Table of contents:
- What do organizations need to consider if creating long-term revenue through partnerships is their end-goal?
- Secret #1: Build strong relationships with your channel partners
- Secret #2: Have a winning channel strategy
- Select partners who are aligned with your channel strategy
- Do business with people you enjoy working with
- How to build the foundation for success with partners
- 1. Agreeing upon a single measure of success
- 2. Know your needs to help your partner succeed
- 3. Ensuring standards are maintained for consistent deliverables
- Look to analysts for insights
- Building loyalty and engaging channel partners
- Building trust with your partners
- Can you teach partners loyalty?
- Enabling partners to meet their goals
- Sharing data with your partners
- When to give up on an unsuccessful partnership
- How to end a partnership
- 1. Some vendors may delay acknowledging the end
- 2. Don't ambush partners with a breakup
- Secret #3: Track and measure success with your channel partners
- Alleviate challenges with the latest technology and best practices
- Is channel success determined as a whole or partner-by-partner?
- Larger organizations should analyze individual performance
- For smaller organizations, focus on the top 20% of your partners
- Maintaining cadences with your top 20% of partners
- Invest in yourself as a channel professional
- Closing comments
- Autum Grimm’s background as a channel leader
This may not be a consideration that initially strikes, upon first setting up a strategy for your indirect sales, but as things progress and partnerships pan out and start to mature, it becomes clear that having a long-term plan in place would be wise.
Growth of your partnerships can sometimes take a direction that may demand a new set of requirements to keep your partners engaged.
Dealing with any unforeseen situations can best be avoided by planning early & carefully, and regularly checking in with partners and tracking efforts.
Take care of your partners and your partners will take care of you. This, is how you truly reap long-term benefits for years to come.
Our guest, Autum Grimm, is not only an innovator, but also a pioneer, in a division of the channel space that had been left completely unexplored before the birth of her company.
Over the past 15 years, our guest has:
- Spent her time selling both to domestic and international companies as well as leading and developing top producing sales teams
- Co-founded a platform to help enterprise sales reps connect directly with their peers at each partner and sell more together
Today, she is responsible for:
- demand generation
- and business development
as CRO at PartnerTap, a leading enterprise Partner Ecosystem Platform that allows companies to automate account mapping, control data shared with each partner, and enable sales teams to cross-sell with partners.
She’s here with us today to tell us about the: 3 Best Kept Secrets to Creating Long-Term Revenue Streams Within The Channel.
What do organizations need to consider if creating long-term revenue through partnerships is their end-goal?
Paul Bird: When we're building partnerships, long term revenue is obviously something that we need to consider but, what are some of the things that organizations need to consider if this is their end-goal?
Secret #1: Build strong relationships with your channel partners
Autum Grimm: You and I both know how important relationships are and the channel is really the key area where organizations can have tremendous success.
It's a motivator for organizations for a variety of reasons:
- It's a great way to diversify what you do,
- it's a great way to expand your reach in the market,
- and it's a great way to create sustainable revenue streams.
So, a lot of organizations are adopting the channel more and they're also capitalizing and really digging down deep into what makes a successful channel more profitable.
At the end of the day, relationships matter in everything we do.
I think as humans, we're naturally built to interact and have relationships. That's why really, I think this whole pandemic has been such a major pain in the neck. We can't interact like we naturally would do.
"When you think about your most transcendent partnerships that you've either built in your current role or ones that you've built in the past, the ones that were the most prosperous were the ones where you had the best relationships."
That's what we really look at when we work with our customers:
- How can we build technology that enables better connectedness and allows them to really get down to where the revenue is, quickly, so they can spend more time on that human interaction?
I think some of the things that people miss is when they're building their partnership, they don't take enough time in that first step, which is in that relationship, in that connectedness, because from here, all things will grow.
You can still have successful partnerships and revenue-driven partnerships if you don't like the people you work with.
But you and I both know that it's the ones that you really like and you really care about, that everything else from the birth of the partnership to the evolution of revenue, that's where you're going to have your most success in the people you really care about.
Paul Bird: When you think about building the channel, one of the key aspects is you need to have the right people.
You need to have the right types of organizations inside your mix to make sure that this is your route to the market.
So, it looks like secret number one, when it comes to looking at how we have sustained revenue growth, is those relationships. When you are building and identifying what your channel mix looks like, strong relationships have to be there.
Secret #2: Have a winning channel strategy
Paul Bird: Any other best practices from a partner selection perspective that you can share with us?
Autum Grimm: A winning strategy between you and the partners that you select is critical.
First, you have to like the people you do business with. But then the ones that you do and don't like, you have to build a strategy.
"The determining factors between success and failure are deeply rooted in how well we can agree upon our strategy."
- What is going to make us successful?
- And do we both understand the metrics that we will come together on?
- and really the foundational principles that we can agree will determine whether we are successful or not?
That comes from that great first initial establishment of the partnership:
- Are we really on track?
- Do we have the same cultural alignment?
- Do we have some of the consistencies that we're looking for for the customers that we deliver business on?
Select partners who are aligned with your channel strategy
Autum Grimm: Our partnership between our companies (PartnerTap and Magentrix) started because we had customers in common and we started talking.
And we thought: what can we really do to help our customers be more effective in the channel?
And that came from a respect between each other in wanting each other to do well. We really take that wholeheartedly into play.
You only have so much time.
Whatever company touches my company, they're going to be successful. I know that because my company is successful.
So if I'm going to bring value to their world, I want those people to be in line with my strategy and my vision for the future of the world when it comes to the channel.
Mark Brigman over at Partnernomics has some outstanding programs and content where a person at any variety can just jump in and either brush up on how to build a great strategy or how to deliver the optimal results from a channel. And it's really fun.
Do business with people you enjoy working with
Autum Grimm: That goes back to doing business with people you like. It's hard not to like Mark Brigman. Anybody who has spent a little bit of time on the phone with him knows that he really makes you take a step back and think about your strategy.
What's awesome about doing that part of the work of the partnership is, it just comes naturally to people in the channel because most of us are people people. We like to do the conversing and the strategy around how we're going to make each other successful.
Paul Bird: There's not too many introverts in the channel. It's a lot of extroverts like us.
How to build the foundation for success with partners
Paul Bird: Looking to peel back the onion when it looks at selecting the right channel. You can have a great relationship with somebody. You can be in alignment from a strategy perspective, but I don't think those two are just keys for success.
Is there anything from a foundational level, when it comes to something tactical you're looking for in order to make sure you've got the right people on your team?
1. Agreeing upon a single measure of success
Autum Grimm: Putting the right plan in place, absolutely, with the right partner. You have to have those two dots in alignment.
The way that you do that is you agree upon a single measure of success, whether it's like revenue, whether it's units, whether it's production volume.
Whatever that is, the two of you need to agree that we're going to go and build something and this is how we're going to value it.
Because if we're not talking about value, then we're just talking. We don't really have something that we know we're going to go produce for our customers.
Typically, your customers will tell you what they want. For most of the customers that I work with, it’s revenue. I want to know that I'm making more money, period.
So that's what we focus on with the partners that we work with. How can we package the solutions that we provide with our partners, if it's a co-sell, so that the end result is the metric that the customer cares about?
2. Know your needs to help your partner succeed
Autum Grimm: And the second part of that is knowing:
- How are we going to depend upon each other to deliver this together?
- What do I need to have happen so that I don't let my partner down?
If I don't deliver my product to the customer in this way, if it's a technology partnership, then we're not going to have success the way that we've agreed upon it to the customer.
And that's super, super critical.
3. Ensuring standards are maintained for consistent deliverables
Autum Grimm: The third part of this is, if we have any people where I have multi-department relationships. Maybe I have a division of my company that delivers an aspect of this partnership. That particular department needs to be treated just like a partner.
So if I deliver something different, if I'm a services deliverable and my partner's a technology deliverable and then we work with a partner, we have to make sure that everybody is held to the same standards and the same value metrics.
So that we end up delivering that same consistent result.
Look to analysts for insights
Autum Grimm: And I like to draw from some of these analysts because they sit around all day and pick apart our businesses and our industry.
McKinsey is really doing a great job digging into what companies need right now. So I recommend that for data and analytics and for folks in the field that are looking to put together business cases.
Or just to get a deeper understanding of how to really materialize those concepts day to day.
Building loyalty and engaging channel partners
Paul Bird: Once you have that right partner, how important is loyalty in that relationship? And is there a strategy on building that loyalty, having a cadence, engagement?
Autum Grimm: Absolutely. It’s interesting, my technology works with every CRM. My technology works with as many PRMs as I've come in contact with that my customers have.
"Always, always, always protect your partner’s customers as if they were your own, as if they were your family and you don't want anything to happen to them."
If you notice that there is any trouble in your partner's customer base, where they're looking at something different, fight to retain them. Like you're going to lose your partner, like you're going to lose your customer.
As far as loyalty is concerned, I think it's super important because at the end of the day, trust is something that you can get really quickly, but you can lose it even faster.
And trust is the foundation of partnerships.
Building trust with your partners
Autum Grimm: I've been a little monogamous since the early days of PartnerTap, for a variety of reasons. But so many of my competitors, they want to spread the floor and be everything to everybody.
And I think the challenge with that is,
"it's hard to build trust when you're promising the world to everybody. Eventually somebody comes up short."
And so, I think part of that comes from really knowing who we are as a company and who we want to serve and where we think we can do the most value for what we deliver right now.
And so I think it's two-fold: loyalty, trust and what you're good at.
If you stick to that and you just focus on that particular direction, then you don't have to worry about being disloyal because you're not. That's just where you’re going to live.
Paul Bird: It's that consistency in everything when it comes to trust.
Almost being caught doing something right by your partner and that breeds loyalty.
Autum Grimm: It's something that I struggle with because I've been married for 25 years. I’ve been with my husband for almost 27 years.
So for me, even at my core, in my DNA, I am monogamous and trusting. This is where I want to live. Where I feel like I have really good relationships in my personal life, in my business life, in my customers. I'm obsessed with providing value.
Can you teach channel partners loyalty?
Paul Bird: Is that just a mentality? Is that something that you can communicate to partners? Is that something you can teach partners?
Or do you think that's just part of your makeup?
Autum Grimm: I think it comes back to finding the partners that match your culture and your strategy.
There were companies early on that we talked to that we didn't partner with that got bumped out of the process pretty quickly that we don't do business with because we're just not there from a company standpoint, from a strategy standpoint.
But, if our customers are driving us to reach bigger and do more with our partners then we're going to evolve and change.
"Partnerships are super important and if you're not living that and you're in this business, in the channel, it's not going to work because you're selling something that you don't live by."
Enabling partners to meet their goals
Paul Bird: It sounds very nice and engaging and that relationships are positive all the time, but there is a point where you're going to have some challenges. Is there anything that you can do to help ensure that partners meet their goals?
And if they don't, how do you best address it knowing that we really need to maintain and keep the relationship in place and healthy?
Autum Grimm: You have to manage and measure what you say is making success because the best way to trust somebody is to win with them.
Whenever I win with somebody, I learn a lot about them.
- I learn how they celebrate
- I learn how they get to the win
- I learn about how they track their success
- I learn about communication styles
"At the end of the day, if you're not winning with your partner, it's probably not a good partnership."
Sharing data with your partners
Autum Grimm: So metrics are critical. I think companies that don't share data are untrustworthy. It's hard to trust them.
It used to be a world, where we started from decades ago, where companies shared data but they never talked about it.
So if your IT or security folks found out that you were hoisting spreadsheets or sharing partner related data or technology secrets with each other, you would get fired. In some companies today, that still is the way that they share data and they still get fired.
But there's another very, very popular thought process that's emerging where companies are saying: ‘if you don't share data, we're going to fire you because you won't reach your metrics and you won't be successful.’
I think it's the same with partnerships, you have to think differently:
"If my partner does want to work with other companies, as long as they’re upfront with me and I understand where I fit into the arena of working with my partners, I'm fair because I'm a competitor, and I believe that my offering and my partnership is very valuable."
It's time to set the bar so I can keep working and I can continue to drive my brand first in the hearts and minds of my partners.
When to give up on an unsuccessful partnership
Paul Bird: Everyone's working toward success and in a lot of cases, we reach those goals. So what happens when we don't reach them?
If we weren't set up for success in the first place, then we have that to blame. But is there a point where it's time to bring the relationship to a close?
Autum Grimm: Absolutely. If you're not making money.
You set out to it, you have those established conversations. We've had those conversations. Here's what we're going to do:
- We're going to get to know each other a little bit
- We're not going to do anything
- We're just going to get to know each other
- And then when we find a customer that we have in common, we're going to work on that customer, and figure out what that value is for our customer.
That's the best way to really identify what you can do for partnerships, when you have the time, for certain partnerships.
Some partnerships are different, like technology:
- Does our technology work?
- Is there a market for it?
Great. Let's bring that together, and let's move fast.
In the long tail of the market, that's the key.
If you're in a channel that drives through co-sell or OEM, there are different ways to value and measure and build success and to determine when you're going to pull the plug and when you're going to bring people in.
How to end a partnership
Autum Grimm: I've been thinking a lot about:
- when do you fire
- and when do you stop working with a partner
- and how does that work?
There are different ways.
1. Some vendors may delay acknowledging the end
You can be that person that's passive aggressive where you just don't talk to them until you bump into them and it's like, “look, you're a jerk and these are all the things you messed up on.”
And that's going to happen because we're coming out of the shadows and we're actually getting in front of each other again. You're going to see these people eventually.
2. Don’t ambush partners with a breakup
You want to have those conversations consistently. It's just like employees. You don't ever want it to be a surprise when someone needs to be let go.
It's the same with a partnership. You don't want it to be a surprise where it's like, “by the way, we're not working together and I'm working with your competitor.”
Paul Bird: I've had to do it very, very few times in the past.
It was when I was the partner, I was in the channel, and I was working with a vendor. There was a situation where they were apparently a pure channel company and they took a deal direct on me.
And I called them and I said this really is putting a strain on our relationship. And this affects my company. It's not a big deal, it wasn't a lot of money. And I said, if you ever do that again, I'm never selling your stuff again.
And he did and I moved a 1,000,000 dollar book of business to their competitor overnight. Just to make a couple bucks on some hardware.
Secret #3: Track and measure success with your channel partners
Paul Bird: So we have our two secrets here:
- It's making sure we have the right people in place and making sure that they are culturally aligned with our company.
- Then we have the strength of the relationship so we can have the loyalty and the commitment from the partners.
And I think there's been a common thread through our discussion that maybe our third secret is to track and measure.
I personally love to track everything, but what challenges do some people face in tracking and measuring success with their channel partners?
Alleviate challenges with the latest technology and best practices
- There's technology out there, thankfully. That you can get your hands on. That put those processes in place.
- But they're also really good consulting firms that are coming around with best practices and ways to take partnerships and put them into categories where you maybe never have done that before.
I don't think that companies really need to create super complicated tier structures for partners:
- Use categories
- and then a few levels of metrics of success so that you can drive winning outcomes for the big channels.
But at the end of the day, for mid-market companies and then emerging enterprise, it's creating a way to categorize and organize these relationships such that you can drive success and then value them.
"You can get a leg up on your competition pretty quickly just by having the right tech."
Is channel success determined as a whole or partner-by-partner?
Paul Bird: When we look at how we measure this, are we measuring it as a whole looking at each of the partner relationships?
Do you think you evaluate the success of your channel as a whole or do you bring it right down to the individual performance of each partner?
Autum Grimm: It depends upon your business, where you're at in your organization:
Larger organizations should analyze individual performance
1. If you have a really built-out, big channel, then you want to look at partner-by-partner. And, obviously, how much money are you getting?
For smaller organizations, focus on the top 20% of your partners
2. But we find a lot of these people are one-man teams and they're growing, they're hiring people and they're trying to do as much as they can. You can't boil the ocean. So you can't beat yourself up that you didn't do something if you're a one-man wrecking crew.
What you can do is start to use that 80/20 rule: 80% of my revenue comes from 20% of my partners. I'm going to focus there first because it's all about driving more revenue:
- I'm going to enable that group
- Then I'm going to double down, find out what, forensically, made them successful
- Then I’m going to go back and see if I can apply that to the other remaining patch
- If not, cut bait and work within that one particular revenue area.
Your market, your customers will tell you what partners make the most sense.
And there is something to be said about innovation - constantly reaching outside of the norm and bringing in new types of partners.
But I think a lot of channel folks are thinking:
- We have so many partners
- We have a lot of pipeline
- We just want it to be better. We want better pipeline and we want better relationships with our partners that we have.
So that is the route of revenue. Not spreading yourself a mile wide, but an inch wide and a mile deep.
Maintaining cadences with your top 20% of partners
Paul Bird: If you take that 20% of your partners that are generating 80% of your revenue, do you think you will naturally communicate more?
And how important are those cadences, that ongoing communication with those 20% that hit your home runs?
Autum Grimm: It's super important.
I want to do business with people that care who I am and what my business is doing. And most of the people that I do business with, it's the same thing. I know a lot about the people personally, what's going on with them and what gets them to their goals.
"You have to have that level of culture if you're going to build a channel and you're going to have partnerships. You have to really care about what's happening to them and to you for your customers to get that care."
And this sounds kind of squishy. But at the end of the day, that's what this is all about: the delivered result that’s squishy, which is success and revenue.
Paul Bird: It's all about caring.
If you show up every day and:
- You show up with purpose
- You care about the company you work for
- You care about the people you work with
- You care about your customers
- You care about your channel
I think you'll find that you become a lot more human. You're not just an email or a phone call.
Autum Grimm: That's wealth.
You can get rich. But if you want wealth, it's not just money. It's everything:
- It's great partnerships that have sustainability
- It's respect in the marketplace
- It's a brand that people think is the number one brand in the market
I'd be lying if I said that didn't get me up in the morning and make me excited to do what I do. It does.
I think about: how can I help every one of my partners be successful?
"I think there's enough valuable business out there for my partners and I to go get to where the partners that work with me, we're going to win. We're going to win big and we're going to all have wealth."
There's enough business out there. Especially right now in the channel.
You joked about me being a pioneer. I always joke and I call myself Annie Oakley because first of all, there's not a lot of women in building tech companies in general, but in this particular channel world, there's not a lot of women founders. And we're a female-founded company, so we do things a little differently.
Invest in yourself as a channel professional
Paul Bird: Any final parting thoughts or advice to people that may be in different stages of their channel maturity and some of the things they can do to work towards this kind of sustainable revenue growth?
Autum Grimm: You have to invest in yourself, constantly. As a professional. That's why I dropped the Mark Brigman idea out there. Go back to school all the time and learn, get involved, talk to people. We all have one ticket in life and you never know when that ticket is going to get punched and you're done.
"If you wake up every day with specific metrics that you will guide your life by and that is reflected in your business and in the company you keep. You're going to be doing alright, you're not going to fail. Investing in yourself is a core part of that."
Don’t let yourself get crusty and stale and disappointed in your results. You have no one to blame but yourself. If you're doing the right things and you're constantly looking ahead and growing and reaching and stretching and you're enjoying the ride.
I think your partners will pick up on that and they'll want to do business with you. They'll be attracted to that. And you're going to have some fun.
Autum Grimm’s background as a channel leader
Over the last four years, Autum has been building a technology that enables salespeople in the channel to come together to make more revenue from their partnerships. Autum helps brands like HPE, DXC and ADP drive more revenue with their ecosystem partners. Autum is passionate about equality in the workplace and works hard to celebrate diversity.
Connect with Autum Grimm on LinkedIn.
Connect with Paul Bird on LinkedIn, book a demo with him, or contact him via email firstname.lastname@example.org.