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how to build a channel partner program
November 17, 2022

4 Steps to Build a Channel Partner Program from Scratch

how to build a channel partner program

Are you leveraging your partners to the fullest? You may have some referral relationships or casual partnering opportunities. But to get your channel partners working for you, you need to think programmatically. Companies with high-performing channel partner programs know this. The right strategy can help you identify and activate partners and scale your efforts.

But when you need to build a partner channel from scratch—a “greenfield” or undeveloped channel—the challenge can feel overwhelming. How do you identify the right partners, leverage these relationships, and create a system that scales?

Nancy Sperry, VP of Strategic Relationships at Allego, shared her ideas with Rob Spee, host of  Channel Journeys Podcast, How to Build a Greenfield Channel. During the interview, Sperry shared her strategy for building a channel partner program and enabling your partners.

4 Steps to Build a Channel Partner Program

Creating and maintaining a channel partner program is a nuanced effort, involving multiple moving pieces. Sperry identified four steps to help companies get their channel partner program up and running.

1. Identify and Activate Channel Partners

First and foremost, identify the right companies to partner with. You want companies that will work with you to develop strong, long-term relationships, Sperry said. The deeper the relationship, the more the two of you will benefit. You’re looking for quality over quantity.

“I don’t want to go out and just sign up anybody to become a partner,” Sperry said. “I want to sign up partners that have that mutual strategy with us and are really going to jump in with us. Because that will work better and faster than trying to get support from a large number of partners in a small way.”

Of course, your organization must be a good partner, too. You need to devote time, energy, and resources to create, nurture, and scale your partner relationships. You’ll see success faster if you’re both working together, she said.

As you evaluate potential partners, look at their organizations, their industries and see if they service the same customers as you. If they do have the same customers, identify how to leverage that. It could be an introduction or a co-selling opportunity in which you work together to create a framework that allows the two of you to best serve the customer or prospect.

2. Get Internal Teams Onboard

For a channel partner program to succeed, everyone in the company must support it—from the CEO and president to your marketing and web development teams. Everyone must work together to determine what the program looks like, the priorities, and what needs to happen to make it a reality.

“At Allego, we’re fortunate that everyone is embracing it,” Sperry said. “But how we do it—and in a way that helps us scale—is the big difference. So, we’ve created a Partner Marketplace where we list our partners on the website. With the marketing and web team’s help, we’ll do another evolution in another month or two to continue to build that out and make sure we’re providing the right level of value back to the partners so we can be collaborative.”

3. Evaluate Your Channel Partner Tech Stack

Next look at your channel partner tech stack, Sperry said. The right tech will make it easier for you to meet your partners’ needs and keep them actively working with you.

You can, for example, adapt Salesforce to meet the needs of the partner organization. Using features within Salesforce, you can manage your partners and distribute leads.

“We’ve adopted a lot of new components in our Salesforce, but we’ve also expanded to look at technologies that support the partner relationships, such as account-based management (ABM) tools,” Sperry said.

ABM technology can give insight into customers who buy from you and your partner or prospects of yours that may be partner customers, she said. That information will help you have relevant conversations with your partners.

“ABM technology allows me to go in and say, ‘What is our common message that we could activate an account with,’” Sperry said. “I think of that as a marketing strategy where I look at our prospects and theirs and determine how to pursue it together, create messages, do webinars—all those marketing types of activities. And then I look at the open opportunity. Is there an opportunity that we can leverage those relationships? Can we co-sell or collaborate in the way that we approach a prospect?”

You can also leverage data mapping and data alignment tools to help identify and prioritize places where you and your partners can grow faster together, she said. And you could use account mapping technology to uncover where you and your partners have account overlap or where partners might be uncovering new partners.

“Again, we want to make sure we’re providing the right information in that conversation to make it valuable for a partner to put their relationship in our hands,” Sperry said. “Because that’s the challenge. These are their prospects, customers, and trusted advisors. So, we want to make sure we’re equipping them with the right level of information so they look great.”

4. Adopt Channel Partner Enablement Software

Your channel partners need the same type of enablement as your sales team, but providing that is a huge challenge, Sperry said. How do you take the same sets of assets that are for your internal sales team and extend them out to partners? How do you coach your partners?

You do it by adopting a modern sales enablement software that allows you to educate, provide content to, and coach your partners—to provide customized partner support.

“Coordinating between yourself, a partner, and a prospect is really hard. So, if you can make the process more agile and allow coaching moments with partners, great partners are going to want to work with you to get more wins,” Sperry said.

You are extending your enablement to your channel partners and empowering them to succeed, she said. It’s the same capabilities just adapted to the industry of your partner, whether it’s a tech company, manufacturer, or a financial services firm.

“Giving your partners one place that’s self-serve to get all of their content and enablement needs met is game-changing for a lot of organizations,” Sperry said.

Then consider adopting technology specific to channel partners and apply an ABM strategy so you can identify mutual accounts and help your partners engage with them.

“There’s a consistency we need to get to so that each time we consider the value of the partnership and how to engage with partners on a regular basis,” Sperry said. “Who are the right partners? How do we work with them? And what can we do to help them go faster as a sales team?”

Learn More:

Download The Manufacturing Sales Playbook: 5 Essential Elements of Channel Partner Enablement and get advice on how to create a channel partner enablement program that ensures they receive the skills, knowledge, and content to engage buyers and win deals.

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