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How to Find Channel Partners: 8 Important Steps to Take

Are you ready to truly accelerate growth at your company? One powerful way to do so is by forming strategic partnerships with partners. These partnerships can increase revenue, help you reach new markets, and drive long-term success. But how to find channel partners that align with your goals and values?

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through the process of finding channel partners from first search to final handshake. From understanding the different types of partners to uncovering effective strategies for sourcing partners, we've got you covered. Let's dive in.

👉 What you'll find:

Why is it so important to find channel partners?

Finding the right channel partners offers your business the opportunity to accelerate growth, increase revenue, and drive long-term success. Put simply, with the right partners, you can grow faster together.

By leveraging the strengths and capabilities of channel partners, you can tap into greater operational efficiency and scalability, as they can handle everything from sales to distribution to customer support. Moreover, channel partners can offer valuable insights, market intelligence, and localized knowledge to better tailor your products or services to meet your customers' needs.

There's a reason McKinsey has forecasted that channel partner ecosystems will play a major role in almost every aspect of global economy and drive a third of total global revenue by 2030. In the following sections, we'll delve into the various types of partners and how to find channel partners that are a great fit for your business.

🔎 Discover more: Partnerships can unlock major short- and long-term benefits for your business. Read about the many benefits of channel partners here!

What are the different types of channel partners?

There are many types of partners, and even different terminology used for these partners that will depend on your industry. In general, though, these are the most common types of channel partners you'll find as you begin your search, and how they typically operate:

  • Technology partners: These partners offer complementary technology solutions that can be integrated with your products or services. By partnering with them, you can improve the value of your offerings and deliver more comprehensive solutions to customers.
  • Referral partners: These individuals or businesses refer potential customers to your company in exchange for a commission or other incentives. They leverage their network and influence to generate leads and drive sales for your products or services. Referral partnerships are particularly effective for businesses looking to expand their customer base and tap into new markets through word-of-mouth recommendations, whether online or IRL.
  • Resellers: Resellers purchase products or services from the manufacturer or distributor and sell them to end customers. They often have their own customer base and distribution networks, making them ideal for expanding market coverage.
  • Distributors: Distributors act as intermediaries between manufacturers and resellers. They purchase products in bulk and distribute them to resellers or retailers. Distributors can offer logistical support, warehousing, broader market reach, and more.
  • Value-added resellers (VARs): VARs not only sell products, but also provide additional value through customization, integration, and support services. They tailor solutions to meet specific customer needs and often bundle complementary products or services together.
  • Value-added distributors (VADs): Value-added distributors go beyond traditional distribution activities by providing value-added services. They can offer technical expertise, product customization, system integration, and training to resellers and end customers. They play a crucial role in supporting complex technology deployments and ensuring customer success.
  • System integrators: System integrators specialize in integrating different hardware and software components into a cohesive solution. They often work on complex projects, combining multiple technologies to deliver comprehensive solutions to end customers.
  • Consultants and advisors: Consultants and advisors provide expertise and guidance on specific industries or market segments. They can offer strategic advice, market analyses, and help businesses navigate complex environments.
  • Managed service providers (MSPs): MSPs offer outsourced IT services and manage clients' technology infrastructure, applications, and systems. They provide ongoing support, maintenance, and monitoring, which allows businesses to focus on their core operations.
  • Affiliate partners: Affiliate partners can promote your products or services on their websites, blogs, social media , or other platforms. They typically earn a commission for each sale or lead generated through their promotional efforts.
  • Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs): OEMs typically manufacture products or components that are used as parts in another company's final product.
  • Strategic alliance partners: Strategic alliance partners share similar goals, target markets, or customer segments, and can collaborate on joint marketing initiatives, co-development projects, or co-selling opportunities to mutually benefit both companies.

The choice of channel partners depends on your specific business objectives, target market, and product or service offerings. Consider the strengths and resources each type of partner brings to the table to determine the best fit for your business. 

🔎 Discover more: Learn about the many types of channel partners in our comprehensive guide, which also discusses how to find each type of partner and maximize growth with them!

How do I find good channel partners?

What makes a channel partner "good"? It depends on your business needs, goals, and products or services. However, a good channel partner will:

  • Align strategically with your brand's goals and vision
  • Understand your products or services
  • Have a strong network of potential customers

Most importantly, partners will be ready to grow with you, and actively engaged in the process of partnering. Let's find the right partners for your business.

How to find channel partners

This is a proven roadmap to discover the perfect new partners for your business. With these eight steps, you'll learn how to source and find new channel partners that align with your goals, complement your offerings, and accelerate your business.

Step 1: Define your ideal channel partner

Before you start your search, it's crucial to define your ideal channel partner. Craft a clear profile of what you're looking for. Consider the following factors:

  • Industry expertise: Identify the industries or sectors where your ideal channel partner operates and has experience.
  • Target market: Determine the customer segments or geographic regions your channel partner should have access to.
  • Values and culture: Assess whether their values and work culture align with yours, as this will impact your future partnership success.
  • Strengths and capabilities: Understand the specific skills, resources, and capabilities your ideal partner should possess to find those that complement yours.
  • Existing partnerships: Research their current partnerships to ensure they don't have conflicts of interest or competing products.

By creating a comprehensive profile, you'll have a solid foundation for your search, enabling you to identify new partners more effectively.

Step 2: Build a list of potential partners

At this point, source a list of potential partners and where you can find them. Consider this step open-ended and more focused on brainstorming. You'll likely have a list of potential partners once you finish, but we'll continue to add to this in further steps.

  • Industry analysis: Look into industries that complement your own. Identify businesses that serve the same target market but offer complementary products or services, and you'll begin to find potential partners who are already out and working with your future customers.
  • Competitor analysis: Study your competitors' partnerships. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of their channel partners and evaluate if those partnerships align with your goals. Write down those partners who may be a great fit for you, too.
  • Market research: Explore companies that have recently entered your target markets. Research their background, market presence, and growth potential. They may be open to forming partnerships to expand their reach.
  • Online research: Utilize search engines, online directories, and industry-specific platforms as a starting point for how to find channel partners. Conduct keyword searches related to your industry and specific partner types to discover new prospects.

Remember, the goal is to identify a pool of potential partners that you can evaluate further in the next steps.

Step 3: Use your existing professional networks

Your existing professional network can be a goldmine for finding channel partners to add to your shortlist.

Leverage your LinkedIn network by reaching out to industry professionals, colleagues, or friends who may have recommendations or connections to potential channel partners. Look for former colleagues or friends who have recently moved into new roles or companies.

Think outside the box here—your contact may not work for a company that would be a great partner, but they may know of ones that exist! Networking is not just about finding potential partners but also about gathering insights and recommendations from other industry experts and peers.

Step 4: Attend industry events and trade shows

According to research from PartnerPath, industry events are the #1 place that partners use to find more vendors to work with. Some of the top partnerships events, like Channel Partners and Canalys, provide valuable opportunities to meet potential partners face-to-face.

Follow these tips to find channel partners at events: 

  • Research upcoming events: Make a list of trade shows, conferences, and industry-specific events relevant to your business. Consider both local and international events based on your target market.
  • Plan your attendance: Determine which events align best with your business goals and allocate budget and other resources accordingly. Set clear objectives for each event, such as networking, lead generation, or identifying potential channel partners.
  • Make a great first impression: Prepare a compelling elevator pitch that quickly explains your business, products or services, and what you're looking for in a channel partner. Dress professionally, bring informative marketing materials, and be approachable and engaging when interacting with attendees.
  • Attend relevant talks and events: During larger events, pinpoint the sessions, live events, and mixers that will bring you into closest contact with potential partners in your industry or target markets.
  • Host a booth or your own special event: When appropriate, become a beacon by setting up a booth, session, or special event at an industry event. Offer free incentives and swag for potential partners to learn more about your business.

By attending industry events, you'll find like-minded companies and individuals, identify potential partners, and build relationships that can blossom into full partnerships.

Step 5: Use online directories and platforms

Online directories and platforms offer a convenient way to find potential channel partners, or to scope out companies that may be at upcoming IRL events.

Here's how to find channel partners online:

  • Partner directories: Explore dedicated partner directories or directories that are specific to your industry. These platforms connect businesses who are already looking for partners, allowing you to search and filter potential partners based on criteria like industry, location, and partner type.
  • Search engines and social media: Of course, you'll use search engines like Google and social media platforms like LinkedIn to find partners. Target your searches using relevant keywords and industry-specific hashtags. Carefully review the profiles and websites of the companies that come up in the search results.
  • Industry forums and groups: Finally, join relevant B2C or B2B industry forums, online communities, and LinkedIn groups where professionals gather to exchange insights, discuss trends, and share opportunities. Browse through posts, ask for recommendations, or post your own questions to connect with potential channel partners. You'll learn more and may even find your next partner!

Step 6: Engage a channel recruitment company

If the thought of conducting a search on your own is overwhelming, consider engaging a channel recruitment company, like Partner Optimizer. These companies, individuals, or agencies specialize in connecting businesses with potential partners, finding the right partner for your needs, and can streamline the process for you.

They'll be able to help with their:

  • Extensive network: Channel recruitment agencies have a network of pre-qualified channel partners, saving you time and effort in sourcing candidates
  • Industry expertise: Since they possess in-depth knowledge of various industries and partner types, they can often help match you with suitable partners
  • Robust technology: Partner Optimizer uses advanced AI to source and match you with potential partners that are a best fit for your organization
  • Screening and evaluation techniques: These companies can also conduct initial screening and due diligence on your behalf, ensuring partners meet your criteria

By engaging a channel recruitment company, you can leverage their expertise and resources to find and recruit high-quality channel partners efficiently.

Step 7: Analyze your matches

Once you have a list of potential channel partners, it's time to analyze how good of a match they are. Go back to your original ideal partner profile, and consider those and the following factors while evaluating partners.

  • Track record and reputation: Review their track record in partnering with other businesses. Look for successful partnerships, customer testimonials, and case studies to gauge their reliability and reputation.
  • Market presence and customer base: Evaluate their market share and customer base. Consider their geographic coverage, target industries, and customer segments to ensure alignment with your business goals.
  • Cultural fit and values: Assess whether their company culture, values, and working style align with yours. This alignment is crucial for long-term collaboration and mutual success.
  • Online presence and engagement: Analyze their online presence, including their website, social media profiles, and engagement with customers and partners. Look for indications of active communication and a commitment to building strong partnerships.

By conducting a thorough analysis, you can narrow down your list to the most suitable partners to begin building your program with.

🔎 Discover more: Ready to learn all the steps it takes to build a partner ecosystem? Read our full guide on building a partner ecosystem here.

Step 8: Make first contact

Once you've identified your potential partners, it's time to say hi! You may have already met some of them at events or online, but when reaching out about forming a partnership, consider these tips:

  • Craft a personalized email or message that demonstrates your understanding of their business and why you believe a partnership would be mutually beneficial.
  • Clearly articulate how partnering with your company could benefit them, such as access to new markets, increased revenue opportunities, or complementary product offerings.
  • Propose a meeting or call to discuss a partnership in more detail. Provide options for scheduling and make it easy for them to respond and coordinate.

Remember, making a positive first impression and showcasing the potential value of a partnership with your business can increase the likelihood of an excited response!

Evaluating your list of potential channel partners

You've built your list. You've made first contact. And, you're likely excited to get started. It's essential that you evaluate potential partners further before making a final decision to bring them into your partner program.

This process will differ depending on your business, industry, needs, and stage of growth, but in general you'll need to:

  • Conduct in-depth discussions: Schedule meetings or conference calls to discuss your goals, strategies, and expectations. Evaluate their level of enthusiasm, willingness to collaborate, and alignment with your business values.
  • Gauge communication style and responsiveness: Observe their communication style and responsiveness during these discussions. Assess their ability to listen, provide valuable input, and engage in constructive dialogue.
  • Consider their capabilities and compatibility: Gain a clear understanding of their capabilities, resources, and expertise. Discuss how they plan to support your business, including their sales and marketing strategies and their commitment to ongoing support. Then, assess compatibility between your organizations, including the ability to work well together, share information, and resolve conflicts effectively.
  • Request references: If possible, ask for references from their existing partners or clients. Reach out to these references to learn about their experience working with them.

Once you've evaluated and recruited your new partners, it pays to have a solid onboarding plan in place. We've got you covered.

🔎 Discover more: From building your partner welcome package to automating training, find your channel partner onboarding checklist here.

Get ready to grow

Finding channel partners starts with strategy and ends with getting to truly know the other individuals you may be partnering with. With this comprehensive guide, you now have a roadmap to navigate the process successfully.

Remember to tailor your approach to suit your industry and specific business needs. By forming strategic partnerships with the right partners, you can grow faster together.

At Impartner, we know better efficiency between you and your partners drives incredible growth. That's why our platform automates and manages your entire partner journey, end-to-end.

From automated partner onboarding, training, and certifications to communications, business planning, and performance compliance, Impartner handles every aspect of partner management and more with best practices and automation built-in.

Need to accelerate your partnerships? We're ready when you are.

About the Author

Impartner is the fastest-growing, most award-winning provider of partner management and partner marketing automation solutions. We've been around for decades, and were the first to coin the term "PRM". Today, over 40,000 users leverage Impartner to manage millions of partners within their ecosystem of distributors, resellers, and more. We draw on decades of experience with best practices in the channel to create content that helps partnership leaders grow their careers and scale their programs.

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