Channel Partner Recruitment Strategy: How To Recruit The Best
Many companies come to a crossroads where they realize that their direct sale team simply cannot provide them with the reach and scale that they need to grow their business.
This is the time to consider an indirect route to market through partners. Partners can provide many benefits to suppliers, from geographic coverage to solution integration capabilities to custom service and support.
If your business is ready to start a partner program, the obvious first questions are:
Who will be my best partners?
Where should I begin?
Let’s dig into the answers to those questions.
Who are the Best Channel Partners for Your Company?
The answer of who a supplier’s best partners are depends on your business.
Step one is to determine where you have coverage gaps. These are places where your partners will complement your sales team in terms of capability and capacity.
They might extend your reach through a presence in a market where you currently have limited or no representation; or they could augment your solutions with additional components such as services, software, or hardware.
Getting Started: How to Build Your Ideal Partner Profile
The first step you need to take is to build your ideal partner profile. Most suppliers will look at filling their gaps in five areas when building out the ideal partner profile:
Vertical industry expertise (e.g., healthcare, manufacturing, retain, etc)
Horizontal solutions capabilities(e.g., security, data visualization, etc)
Customer segmentation (e.g., Mid-Market, Small Business, etc)
After you prioritize these five areas and opportunities, do some targeted recruiting to identify the best partners to fill these gaps for you. The goal is to build an ideal partner profile, or a guideline for the top critical criteria to look for in partners.
Getting your entire team on the same page in term of what the ideal partner looks like will result in a consistent and consistently understood partner profile which is key to a successful recruiting process, and to recruiting the partners with the highest likelihood of success. Without these guidelines, your team could be spending time recruiting partners that are not interested, willing, or able to succeed with your solution.
Several factors to consider when building this profile (in addition to the obvious five major opportunity areas listed above) include the partner’s financials, the number of sales and technical personnel, their marketing capabilities, their growth plans, their commitment and ability to invest in a new supplier, and their management vision.
Depending on your business, you may have other considerations that will enter into your ideal partner profile. Keep in mind you will have to evaluate both subjective and objective criteria in the partner selection process.
Some of these elements will be more important than others depending on your business model and approach.
For example, if you, as a supplier, are planning to do 100% of the marketing, or if you offer proven outsourced marketing options, then the target partner’s marketing capabilities are not going to be that important.
On the other hand, if you are trying to recruit a partner to sell a cloud solution, it will be paramount to ensure the target partner’s executive team is all-in with the investments and economics required to succeed in the cloud.
Next Steps: Narrowing the Field
Once you have outlined the basic profile, the recruiting team can get to work to find the partners who are most likely to succeed. However, simply “checking the box” that they met a certain criteria does not necessarily mean this will be a perfect match. The ideal profile is simply a starting point to pare down the masses of potential partner targets.
The person or team responsible for recruiting the new partners now has a short list to take to the next level, and one-on-one conversations can begin.
The recruiter and partner should transparently discuss what will truly be required for a successful partnership, what will each party bring to the table (resources, investments, customers, etc.), and what expectations both parties hold. A key discussion point at this stage in the recruiting process is around partner economics.
The Beginning Stages of Your New Partner-Supplier Relationship
After these discussions are complete, the partner and the supplier can now determine if there is mutual benefit, and if so they can sign the contract. Although the signature represents a major milestone, it really reflects the beginning of the relationship.
Now it’s time for both parties to put forth the investments and resources they committed to and get to the business at hand. They move to the partner onboarding stage of the process, ensuring the partner stays on track to meet milestones that will set them on the right trajectory in terms of training, certifications, leads, and everything else that ultimately leads to revenue.
It is important to create the right metrics for your recruiters; and you need to make sure to measure what really matters. We have seen recruiters be paid on the number of partners recruited, which - as you might imagine - created the behavior that tons of partners were signed yet none of them ever sold anything.
A better recruitment metric might be on the partner’s Time To Revenue, or Time To Third Deal, or Six Months Revenue, all of which reflect that recruiting is not the end goal; rather the ultimate goal is to recruit the right set of partners that will deliver the expected revenue.
Recruiting partners is an expensive proposition for both the partner and the supplier. It is costly for a partner to pick up a new product or line. To do it right, the supplier must be willing to dedicate personnel in addition to making a significant financial investment in marketing demand, training, demo or loaner equipment, etc.
It only makes sense to protect that investment by giving your recruiting team the description of the ideal partner profile to ensure their highest propensity of success.