Got Partners that don't add value?

You probably have a few of these in your channel ... partners that add little value to your product or company, are always complaining, and tend to be ambulance-chasers, that is, they ring you about opportunities you already know about and are working on with another partner. What do you do with them?

There's usually a few things in play here, so it's worthwhile looking at the dynamics to understand what may be really going on. 

The first issue may be Trust. Are your partners engaging you as soon as they identify an opportunity, or are they holding it to their chest because they don't trust your company with information. This could be because you have a direct sales team and they are concerned that if they call out an opportunity, the next thing that will happen is your direct sales team will be in there. If this is the case, then you need to articulate from the top down what your company's rules of engagement are. If you don't have such a thing, then the onus is on you and your company, and this lack of clarity and security is probably contributing to the problem.

How is your company's relationship with the partner? Hopefully your relationship is good, but what about with the rest of your company? Do you have multiple relationships, and top to bottom engagement? More relationships will open the lines of communication and also help to build trust. Is the partner CEO meeting regularly with an equivalent in your company? How often do regional sales managers in your company meet with the sales manager at the partner? If you don't have a Relationship plan, get one happening quickly. This is one of the fundamentals of channel management.

Do you have a strategic plan in place with the partner? Do you know what markets they are focused on, and importantly, have you briefed your company on what this partner is wanting to achieve. If you have sales meetings at your company, it is important for you as the advocate of partners, to regularly brief others in your company about plans that you have in play, and how others in your company can be involved. If you don't have a joint plan that is widely known and understood, how can you be surprised if everyone is working to different goals?

Sadly, not all businesses grow. Sometimes they decline also. Is your partner on a downward track, not only with your company, but with other vendors? Are people leaving, and are they losing existing customers at a faster rate than attracting new ones? Sometimes it pays to step back and look at the partner as a whole, not just through the vendor-glasses of your company. There are some things you can fix, but you can't fix an ailing business. 

Focus on managing Trust, Relationships, and having a Joint Strategic Plan. If you have these, and are regularly measuring and taking action to progress things, you will start to find that the "noise" from a partner you viewed as not adding value will diminish and may start to turn into one of your better partners. 

A partner that is not adding value, and whose business as a whole is increasing, should be a red-alert to you. It means you, or your company, have dropped the ball somehow. You need to work out in which direction the ball has gone and have a plan to retrieve it. If you don't, one of your competitors will pick it up.

When you see a problem at one of your partners, it's up to you to take the lead and investigate. Understand the dynamics of what is really happening before pigeon-holing the partner as a waste of your time.

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