It’s okay to say no: why it pays to be selective when choosing channel partners.

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Being picky has a bad reputation. But when it comes to some things – like pizza toppings, the milk/sugar ratio of your coffee, or choosing channel partners – selectivity is the only way to get exactly what you want, no concessions required. Why be picky about partners? Truth be told, not all potential channel partners are going to fit with your product, process, and vision. Mismatches are going to result in wasted time, resources and opportunity for all involved. So embrace a bit of fussiness. Here are some points to ponder when it comes to choosing channel partners.

1. What do your most successful channel partners have in common? You have some superstar partners. Think about what makes them tick, and why they are good at what they do. Chances are, there are some commonalities between them. Create a list of these attributes and use them to build an ideal partner profile (IPP). Use it to benchmark potential partners: the closer they fit the profile, the higher the likelihood that your partnership will be successful.

2. Take a look at the competition. Do your competitors or others in your field have really successful channel partner programs? What can you glean from their success? Take a look at which attributes their partners possess and seek them out on your own. 

3. Do your research and learn when to say no. Don’t let in every partner that applies to your program. Look before you leap. Find out everything you can about a potential partner, through research and by talking to them. Ensure you understand who they are and what they’re all about.

4. Is this a natural fit? Ask yourself if a potential partner will help you fill gaps in your sales strategy. Are they in an under-serviced market, or filling in a gap in your geographic reach? 

5. Would their existing customers be interested in your product/service? A strong channel partner isn’t going to have to reinvent the wheel to find success. They have an existing client base that would most likely be interested in your product.

6. Are they eager? A great sign of a strong channel partner is their willingness and commitment to learning about your product/business and your processes. It’s also a great sign to see that a channel partner is excited about expanding their skill set and is committed to constant improvement.

7. How’s their bandwidth? Don’t be afraid to ask how much time and resources a potential partner has to dedicate to you. Ask them questions about how committed they are to onboarding and training. You can also ask about their current operational capacity, and what they think their future capacity may look like.

8. Are your sales targets aligned? A strong channel partner’s targets will jive with your internal sales team’s goals. Many of our clients use this trick: have your sales team create a list of 50 accounts they’d like to tackle in the upcoming year. Ask partners to create their own list. If there is significant overlap, you’re in sync, and likely to find mutual success.

9. How’s their budget? Does the potential partner have the financial resources necessary to successfully sell for you? It’s difficult to talk about money, but it’s an important factor when it comes to a fruitful partnership.

10. Above all, start thinking with your head, not your heart. It’s hard to say no – no one really likes doing it. However, it’s a sacrifice you have to make if you want to find channel partner success. Being selective when choosing channel partners, using acceptance criteria based on questions like the ones above, means that you are going to be welcoming better suited and well-equipped channel partners to your team. That means less stress, effort and resource waste on your end, and more mutual success for you and your partners.

Key Takeaways

1. Answering the Goldilocks question of “Which partner is just the right fit?” will help increase partner engagement in the long run 

2. Spend time analyzing your current partner program to figure out what works and what doesn’t in order to develop an IPP 

3. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to a potential partner if they’re not a right fit.

4. Make sure your goals are aligned with the overall company goals

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