The Secret to A Successful Partner Program
Looking at most partner programs, you often see a matrix listing all of the “benefits” of partnering — neatly segmented into Gold, Silver & Bronze levels. While this looks nice on the website, the basic elements that ensure a valuable, productive, and mutually beneficial partnership are often overlooked. Here’s how channel chiefs and technology companies can correct that problem.
Like a marriage, a strong partnership requires hard work, commitment, and lots of communication. I have been brought in many times to fix a “broken” partnership. I would almost always encounter lots of finger pointing, defending of positions, and blaming the other side for an unsuccessful relationship. What was really happening was a classic case of “Communication Breakdown.” Here’s a crazy idea that almost always works – ask yourself (both sides now):
“What could I be doing better or different to improve this partnership?”
If you’re honest you will probably come up with most of the following basic elements for any strong relationship.
- Understand Motivations and Goals (on both sides): Make sure you understand why the partnership is important, what both sides hope to gain from it, and what is considered a win after one year – and make sure there is an obvious win-win relationship
- Build a Relationship: Partners do business with people they know, trust and can depend on. They need to know who they can count on to solve problems and they need those problems solved quickly. That means there must be someone dedicated to nurturing partner relationships, growing mindshare, and responding to their needs.
- Communicate Regularly: Regular communication is critical. While email is fine, picking up the phone or using Skype to talk live is much better and I guarantee something valuable and interesting will emerge. Talk about opportunities, changes, challenges, support issues, etc. before they become urgent. Document and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Be Committed/Be Responsive: The old saying “say what you are going to do and do what you say” seems trivial but how many actually make this a priority? If you make good on the commitments you make and are responsive to your partner’s needs, you will stand out from others and become more important to your partners.
If you focus on the basics, the result will likely be fewer, high quality partners rather than a long list of unproductive ones. While the basics are quite simple, most companies don’t do it because frankly they really aren’t that simple — they require lots of hard work — but if you make the basics a priority you will differentiate yourself from others.
Contributing blogger Scott Dahlgren is an independent consultant helping small and mid-size technology companies extract greater value from their partner and channel relationships. And he also runs marathons through the woods of Connecticut. The VAR Guy is updated multiple times daily. Don’t miss a single post. Subscribe to his newsletter, RSS feed, Twitter feed and Resource Center.