Engaging channel partners can be part of an effective strategy to grow your company, enter new markets and increase your sales volume. A good partner can help build your credibility with introductions and referrals to their customers, provide access to new prospects, and expedite and secure their entrance into your sales funnel.
Types of Channel Partners
Partners typically fit into one of three classifications:
- You sell through your partner
- Your partner sells with you
- Your partner sells for you
The first two are relatively simple relationships. For example, a company consents to sell your solution if it fits the needs of its customer base and complements but doesn’t compete with what they offer. Another example is when your offering is provided by your partner as an upsell or value-add to its own product or service.
The third, where a partner sells for you, can be a little more complicated because your channel partners are acting as a promoter or direct seller of your product. In this case, you need them to have a deep understanding of your product or service and how it can serve the needs of their customer base.
When your partner sells on your behalf, it can be:
- A sales and marketing resource to promote your offering to new markets
- A value-added reseller using your offering as part of its own offering
- A provider of additional value, typically providing a service (i.e., implementation, execution) that supports your offering rather than just selling it
You may also need to provide your partners with an incentive (cash or otherwise) to sell your product. As an example, you may want to offer various levels of partnership (e.g., gold, silver, bronze) in which the rewards increase with the level.
Discovering Your New Partner
Finding a partner is similar to finding a customer. You determine what you have to offer that will be of value to a prospective partner and respectively determine what a partner must offer to make the partnership lucrative for both of you. Then it’s time to classify potential partners to determine where to spend more of your outreach efforts.
Questions to ask about potential partners include:
- What market do they reach or target (company size, industry, geography)?
- How well does your offering fit the needs of their customers?
- How likely are your partners’ customers to purchase your product?
Classify prospective partners according to how well they match your criteria. Some partners may be strong in all of these while others will not be as well-aligned, but may be more open to partnering with you and sell your product faster.
Once you have identified potential partners and committed to the partnership, develop a relationship with their sales and marketing team and provide a compelling value proposition to pitch to that company.
Take the time to understand what they have to offer while ensuring that they understand what you’re selling as well. Position yourself as a value-added partner to emphasize that, together, you have more to offer.
Develop Co-Branded Assets and Templates
One way to promote your partnership (and incidentally, your company), is to develop co-branded content your partners can offer on their websites or landing pages.
This might include:
- White papers
- Research studies
- Case studies
- Videos and webinars
You can also provide tools for your partners to use in prospecting, including value calculators and assessment tools that can be placed on their website, social media, or landing pages. Additional tools can be provided to the sales team for use once lead qualification is completed, later during the sales process.
Create templates your partners can easily use to develop sales collateral, content, and other data acquisition tools.
Train Your Channel Partner’s Sales Team
One cost-effective method for training another company’s sales team is a partner portal. This portal can provide sales representatives a place where they can gain an in-depth understanding of your product.
Here, they can become power users, learning how your offering can be used in a variety of customer situations. You can also offer training around how to sell your product and who is likely to receive the greatest benefit.
Trainees can earn certifications, whether general or for specific components of your product. Once completed, a badge can be displayed on the company website and the sales member’s social media profile.
Offer webinars to discuss common issues in the channel environment, providing ideas and tips to overcome those challenges. Webinars can provide more customized training than the portal, helping your partner with their specific problems and how they impact a particular segment of their customer base.
Help with Tool Implementation
Ask your partner to place any co-branded tools or content on their website, social media pages, or on a landing page. More experienced partners may have dedicated partner pages. Otherwise, you can guide your partner with suggestions for the best placement of your selling tools and offerings.
Show them how to gather data and score customers using the information provided through the tools and content offerings. Train them on when to use each tool or present each piece of content and provide tips on how to score the leads they capture.
If you can get your co-branded content and tools integrated into their sales process, it can become a natural step for their sales team to build awareness of your brand as well as their own.
Channel partners can have a high impact on your sales and revenues, offering entry to new markets. Provide the assistance your partner needs to successfully integrate your offering into their business model, continue to offer support in sales training and technical assistance, and reap the rewards.