The building blocks for the strongest channel partnerships

How can resellers, MSPs, distributors and vendors build strong relationshipsA question of trust

Building trust is key to developing successful partnerships – across all areas of your business. Trust provides the foundation for the relationship, and can be built in many ways, such as through credibility, customer references, assured data protection, ISO compliance, responsive employees with positive attitudes, or commitment to ethical practices.  When trust is established, it leads to greater openness, loyalty, collaboration and, ultimately, opportunities.

And whilst your own organisation is working hard to establish trust, your prospective partner also needs to demonstrate the same attributes to warrant your investment in time, resources, and energy.

When working with larger partners, it is important to develop multi-tier relationships across the organisation with a regular touch-points in communication.  Having peer-to-peer relationships across every layer and across every department helps to make the relationship long-lasting. Then if someone leaves you can quickly develop new connections and get the relationship back on track.  Any gap in people knowledge makes the relationship difficult to maintain so it is imperative to mitigate this.

Building strong relationships isn’t easy

Managing leavers and starters is a key challenge in maintaining strong partnerships.  You need to stay on top of key contacts to sustain and develop peer-to-peer relationships across an organisation.

However, you can only develop strong relationships if you have a good reason to talk on a regular basis. If the meeting’s participants are not aligned in terms of objectives and expectations, the meetings will become ineffectual and it will become challenging to keep abreast of organisational and people changes.

Everyone in your organisation needs to be mindful that your partners are an extension of your sales function. So regardless of whether someone has a role in support or accounts, they need to be commercially minded and aware of the importance of your partnerships. Every conversation and action contributes to building, sustaining and energising the relationship.

Does a short-term relationship look different to a long term partnership?

We follow a tried and tested process to ensure that we deliver the very best experience to partners at every stage of the relationship. The first 90 days of all new relationships are important both in terms of expectation setting and practical activities, such as training, support, and the provision of resources.

Once we move beyond the first 90 days, the relationship shifts to a business-as-usual format when specialists across the business, from account managers to the finance team, jointly take on responsibility for building and nurturing the relationship. At this early stage, developing the peer-to-peer relationships plays an important role.

It easy to overlook the importance of the business-as-usual stage, but it is arguably, more important as the time during the initial engagement. We all know it costs much more to find a new relationship than to nurture a current one.

As the partner becomes more familiar with your services, their needs are likely to change and expand, and deviate from other partners’ requirements by becoming more specific to their own needs, which may require further training and customisation of documents. This is a good time to become more strategic and find ways to further develop the relationship, so it is important to continually review and evolve the relationship in line with both your own business objectives and theirs.

Success predictors

Synergy is important. The strongest partnerships are when you have a common outlook and objectives. If you can speak openly and set expectations with transparency from the outset, you know you are on to a winner.

There also needs to be equality in the relationship. For example, if one partner is pushing hard to reduce prices, it can result in the other being less invested in the relationship due to the relationship having less value. This could however be as a result of the value not being explained and support to understand the proposition not provided. Both sides must consider each other’s goals and respect them. It cannot be that one side takes everything.  Like all relationships, there must be give and take.

If you can start the relationship in the right place, with the right commercial agreement, you are likely to do well. Be clear on what you are looking for and stick to what you need without being too rigid. Leave enough room for flexibility to do favours, promotions or additional discounts which benefit both sides of the relationship.

And whilst you may be eager to win the business, being too willing to compromise is not a good place to the start.  This can lead to being continually squeezed, trying to claw back margin. The answer is to focus on the value of your services rather than price. The balance between value versus price is delicate, but it is important that business goals are aligned and customers’ needs are fulfilled, whilst consideration and trust fortify the relationship.