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Are you ready for channel partners?


You're attracted by the idea of growing your business through channel partners. You've already figured out that partners can complement your own business and deliver sustainable, profitable business. Perhaps you have a channel strategy and a compelling partner proposition.


But is your business genuinely ready to embrace working with channel partners?


Many partnering initiatives fail to deliver on their potential not through lack of strategy or commitment but because the company didn't appreciate the skills and discipline involved in maximising the partnering opportunity.


Challenge? What challenge?


The first step in addressing any challenge is to recognise that the challenge exists. Recognising that building and managing a robust, sustainable, profitable business partnership is not "business as usual" and requires specialised resource, attention and, in particular, mindset. Adaptations in terms of focus, scale and responsiveness will be required. Organisations that are successful with channel partners recognise and embrace this challenge.


Partnering is different?


Building and managing a partnership requires a specific skillset that is different from the skills and experience acquired from selling direct to end customers. Successful channel partners don't simply replicate your own strategy and capabilities. You will need fresh thinking to find the optimum win-win and win-win-win positions. Existing resources will need to be adapted; new resources introduced and unsuited existing resources redeployed.


There's more to it than selling?


Selling is part and parcel of effectively managing channel partnerships but there's a lot more to it than that. Formal structures and control are required throughout the relationship; the disciplines necessary span many functions within your company and your partners. Consequently, successful channel partner representatives are more like managers than sellers.


Planning? Can't we just get on with it?


"Hope is not a strategy". It is essential to strategise, plan and structure the approach before embarking on channel partner activities and before setting expectations. Communication and education are essential for all involved, in particular channel strategy, organisation, markets, methods and processes. People need to understand what they're doing and why they're doing it.


We've got a plan; why change it?


Businesses, markets and offerings evolve; that is all part of the fun of working in technology sectors. Likewise, creating a win-win plan with a business partner is important but it's more important that the plan continues to be win-win as situations change and grow. There are always new opportunities and new challenges; keeping the plan relevant is the key to a strong outcome.


It's all too complicated! :-(


Building a successful channel businesses can be likened to an engineering or construction project. There are a lot of details essential for a successful outcome. It's not always obvious how each detail relates to the desired outcome, but that doesn't mean they're not important. The foundations of a successful partnership take time to build, just like the foundations of a building.


But that's not the way we do things?


Not everyone thinks or acts in the same way. Recognising that differences are a good thing, and working with companies that are different from our own, allows us to collectively combine strengths and overcome weaknesses. Successful partnerships require understanding and compromise; process and education will help people appreciate differences and make the most of them.


Are we there yet?


Persistence and patience deliver results in long term relationships and especially with channel partners. A stable, consistent approach builds confidence and understanding between business partners; change and uncertainty are distractions. Valuable partnerships are not built in a day; if a partnership is worth having, it's worth working for and that can take time. Patience is a virtue.


Channel success is about more than just the desire to be successful. There is certainly work involved but, more importantly, there is an approach and a mindset that helps some companies succeed where others fail. If your business is ready for channel partners, you're in great shape!


Ash Madden is Founder and Director of Madden Associates Limited, the Specialist Channel Sales & Partnering Consultancy

#efficiency #returns #partnering #channels #sales


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