How to Get Better Results From Partnerships

Why do partner programs fail to meet your expectations? I spend over half my time working with clients to help evaluate their partnership and joint venture programs. Most clients I talk to agree, 20% of their partners create 80% of their sales and marketing activities. So how do you find good partners and how do you make sure the time you invest in partners pays off. Can you leverage your time better to create a stronger partnership organization? I was asked to share my thinking with a client’s channel leadership team before our strategic planning sessions to get the discussions started. Here’s what I shared then and it may apply even more today in our changing business environment.

So how did you set up your partnering program? Was it an executive decision made because your company needed sales in a hurry and getting partners was the fastest way to do it? Or did you already have a small direct sales force, but you thought it would be easier to go national with partners, rather than trying to manage a far-flung direct sales force? Or maybe you thought you’d take a page from the big guys and charge to be a partner with you, so you’d get that extra revenue stream?

Whatever the reason, especially if it’s one of the above, you probably set up your partner program looking for quantity of partners, rather than quality. It’s something everyone does. But let me ask you; are you really getting the results you wanted out of your partnerships? According to continuing research, almost 75% of you aren’t getting what you expected in your partnerships for a variety of reasons. You can continue slogging along with the results you’ve been getting, but maybe the time has come for you to rethink your partner strategy.

I realize that you’re probably contractually obligated to your current partners. But those contracts won’t last forever. Now is the time to look closely at your partners and see who’s really producing for you. Which partners are getting you your top 5% of results? What are they doing differently than everyone else? Are there other VARs or systems integrators that would be a better match for your products or services?

Partnering on purpose means you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve with your partners. You’re both on the same page in terms of revenue and growth. You’re not just another product or service in their portfolio, but an integral part of their ongoing strategy. To get there, you have to be selective in choosing who to work with and then you have to work with them, sharing information, leads, and marketing. Let’s face it; no one knows your product or service as well as you do. To foster a successful partnership, you have to work with each partner to integrate your product or service into their strategic offering.

Working individually with partners can be time-consuming, which automatically limits the number of partners you can have. Doesn’t it make sense to find the best partners for your company if you’re going to invest that kind of time? Recruiting and teaming up with the right partners takes time, but the results can be astounding.

I’d love to hear about what you’ve done to get results with your partner program, are there any successes or horror stories you want to share? Post your responses and we can all learn from each other.

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