When you want to increase revenues, you look to your sales team first, right? You rely on them to talk to prospects, get signatures and close deals. While your direct sales effort seems like the easiest way to meet your goals, there are other strategies you might be overlooking. If the goal is to boost company earnings, you might actually have a secret weapon outside the sales team: a partner channel. By partnering with companies that offer complementary products or services to your own, you can increase your sales activity, drive new revenues and customers, and more easily capture opportunities you may not have been exposed to.
Below are four steps to consider when building a partner channel.
1. Look for partners that are a DNA fit.
When considering companies that would be ideal to sell your products and services, make sure the fit is logical and, if possible, long-term in nature. You want a complement to your product or solution offerings. If you sell phone cases, for example, you would want to partner with phone providers, since their customers could easily and would logically buy your product as part of the same purchase.
In the business-to-business sense, it’s more about matching up your company’s products or skills with the capabilities other businesses need to grow as well. For example, your company may sell technology products but doesn’t have the expertise in-house to load software or integrate the product with other systems the customer may already use. In this case, you could partner with a company to handle the integration piece for you. Through that partnership, you are able to expand your service offerings to customers and capture business opportunities you might have previously turned away from. Your partner benefits from the revenue you bring to them. It’s a win-win.
2. Build relationships with partners.
Creating mutually beneficial relationships is key to making a partner channel work. You need partners that are just as invested in selling your product as you are. Ideally, you want a symbiotic relationship like those found in nature: two entities working together to thrive.
Look for your first channel partners among companies you are familiar with and trust or have previously had successful engagements with. Develop agreements with those partners that make it worthwhile for both parties to participate. While it may sound basic, it’s critically important that your partner feels there is enough value in the partnership for them to focus on it. If you’re going to build a channel strategy, you want it to be effective, so work closely with your partners and build strong relationships that keep the dialogue open. This is the best way to quickly learn what works, what needs to be adjusted and how to build a repeatable model that you can successfully roll out to expand your partner channel further.
3. Equip your partners for success.
Make sure you communicate with your channel partners up front about what the selling process is going to be like and provide sales tools that set them up for success. Back to our earlier example, if you’re working with a phone provider and you sell phone cases, that’s a pretty simple jump. But if you sell something more involved like computer hardware, cloud services or software that requires implementation, you want to make communicating your sales cycle a priority. Because a channel partner is an extension of your sales team, it needs to operate just like your internal sales team would. Training and consistency in how your product is pitched and positioned is key to making sure channel partners are wired into your business and represent your brand well.
A great way to ensure your channel partners continue to promote your product or solution is to provide them with great resources and sales tools they’ll be eager to share with their customers. A good partner channel strategy includes the development of assets such as landing pages, videos, success stories and other resources to encourage distribution in a way that is easy for the channel partners but also speaks to your brand’s message and offering. If you go the extra mile to empower and educate your channel partners with everything they need, the relationship will be more valuable.
4. Make sure you can scale along with new channel opportunities.
Don’t approach a channel partner who is out of your league. Here’s what I mean by that: If you’re an apple farmer, you have to sell in the local farmer’s market before you can get in Whole Foods nationwide. If you go straight for the big name first, your supply isn’t going to be able to meet demand. Organize your approach to channel marketing the same way: First, determine who your strongest partners are going to be. Then, start with a few and see how the engagements go. Learn and adjust as you go. If these partnerships go really well, you may need to hire a few people to keep up with the stream of work. Hiring takes time, and there will likely be growing pains along the way. Make a commitment to growing through the channel in the right way. If you bite off more than you can chew, you risk losing both your new customer and your channel partner.
If you’re looking to grow your business, you don’t have to hire a new salesperson tomorrow-- in fact, your next huge growth opportunity could come from someone you already work with every day within another business. Look for partners who are invested in the sale and are a DNA fit, then provide them with effective training and sales tools to ensure you can deliver on the opportunities they bring in. With a smart and purpose-built approach to your partner channel strategy, you may not only exceed your sales goals but dramatically up level your growth in no time.