PRM Best Practice: Partner Selection


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All too often, vendors choose their partners based upon small amounts of data that can be easily accessed, or make attempts to gather more detailed information with a manual approach. The result is that important clues about why certain companies are unlikely to make good partners are missed – and more importantly, vendors fail to discover the companies that could become some of their most successful partners.

The first step in developing your channel partner strategy is to ensure that you have a clear understanding of your existing go-to-market approach. This seems obvious. But ask yourself:

  • What are our target markets – geographic, product, horizontal and vertical?
  • Who are our target customers – who benefits from our products and services, what size and type are they?
  • What kind of partner channel addresses these customers and markets and offers the kind of product and services they want to buy?
  • What products and services do we have that will address the needs of the customers and markets and which will appeal to the channels that service them?
  • What are our value propositions to both customer and channel partners?

Answering these simple questions will lead you to the right partner channels and help define your partner selection and recruitment strategy by establishing a selection criteria.
Many vendors mistakenly assume they know who the ideal partners are, based upon local knowledge and ‘gut feel’. Whilst this approach may work on a local scale it cannot succeed as a basis for a regional or global strategy. To get a complete picture of your potential partner landscape, you must consider detailed research, data pooling and if necessary data acquisition. Before you start, decide what kind of information you will need to know about each partner in order to:

  • Assess their suitability for partnership (your selection criteria)
  • Benchmark them against their competition
  • Communicate with them when the time is right

Pull together as much data as possible from internal sources on as many existing and potential partners as possible. Leave no stone unturned. Draw from your marketing databases, contact lists, ERP, SCM, LMS, SFA and CRM systems and create a single central repository in which to store your partner data.

When you have exhausted all internal sources, approach a data specialist with a very tight brief. Ask the provider to map the data you already have against the total data they have available ensuring that you are supplementing your existing data rather than replacing it with exactly the same companies – at your own expense. Most importantly, ensure that you acquire current contact information on key personnel – understand who you can’t sell to, market to or recruit through, choosing only the contacts right for you.

Don’t be surprised if the partners you subsequently select are very different from the partners you have now. Most vendors outgrow their partner network as their go-to-market strategy evolves. Remember, partners don’t always evolve at the same pace or in the same direction as their vendors. Yet few vendors have the patience or nerve to invest in partner development or reselection. History offers many examples of vendors who have found a very real and urgent need to find alternative channels to market. Note that when Sony launched the Vaio PC range, its traditional retail channel offered no route to the business users to whom the product appealed. Similarly, Apple’s global chain of Apple Center’s had little to offer the vendor in taking the iPod to market.

Above all, start with defining what you need to know to achieve your goal of partner selection, create a single data repository with a consistent data structure that meets your current and your future needs. The resultant partner database should be accessible as a business tool by all those in your company who will need to interact with your partner network. It is important also that you develop a strategy and a methodology for maintaining the data’s currency such that it continues to be fit for purpose. As we shall see in later posts, CRM systems seem like the obvious choice but beware! Think about what you intend to do with the database once you have built it and then decide whether a CRM system will be flexible enough to support the complexity of an indirect route to market.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mike Morgan
Mike has over 20 years of ICT, OA and CE channel sales and marketing management experience and is responsible for Relayware's global go-to-market strategy as well as the sales and marketing functions while overseeing the company's operations worldwide. Mike is recognized as one of the industry's leading experts in indirect go-to-market strategy best practice.


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