I’ve been working with resellers for more than half of my career because it’s a mix of everything that goes on inside of the vendor, focused through the prism of a single relationship, which means that no two days are ever alike. Resellers occupy a unique position at the intersection of partner, colleague, evangelist and customer. I’ve found that creating a program and ecosystem to enable their potential for maximum value requires a deep understanding of your market and their capabilities, time-saving tools and targeted content to keep everyone happy and active. Here are 3 tips that I’ve found can create and maintain great working relationships with reseller partners:
This is number one for a reason. All of the hard work that a channel manager does to generate partner interest and sign them up can be lost when the vendor is hard to interact with. For the marketer, deploy a partner portal that allows you to be proactive by anticipating partner needs. While portals previously used to function as places for partners to download assets and register leads, now they also track pipeline, assist with marketing campaigns and asset co-branding, and manage MDF and basic event management. In a cloud-based world where people are more spread out than ever, it’s critical to offer tools that can take care of many high-level tasks when contacts aren’t available.
Early in my career, we had a one-size-fits-all approach to partner enablement that could work if you are in a high-volume, low-touch situation like many referral partners who submit leads and are on to the next. I found that this didn’t work well with resellers, where 20% of mine were generating 80% of the revenue, which carries on to this day. I began spending time with each of these partners to understand their strengths, where they wanted to grow, what their marketplace looked like (I was working heavily with U.K. resellers) and how to align their strategy to ours. This lead to the generation of an enablement plan that I could modify depending on what was unique about that partner — onboarding, product education, sales/marketing training through communication methods and a partner steering committee. This opens an ongoing conversation that bridges the goals of account management and advisory board that was mutually beneficial.
The steering committee proved to be an invaluable resource in helping the company generate feedback on a variety of fronts, from a group of people who were both inside and outside of our day-to-day operations. In each of the areas of the enablement program, the partners were surveyed and gave feedback on the reality of working with us, what areas could be improved upon and what they liked about programs from other vendors they worked with that could be reapplied. They also had a discussion amongst each other that led to opportunities outside of the vendor but created real value for what became their mutual customers.
In many cases, I’ve heard that partners can be shy about openly communicating amongst each other because they’re competitors. While that’s possible, I’ve seen vigorous debate and sharing as the usual result with everyone coming out better for it. Many companies and partners fall into the trap of only communicating when there’s an opportunity to pursue, but that severely limits the potential of the relationship. Operating strategically at a higher level of account management by the vendor and staying in regular contact with the partner nets much better results and more long-term success.
It’s easy to get caught in the mindset that a great product will attract and keep great Reseller partners, but the reality that product is one of many factors that will have partner placing their trust in the vendor to do business together. Developing a great program that takes into account the demands of those partners operating a business, being as proactive as possible, and making it easy to communicate and do business with the vendor will ensure it’s an enduring relationship.
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