Channel Alliances: 5 Keys to Finding the Right Fit & Avoiding Conflict

Focus on what sets you apart, your tech agnosticism and established relationships.

September 7, 2021

4 Min Read
Five 5 Keys

By Ariel Cruz


Ariel Cruz

Channel partners navigating the complex landscape of master agents and technology providers face a dizzying array of options and dilemmas regarding developing channel alliances. Working with multiple players runs companies the risk of getting spread out too thinly, while too much focus can result in missed opportunities.

A strategic approach to channel alliances requires defining target markets, aligning capabilities and then cultivating relationships with the right teams and individuals within each relationship. When working with technology partners that have direct sales organizations in addition to channel programs, avoiding conflict is another priority.

Outlined below are five ways you as a channel partner can design an effective go-to-market strategy.

Align with Technology Expertise

Assess master agent areas of specialization and how those areas align with your own areas of expertise. Some agents, for example, may focus on networking solutions; others on back-office process automation or internet of things (IoT) solutions. Identify which agents have the resources you need to enhance your core capabilities or fill critical gaps. By being selective, you can focus your relationship-building resources on the master agents that can help you the most. The objective should be to cover all the necessary bases, but without overextending yourself or duplicating effort.

Align with Industry Expertise

Conduct a similar assessment at an industry level to identify master agents that focus on specific sectors that are either in your current wheelhouse, or that you’ve targeted for growth. As basic technology functionality becomes increasingly commoditized, this step is increasingly essential. In today’s environment, to deliver value to your customers (as well as boost your profit margin), you must to come to the table with solutions to business problems, rather than simply bits and bytes.

Connect the Dots

Once you’ve evaluated master agent capabilities and areas of industry focus, and aligned them with your own capabilities, you can identify specific strategic opportunities to pursue. For example, let’s say you have a base of small and midsized retail customers. By leveraging relationships with master agents specializing in flexible and secure network connectivity, you can provide those customers with cost-effective secure internet solutions to support online transactions and pop-up locations. For customers in the transportation sector, master agents specializing in IoT fleet management solutions can deliver a strategic edge.

At this point, you can begin to focus on strengthening relationships within your ecosystem; specifically, with the teams and individuals within your master agent partners. This process can then extend to include relevant technology partners.

Avoid Conflict

While developing direct relationships with technology partners is essential to deepen strategic expertise and expand your portfolio of offerings, it’s imperative to understand and manage the potential for conflict. In many cases, technology providers that work with channel partners also have direct sales teams, creating the possibility of turf battles or competition.

To avoid these situations, the first step is to evaluate the direct sales team’s target markets. If they’re focused on global Fortune 500 accounts, and you’re pursuing SMBs, you’re good. But the lines are rarely drawn that distinctly, and typically some overlap will exist. In those instances, you need to consider the technology partner’s sales management processes. Specifically, are CRMs structured to tag channel partner clients and prospects and block cold calls from direct sales? If and when the system fails and a conflict does arise, are clear-cut rules in place to fairly assign the lead owner?

That said, you can piggyback on and benefit from a technology partner’s marketing programs, even when they are primarily focused on direct sales. By generating overall awareness and interest, such initiatives create a rising tide that lifts all boats, and expands the pool of potential buyers.

Highlight Your Value Proposition

While conflict between channel partners and direct sales teams can be managed and mitigated, some level of competition is inherent. As a channel partner, you should therefore focus on what sets you apart, and why a customer should want to buy from you rather than directly from a provider. One differentiator is your technology agnosticism and, relatedly, the broader selection of tools and options at your disposal. For smaller customers who may struggle to get the attention of large tech companies, you can also highlight your established relationships with those companies and ability to navigate internal bureaucracies.


Ariel Cruz is vice president of channels at Claro Enterprise Solutions, which provides partners access to emerging digital technologies as well as proven capabilities in traditional products and solutions. It is part of América Móvil, an international provider of integrated telecommunications services, and was known as Telmex USA until it rebranded as Claro in 2018. You may follow Ariel on LinkedIn or @USClaro on Twitter.

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