“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.” – Bill Gates.
We can all probably agree that Microsoft hasn’t always had the best products, they are not the most innovative, their systems are sometimes a challenge to integrate into and overall, everyone has just become custom to their annual “Microsoft tax” to have access to tools businesses rely on everyday like Word and Excel. So, one has to wonder how they grew to the level they did.
It is simple, they treated their channel partners like gold. Their partners took priority over everyone else. Direct sales rep, and partner rep competing for a deal? No brainer, the partner gets it. Discrepancies at an accounting level on an incentive program? Just pay the partner. Microsoft got it – they understood to gain market share, and retain market share the easiest, most cost-effective way to do that was through their channel partners.
The benefits of going to market through partners are well documented. Decreasing cost to acquire new business, decrease the likelihood of churn, increases in overall total deal size, decreases in sales cycle lengths and the holy grail… increases in the lifetime value of a customer. So, if these are so well known, and many companies around the world prove them out, why do so many companies still struggle to build long-lasting relationships with their channel partners?
Before you and your organization try to grow in isolation, let’s dive into some of the things you can begin to implement to turn your organization into a channel-first company that wins with partners –
1) Lead with Trust
It may sound cliché, but it is important, especially when building a network of organizations and individuals who don’t solely work for you that whenever possible, always lead from a position of trusting your channel partners to do the right thing. Start to build a habit for when things go wrong of assuming it was you, and your organization as the vendor that didn’t do something correctly as part of onboarding or training your partner in the first place.
On top of that, don’t hide the details of your partner program unless absolutely necessary. Make sure that even reps at your partners know what SLAs you have committed to. When partners know that they will have an answer to their deal reg in 72 hours, it keeps them excited as opposed to waiting for an undetermined amount of time. When you lead trust and showcase that by clearly communicating even the little details of your program it builds a foundation for a long-term, fruitful partnership that where everyone wins.
2) Become a channel first company
Having spoken to hundreds of channel leaders throughout our careers here at Vartopia, we can generally tell when a company is going to be successful with their channel usually by just examining one aspect of that company. You may ask, what is that?
It is pretty simple actually. Is the entire company, from the CEO to the front-line Sales Development Representative operating with the mindset of partners come first? Or is the channel relegated to some side part of the office where resources are limited, funds are slow to be deployed, and everyone kind of feels like they are a test case?
True channel companies understand that a successful channel has so much to do with the culture created within the organization itself. Do sales reps views channel partners as competitors, or as partners?
3) Celebrate your channel partners
When a company does well, a respected and trusted CEO usually says something like “It was all our people, they did all the hard work.” When a company fails, the best CEOs will own it, and say something like “It was my fault, I failed to hold everyone accountable to execute on our vision.”
The same approach should be taken with partners. If a partner is involved in a major deal your company just won, put out a Press Release celebrating the partner, letting the world know your company could not have done it without them. Blast it out on social media, put it on your website. Draw as much attention as possible to that partner, it will help them grow their business and it will build loyalty that cannot be bought.
4) Growing Channel Partnerships
To survive in the competitive world, it is not possible to just run on one product. Launching new products is a great way to keep your channel partners engaged and create different strategies through adding value to the existing products, providing support, and expanding the business through different social events.
To survive in today’s competitive landscape, it is simply not possible to reach Unicorn status without the help of a channel. Celebrate your partners by inviting top-performing reps on company retreats, or to executive dinners. Treat them, the same way you treat your best employees because in reality… they are driving more revenue (in some cases), without the overhead of actually having to hire them. It’s a win-win, so don’t forget that.
Enhancing your partner’s experience creates trust, loyalty, and a healthy relationship. Request a demo today to learn how Vartopia can help lay the foundation for that