Top 3 ways to foster and nurture channel partner relationships

Top 3 ways to foster and nurture channel partner relationships

Once you’ve signed your ideal channel partner, how do you optimize the relationship and keep them engaged? In our recent webinar, we learned top tips and strategies from experts on both sides of the partner relationship: the vendor perspective and the channel partner point of view. The duality of their viewpoints created a colorful discussion as they shared their unique insights and tough love.


Herein are 3 of the top engagement strategies from channel experts Laz Gonzalez, Chief Strategy Officer of Zift Solutions, and Stuart Crawford, CEO of Ulistic.


1. Always treat your channel partners like highly qualified sales leads

First, think about your partners as if they are important leads you’re nurturing. Most channel programs fall apart at the very start, with most channel teams thinking that once the partner signs up, the hard work is done. This is not the case.. If you commit to always treating your partners like highly qualified sales leads, you’re looking at how to help their company succeed. Always be asking ‘how can you help your partner to to help their clients’

“Make your offer sound like a road to revenue,” shared Laz.

“Think of your relationship with them like an ‘engagement funnel’ to bring partners into your program,” he continued. They can be prospects that you don’t work with or you do currently work with. “


2. NURTURE your channel partners CONTINUOUSLY

Interestingly, when polled during the webinar, 67% of participants said they “sort of” had a nurturing plan for their existing partners versus a clearcut “yes”. If you’re not getting the engagement you’d like, it’s because to a large degree, there’s no clear actionable plan in place to engage your  partners continually. “The ‘one and done’ or ‘spray and pray’ model doesn’t work,” said Stuart. “Remember, channel partners are also getting pitched by lots of other people, so you have to make yourself stand out. What is it about you that gets someone to say, “Oh, I should really think about this?”. Educate and engage with them. Don’t be satisfied with random emails. Keep your communication consistent and cultivate that relationship,” he advised.

It’s also important to develop a great relationship with the your go-to point of contact in the partner company. “You’re only as good as your channel account manager,” shared Laz. “If they are not good or are new in the position, or if don’t understand the partner’s business, then the partnership relationship is going to fail. Educate and enable your channel account managers to do their job.”

Stuart agreed, adding insights from the channel partner’s perspective.

“At the end of the day, we (partners) want reassurance that you (vendors) have our backs, and we know we can go to battle with you and trust that we’re not going to be left high and dry.”


3. Build a comprehensive, achievable plan that makes sense for each of your ideal partners

Thirdly, have a plan in place. Invest in meeting regularly with each of your partners, form advisory councils, hold workshops or planning sessions, or find ways to regularly chat to come up with ideas together. Stuart cited a 2-day annual channel partner workshop as being beneficial. However, it’s also important to note that some partners won’t be willing to sit down and plan, particularly smaller partners, Laz added, so construct ways to connect with them in a way that works for them. “What’s really hard is applying the planning process to everyone in the most effective way,” he said.

Some  suggestions discussed include:

  • run an account-based marketing program with your partners to help them drive leads and pipeline.
  • review their website to ensure they are optimizing their content for your product/solution.
  • Spend timing listening to them, to understand where their marketing and sales pain points lie, and incorporate those into the the planning stage.
  • Identify with mutual trackable goals and milestones to achieve and celebrate the successes.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach! The more you know about them, the better your end result will be. “ROI is like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” said Laz. “You need a good model. You need a way of tracking things. If I’m going to create some demand with a partner, I’m going to have to be premeditated about it. You can’t just do the campaign over here and look at what closed and what did not. It’s a lot more beneficial to have a process along the way so you’re not playing Sherlock Holmes,” he added.

For more of their tips and insights, view the full recording here:

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