Over the past several weeks, we’ve focused on the key pre-engagement stages of shaping your partner channel, which we’ve bucketed into four key steps:
Determining the needs of your channel
Creating a truly effective value proposition
Developing a targeted approach to find the partners your channel needs
Profiling your partners effectively to recruit more effectively
But what happens when it comes time to actually talk to a targeted recruit organization? What is the best way to frame a conversation about forming a new partnership? Who should be part of that conversation? And if things go well, how do you make sure the conversation leads to action?
The answers to these questions aren’t always immediately clear, but at The Spur Group we have developed a proven method that drives clear-cut answers and improves your channel management results.
Preparing for the recruitment conversation: What to keep in mind
When it comes to channel partner recruitment, we’ve already emphasized that you can’t buy partner love — you simply must have a value proposition that speaks for itself. But regardless of how well you pitch the value of a partner program with your company, the fact is that you are asking the recruit for a significant investment in your company, and potentially even a shift in their existing business practice.
That said, your initial conversation with the recruit should put them at ease—make it clear that you’ve considered the partnership from their perspective as well as your own. The best way to ensure you are fully prepared to have a successful conversation with your recruit is to develop a strong toolkit. A sample toolkit will include components that cover the various aspects of your potential partnership. Your toolkit may include the collateral below, but of course will need to be customized to the partnership you’re proposing:
Partnership Playbook: a high-level plan of how you will implement and maintain the partnership
Economic modeler: outline of how your two organizations will engage and function economically, and benefit mutually
Case studies: detailed stories of successful partners with similar profiles as the recruit
Technical Evaluation Toolkit: an evaluation of the technical compatibility of the partnering organizations and plan to reach optimal compatibility
CRM Set-Up Plan: a detailed plan for setting up a CRM engine, note that this should invariably including plans for developing a reliable reporting
Sales toolkit: the messaging framework and tools that sales personnel in the recruit organization can leverage to sell your solution
Step One: Kicking off the conversation by determining business model fit
It is critical to engage the CEO/owner/president directly and have the why invest conversation. Luckily, the conversation is an easier one that you might think. You can start the discussion with just two essential questions:
Is the partnership you’re proposing a natural fit for the partner’s business model?
Why is investing in your company a better option than simply scaling their existing practice?
By addressing these questions and putting the partner contact at ease, you’ll find the rest of your recruit sales pitch will go smoothly
Step Two: Planning your partnership and evaluating the technical fit
After you’ve clarified with the recruit partner why they should invest in a partnership with your organization, be careful about jumping headlong into your partnership before determining how you will partner. It is critical to engage with the recruit organization’s CTO or tech lead to undergo a thorough evaluation of the technical fit of your two organizations.
Technical fit depends particularly on to three components of the technical compatibility of the two partnering organizations. First is ability of the recruit’s current sales team to naturally adopt or transition to selling your solution. Second is the ability of the recruit’s systems and tools to interact with and support your solution. Lastly is the capacity of the recruit to support your solution for an extended period of time.
A good technical fit won’t necessarily make or break your partnership, but both your organization and the recruit should be aware of any potential technical issues and the economic implications of those issues.
Step Three: Planning your partnership and developing a sales model
After you know why and how you will partner with the recruited partner, you’re in a better position to develop a sales strategy with the partner’s leading sales representatives. Together, establish a plan for how you will go to market together. This exercise may include doing account mapping and test trials of the sales approach with customers, and may additionally require readiness and enablement on your solution.
Step Four: Finalizing your partnership and gaining commitment from the recruit
After engaging with the correct sales and technical individuals in the organization, you have the tools you need to re-engage the head of the organization through a data-driven discussion on why they should partner with you. Clarify the ROI for the partner and the profit engine that will be used to make money for both organizations.
The end of this discussion should come down to one of three decisions: let’s go for it, let’s change it, or let’s forget it.
Let’s forget it:
When the final decision is that no partnership will be made, consider the approach you took with this recruit to determine whether it was your recruitment process that failed to drive recruitment. If the answer is yes, you need to adjust your process accordingly. On the other hand, it may be that the fit of the two organizations simply wasn’t right. In that case, move on to the next recruit partner and try again.
Let’s change it:
It’s common that both parties agree that a partnership makes sense, but there is a snag in the plan that has to be resolved before the partnership can be implemented, such as an area where the technical fit is poor or the sales toolkit needs supplementation. The resolution is pretty obvious: revise your plans to address the identified issue. Be sure to test the revised solution before moving ahead with the partnership.
Let’s go for it:
If you got the commitment you were looking for then you’re work is really just beginning. Now it’s time to move forward with the partnership. Next steps include partner activation tactics including training tech and sales teams, generating customer leads, integrating and/or creating marketing engines, and sales execution.
Richard Flynn is a recognized leader in channels and go-to-market business strategy and execution. A Founding Partner and Chief Marketing Officer for The Spur Group, Richard has over 25 years of go-to-market experience in sales transformation, channel management, and customer marketing.