Thinking about building a partner channel… Don’t bother.

grass-greener-where-you-water-it-life-quotes-sayings-picturesWhen it comes to go-to-market strategies, sales organizations suffer from “the grass is always greener” syndrome. Organizations that go-to-market ‘direct’ to the end-user want to go-to-market through a ‘partner’ channel. And ‘partner’ channel organizations are always envious of the ‘direct’ sales model.

Recently a CEO approached me after a “Move the Channel” sessions. After the presentation, she wanted to know how to acquire a partner channel.  They dominated a couple verticals, but they were a distant 3rd and 4th in the biggest industries and therefore a partners channel in those industries could come in handy. My response is always the same, “don’t bother”!

Of course, that only sparked more interest and curiosity. So I explained it simply, it’s not in a ‘direct’ channel organization’s culture to be successful with ‘partner’ channel. Noticing that she felt insulted by this, I tried comforting her by explaining this doesn’t make them bad.

And then I put into less offensive terms. I asked her if she could, “give me one example or case study of a ‘direct’ organization that has been successful at finding, onboarding, and … oh yeah successful selling through a ‘partner’ channel?”

The conversation made me think of the late Peter Drucker’s infamous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. On the surface, we might think he’s suggesting that a company should focus on changing their culture before implementing a new strategy. But after more research and considering the context of the statement, he isn’t suggesting changing culture at all. In fact, Peter also said, “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got”.

Not many success stories exist about ‘direct’ sales organization acquiring and growing the business through a newly seized ‘partner channel’. There are some more stories of organic success, but those take time. And CEOs don’t want to consider strategies that take time. This is a Transformation which is by definition very difficult.

You need two things to acquire a profitable ‘partner’ channel:

1.)  Partner Culture: The mindset that our partner is our customer… how do our products and support help our partners be more successful? This is very different than thinking the only customer you need to satisfy is the end-user.

2.)  Trust: Channel partners are instinctively untrusting and suspicious. And for good reason! If you are a known ‘direct’ organization, the apprehension for the prospective partner is even deeper.

Conclusion: Culture is slow to change and makes transformation difficult. And Trust is earned over time. If you acknowledge these facts, you might be successful at building partner channel.

The grass really is greener where you water it… eventually.

As always, comment or send me a note to further this dialog!

Move the Channel,


email me

About the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a channel engagement and incentive company focused on Channel Incentive Strategies. Travis helps some of the most respected companies in the world design, implement, and manage their channel incentive strategies.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: