How to Navigate Signing a New Reseller Partner in Your Industry

“Before I begin examining the resellers, I take a look at my own business and what sets it apart.”

So, you signed a new reseller partner. Congrats! NOW WHAT?

Whew, what a process, but you finally got that new partner signed up. You’ve done a lot of prospecting, been on many phone calls along with demonstrations, testing and negotiation. Regardless, it was time well spent as the dotted line got signed. Now, you can sit back and watch the sales roll in.

Well… Where are the sales? You might ask yourself, “Why aren’t my new resellers doing what they do, sell?” Right? Unfortunately, the issue is more complicated than that.

I’ve been there! Right after, “where are the sales?”, more cumbersome questions arise: Was it really worth it? Why are only a few resellers bringing in new business? What is wrong with them?

In my experience, the answer to those questions tends to be, “Look in the mirror.”

I have built/managed Channel programs and have worked with hundreds of Channel vendors and partners over the years. The reason for their issues is always, invariably, the channel program, the channel strategy or, most often, the lack thereof.

When I encounter these types of problems, I start by asking myself and the team the following questions:

  • Is our product’s strengths backed up by solid data and value propositions?
  • Are we clearly articulating the top 3 to 5 reasons why a channel partner would be crazy not to sell our product?
  •  Are we recruiting the right channel partners to sell our products?
  • Are the target end client/users and the target purchasers clearly defined for our partners?
  • Can our channel partners really make money with our compensation plans and pricing?
  • How are we helping our channel partners to make money?

Yes, a lot of it depends on us.
Is the partner management process being strictly followed and is it scalable?


Are your strengths backed up by solid data and value propositions?

To find out, use the Competitive Analysis!

Before I begin examining the resellers, I take a look at my own business and what sets it apart. In this regard, I simply cannot stress enough the creation of a well done competitive analysis chart. In most all cases, I can review a company’s website and tell immediately if that company has done a proper competitive analysis, and/or if they know how to use it to drive business.

For example, if a company’s website is littered with industry/category value propositions instead of a solid 3-5 reasons I would be crazy not to do business with them, then the company either hasn’t done a proper competitive analysis, or the company doesn’t know how to use one.

Here is a quick exercise: compare your website to your industry/category brethren. Do you sound similar? What makes your product the strongest in its category? Are you stating points of parity, or are you making it easy for the prospect to see your product’s advantages and uniqueness?

Remember, most everyone says they are the easiest to install, the most cost effective, the most productive, etc. So, you have to stand out and prove why your product is the best! Oh, and to reinforce this, you have to be able to prove your statements.

Ask yourself: what are my top 3-5 reasons? If you haven’t done a proper competitive analysis, you won’t know, or you will sound just like your competitors. A proper analysis will allow you to definitively state 3-5 reasons why a client/end-user/reseller would be crazy not to do business with you. The analysis will be THE document that allows your company to build all its value propositions and marketing collateral while providing you the firepower to help you and your partners to close business.

You may not want to hear this, but you don’t have to be the overall best product in your industry/category — you just need to be able to carve out a well-defined niche. The competitive analysis will allow you to find the niche in your category and dominate in that space.

By the way, the competitive analysis is one of the top three documents that the best and most interested partners will ask for.


Are you recruiting the right channel partners?

Once I have the strengths outlined, I can now consider who the best companies are to resell my product/service. Sure, I can buy a list of resellers, thumb the yellow pages or spend time looking at websites. However, brute force marketing and sales is costly, time consuming, yields low conversation rates, frustrates employees and negatively impacts partner productivity. Remember, it’s not just about recruiting resellers; it’s about recruiting the right resellers.

Consider these factors

  • Does the reseller’s business model match my company’s business model?
    It should! If you don’t get anything else out of this little article, you need to get this. If your business (and financial) model does not match with your channel, you are going to have a very tough time.
  • Does the reseller sell to or work with the right kind of end clients?
  • Does the reseller sell to or work with the right size of end client?
  • Does the reseller sell a competitive product?
  • Does the reseller have domain expertise?

Once you have figured out what we at SaaSMAX call the “IPC” (Ideal Partner Configuration), you will be able to target the right resellers, sign them and find your sell-through rising.

Are the target end client/users outlined well?

The vast majority of resellers, especially in SaaS, are quickly verticalizing their client bases. Additionally, most SaaS applications are highly targeted vertically as well as in vertical niche markets. You’ll be in a better position to enable resellers if you understand who is using your product, what business problems your product alleviates and the size of your market. Knowing your end client will allow you to more effectively activate your partners.

It is key to note that when I say “activate a reseller,” I’m not talking about one or two sales. The goal is to achieve Sustainable Partner Revenue. This means that your reseller channel must be able to consistently close on new business. Don’t get excited if a reseller kicks off fast as, in most cases, they will burn out unless you are providing them the right sales support.

Can the channel make money?

I often ask people, especially when interviewing, what the easiest thing to sell is. Think about it. For me, the easiest thing to sell is money. For example: if I put out one hand and ask you for $100 while, at the same time, handing you $200 with the other, would you give me $100? Sure you would! I can sell that all day.

So, make sure your resellers are successful and they will stick with you. If they aren’t profiting, or are cut out of renewals and future revenue, they will find another product to sell. They are resellers and they are in the business, like you, to make money.

Also remember, a reseller does not only judge his/her profitability on what they make from your product. They also consider profit from additional services and companion products like support packages, installation, system integration, and other add products/sales.

When recruiting resellers, “show them the money.” Be prepared to educate the reseller on how they make money selling your product, what ways other partners are making money and how to go about selling it. Many resellers don’t just sell point product. They bundle several products together, add services and installation to meet the business requirements of their clients.

Don’t forget that many of the resellers you will work with are just as savvy as you are. They aren’t just making money –- they’re building an asset they can, at some point, exit. If you help your resellers achieve their goals, you will accomplish your own.

How do you help the channel make money? Yes, it is up to you.

We just talked about showing the partner how to make money. This section is all about enablement.

Resellers are no different than your inhouse sales team. In a sense, you are outsourcing your lead generation and sales to your resellers. Therefore, you should be treating both groups similarly.

You don’t expect a new sales person to come on board and sell at a high level within the first 1-3 months. They need training, support, mentoring and product information. In fact, a new sales person takes 6-12 months to really hit their stride.

It’s no different with your new reseller. You need to train them, provide them with market materials, joint sales activities, sales training and, for your best ones, joint sales and MDF. If you aren’t helping your new reseller to see some money within the initial stages of your relationship, the odds of that partner becoming productive drop dramatically.

One way to assist them is to prepare a simple but effective marketing plan. Provide them with call scripts, presentations, emails templates, marketing slicks they can co-brand, joint webinars, etc. Helping your reseller to make the first couple of sales will ensure their ability to start making them on their own.

Another great way to help jump start the relationship is to provide your reseller with some leads or bring them along on a sale or two. You can even give them a client at a reduced margin. Anything to get them active in the sales process and making some money. If they’re seeing a check from you each month, they’re certainly going to miss it if it goes away.

Is the partner management process being strictly followed and is it scalable?

Lastly, I review all of my channel processes. Are they repeatable? Are the policies and procedures being strictly followed by the team? Are partners utilizing the tools we have given them?

I have found that you always want to stay in front of your partner. Remember: your partners are not only selling or using your product — they’re running a business as well. Keeping mindshare, especially early on in the relationship, is key.

If nothing else, you need a three month program with helpful tools the partner can use to get those first few sales. Help them get a revenue stream started. After that, you still need to stay in front of them and nurture the relationship so that it will continue to grow.

To do this, you need a good system in place to manage your partner relationship (especially if you intend to scale). Yes, it is possible get started without investments in a Partner Relationship Management solution like Impartner. But, to truly scale beyond about 50 – 100 partners, you need to make sure you automate your partner program, or, according to Forrester, you simply won’t be able to scale.

It’s a great idea to invest in current channel management technologies like Partner Relationship Management (PRM). These technologies automate the operational basics and speed up both the onboarding and profitability of your partners. This allows your channel team to focus on more strategic conversations with your partners.

I have covered quite a lot of ground here. The information in this post will be useful if you’re looking to get into the channel or if you’re wondering what more you can do to activate and attain Sustainable Reseller Revenue. I know if you use some of this information, your reseller performance will increase.

If you have further questions or you’re looking for some help, SaaSMAX is the place to come!

This article by Clinton Gatewood, VP Partner and Reseller Development at SaaSMAX Corp., originally appeared on The WiseSaaS, January 16th, 2018.

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