

If you would like to see Alan and Tim engage in a more in-depth discussion around optimising partner relationships, take a look at our recent Webinar Enabling Your Channel to Sell More.


To talk to us more on partner selling, please get in touch by emailing or call us on +44 (0) 207 653 3740.

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