The Importance of Channel Partnerships During Difficult Times

Vendors should balance the needs of their business with the demands of their partner community.

April 28, 2021

5 Min Read
Business meeting

By Jason Johns


Jason Johns

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into unchartered territory and channel partner relationships are no exception. If you are a channel-first business, you understand the time, effort and planning it takes to build effective channel sales.

During a time where customer and partner needs are urgent and the loss of face-to-face opportunities is especially noticeable, it’s important to continue customer engagement, understanding that each partner has been impacted by the pandemic differently. This requires you and your team to craft personalized strategies that will enable each partner program to succeed in an environment of remote selling and virtual connecting. It’s not easy, but the key to succeeding is to balance the needs of your business with the demands of your partner community.

Here are three tips to keep in mind as you and your team work to connect with partners amidst the pandemic.

Relationships Are Everything

If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that connections are everything. Developing and maintaining strong relationships with potential and current channel partners is a crucial part of a channel teams’ job. While uncertainty has become the norm, partners want a team they can rely on and trust. The easiest way to form deep relationships is through executive touchpoints, transparency and honesty.

Make sure your team understands the business objectives of all your partners. Too often, companies and ISV’s set out to build partner ecosystems without fully understanding what the market needs and how partners will address those needs. It may seem elementary, but it’s important to remember that companies are in business because they provide products or services that fill a customer’s need. Make sure everyone on your team understands exactly what your channel partner does to fill the business objectives and needs and how your company fits into that partner’s business.

When creating a strategy for a company or partner, be reminded that everyone was affected by the pandemic differently. Personalization is key here — this is not a one-size-fits-most situation and for many organizations, the related challenges are ongoing. Ask the right questions, take the time to research and understand how each company was impacted by the pandemic and be empathetic and genuine about how your team’s expertise can help.

Build out a team that has a collective expertise when it comes to your partner’s priorities. Understand the market, your partner’s value and your joint go-to-market that builds a long lasting, trusting relationship. Make sure your team can connect with partners on the level they’re expecting.

As you continue to grow and expand channel services amidst the pandemic, focus on helping your team continue to form personalized, trusting and long-term relationships with each of your partners.

The Importance of Developing Partner Skills

A successful partnership needs to continually assess changes in focus markets as well as changes in your customer and partnership needs. It has become critical to support partners with comprehensive training and enablement. Technologies like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are accelerating at an unprecedented pace. It’s no surprise that businesses are looking to utilize these technologies as sales tactics.

Here’s our most recent list of important channel-program changes you should know.

This is why it’s so important to have …

… partner training programs in place. Make sure that partners can up-skill across all areas of the business and get trained around your solutions, from sales, pre-sales and professional services.

Professional services is an important aspect of training an eco-system on service delivery and implementation. Training and certifications should focus on accelerating adoption of new and emerging technologies and developing skills to ultimately execute transformational strategy. It’s imperative for channel partners, system integrators and the teams representing them to be at the forefront of any new or emerging technology.

As Business Evolves, So Must the Partner Program

In “normal times,” business moves quickly, but with the global pandemic and a distributed workforce, this is especially true. Businesses are digitally transforming faster than they anticipated and, to do so, they’re seeking new technology and solutions to meet their updated needs. With new business needs comes the need to evolve partner programs and resources continuously.

It’s imperative to support partners and customers in their transformation efforts while making it as easy and efficient as possible for partners to get what they need to be successful. This means different things for different partners, but I’ve found easy-to-use portals with resources, programs focused on key incentives and self-service enablement for sales and presales and professional services have been huge aids in my channel partner programs.

Channel partner programs will continue to evolve based on the world and the technology that powers it. It’s up to teams to understand how companies and partners can fit into a program and to stay connected to the partners with whom they work closely. Take the time to learn about the market and technology your partners fall into — all will aid in developing deep, long-term relationships.

Jason Johns is senior vice president of global alliances and channels at Software AG, which he joined earlier this year with over 20 years of experience in channel. He previously worked at Tibco, where he led the global partners and alliances program. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @Jason_Johns1 or @SoftwareAG on Twitter.

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