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Attracting the right Channel Partners to your Business Comes Down to How Well you Executed your Recruitment Strategy.
If you’re a manufacturer that wants to transform inactive channel partners [i.e., distributors, resellers, dealers, etc., that only get behind your offering if a deal falls in their lap] into productive channel partners [i.e., partners that are fully invested in your product and look to build long-term relationships], the method you use to needs to be best-in-class.
In order to attract, engage and recruit productive channel partners, you must not only demonstrate your obligation to their success but also:
- Develop a clear, profitable business strategy
- Highlight your authoritative position in the market
- Detail the process of:
Who Wins in This Dog-Eat-Dog World?
If you want to replace under performers with top dogs, you must first understand that the days of the best partners findings are obsolete. In today’s channel-intensive culture, finding the right solution providers (whom actively sells your offering) comes down to the question of “how disruptive is your recruitment campaign?”
In the past, channel partners had to work to earn the attention and validation as a solutions provider to manufacturers. Nowadays, the game has turned in replace of a “partner’s market,” as manufacturers now must justify their product as profitable, and their services and level-of-support as best-in-class.
Going from “potential candidate” to “active partner” mandates a strategy synonymous with a sales campaign; in order to attract and recruit productive channel partners, you need to go through a similar process through the various stages of the prospect buying cycle.
Here is a short, comprehensive checklist you can use to make your offering attractive to prospective partners:
|Value Proposition||Justify Opportunity||Loyalty & Commitment||Business Development||Profile Match|
|Product roadmap||Total cost ownership (TCO) & return on investment (ROI) calculatiors||Demonstrate channel sales % versus selling direct||C-level support and communication||Ideals and business ethics align|
|Market Advantage/edge||Whitepapers, case studies, accolades, testimonials, etc.||Objective deal registration participation parameters||Partner portal / easily find information on incentive opportunities||Does partner take the time to “recruit” you?|
|Transformation /long-term benefits of partnership||Pricing made easy||How is channel conflict managed?||Training, consolation, go-to-market strategy, co-branded marketing material||Solutions /services align with your product|
|Authoritative position/industry influnce||Distributor/ reseller references||Marketing funds and cooperative ad incentives||When can partners expect to be reimbursed (i.e., turnaround) on incentives||Strategic partnership|
|Market reputation||End user references||Attractive rebates and SPIFF opportunities /tired programs||When can partners expect information on data disputes or questions to be answered?||agreement on what constitutes success|
How to Create a Compelling Value Proposition when you Are Looking for Productive Channel Partners?
Manufacturers have to be savvy and forward-thinking when positioning their company against competing key players. Any well-executed partner recruitment campaign will be reliant on differentiation, and the more objective manufacturers can illustrate this core concept, the stronger their value proposition will be.
Help clarify your differentiation to potential partners by creating a visual representation of some key elements that separate you from the competition (see figure 1).
The best channel partners look for a winning combination, where they can augment their unique value as a solutions provider with that of their manufacturer.
Additionally, the more articulate manufacturers can get about ‘where the market is going,’ ‘what are the key drivers behind the market,’ and ‘what are the obstacles that stand in the way,’ the more relevant and valuable they become to channel partners. However, all of that is irrelevant if you can’t clearly communicate your value proposition and the competitive advantages you are poised to provide.
Justify Partners’ Decision to Invest in your Product
Channel partners’ decision to invest in a manufacturer takes a straightforward approach. It’s a simple however complex question that boils down to, “Can I make money with this company and product?” The ‘invest, wait and see’ methodology is not something preferred amongst channel partners, and it’s a manufacturer’s responsibility to justify their investment before a dollar is spent.
Manufacturers that have readily available sales tools (e.g., TCO, ROI calculators) to help close deals, settle objections and illustrate the after-purchase transformation can get partners excited to sell their product. Because partners are in the trenches of end-user hesitancy to purchase, they understand the value and advantage these tools present.
Furthermore, case studies that describe what a manufacturer’s product did versus what it can do, are essential resources that partners will frequently rely on their decision-making.
It’s also unlikely your (potential) partners are new to the game of working with manufacturers, which means they will be cognizant of your dependence on the channel. Articulating that channel revenue is essential to your net profit—and direct sales represents only a fraction of gross sales—is also an attractive recruitment tactic (see figure 2).
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series where we will focus on how manufacturers can attract partners through loyalty, reassurance and channel incentives. We will also dive into specific strategies of business development as well as how you know you’ve found the right channel partner.