Guest Column | April 7, 2017

Building Relationships That Last: How To Find The Right Channel Partners

IRT partner in clinical trials

By Jeff Lippincott, vice president of business development, Sonian

Establishing a sound sales model is one of the most important decisions a business leader makes. In large part, it determines the reach of your product or service and ultimately the success of your brand.

While bringing in top talent and assembling a rock star sales team works wonders for some companies, others supplement — or in some cases swap out — that strategy by working through the channel, enlisting the help of third party sellers who sell a suite of services from various vendors. The use of the channel broadens the reach of your products and services — one managed service provider (MSP) can serve as a force multiplier for your company, connecting you with hundreds of thousands of customers — and can also translate into savings on training and maintaining in-house sales teams.

While selling through the channel may seem like a no-brainer when you consider the scalability and cost savings benefits (according to a Service Now report, it can save businesses up to 70 percent in on-boarding costs), there are important steps necessary to optimize the channel and establish long-standing, advantageous relationships with partners who consistently deliver superior results.

In order to maximize these partnerships from the onset, you should follow a few universal best practices.

Choose Partners Wisely
Approach business relationships the same way you would any other important relationship. Start by evaluating your needs and seek partners who are well-positioned to take your business to the next level. In this case, identify partners whose current suite of offerings best complement your product/service(s); this will ensure they’re getting in front of the right audiences and realizing the healthiest margins.

Empower MSPs To Deliver The Right Messages
While MSPs have extensive market knowledge, sales expertise, and customer relationships, it's up to you to educate them on your business and solution set so they know how to deliver the messages that matter most. This is especially crucial in the beginning stages of the partnership. By holding clear and concise training sessions to discuss the messaging and how to best communicate your product's value proposition, you will enable your partners to understand the key problems it solves from the perspective of the end customer. Once this initial download has occurred, you should allow a few months for MSPs to master the messaging. This trial period allows MSPs to go out into the field, fine tune their pitch and secure insights into how offerings are being received, returning with solid customer feedback. You should also proactively schedule regular (quarterly) meetings to share updates on your offerings so partners are delivering pitches that reflect the most up-to-date and compelling information about your company's suite of services.

Measure And Monitor Performance
Finally — and perhaps most importantly — you and your partners need to agree on what constitutes success up front. Establish goals from the get-go so your business is getting what it needs out of the relationship. By setting selling standards and regularly monitoring revenue, you ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal. Be sure to have an honest conversation about these goals and how best to achieve them, because partners may foresee a roadblock or opportunity that you haven’t identified. That way, there won’t be any surprises as you’re monitoring progress and sales, and you minimize the likelihood of the relationship becoming fractious if problems arise.

Selling through the channel not only alleviates the financial pressure of building a full-scale sales team, it also allows you to leverage MSPs’ expertise, unlocking an established customer base that would take years to build from scratch. In order to maximize these partnerships, you need to ensure you’re choosing the right partners and fostering those relationships by way of training sessions and regular check ins. In viewing MSPs as valued partners, you’ll lay the foundation for a long-lasting relationship and success for both parties.