All start-up CEOs want a Partner network to help the Company Customer_Stagesestablish market traction.

The hope is your Company can leverage Partners to bring them into real sales opportunities. The reality is while in this early Customer Proof Stage, Partners will be less inclined and equipped to work with a new company until they see real customer proof points.

Partners referred to in this post offer a variety of services, including:

  • Resellers who resell a Company’s product/technology on a standalone, embedded or bundled basis.
  • Systems Integrators who provide implementation services around the Company’s product/technology.
  • Eco-System Partners who integrate with the product/technology to provide an enhanced customer experience.

CEOs at this stage often have questions about working with Partners and don’t understand why their initial channel strategy is not successful.

Question 1: Why can’t I get a Partner to resell my product?

It’s the same reason we  carefully defined the role of a VP of Sales at this stage in our post 7 Tactics to Hiring Your First Sales Team; because the Company has not yet figured out its own recipe for successfully selling its product.

Expecting a third-party, more detached from the product than your own employees, to be able to figure out how to sell your product, is unrealistic.  At your current stage, you have very little if any sales training materials, or more importantly, a defined or repeatable sales process to 1) target an optimal prospect; 2) qualify a prospect; and 3) define the steps that need to be followed to generate a successful sale including a proven pricing model.

Question 2: How can I get a Partner to introduce us to their customers?

A Partner’s motivation to work with you during Stage 1 will be based on the following:

  • Stage1_Partner_QuoteDo they believe working with your product gives them a competitive advantage that will help them sell more of their own product/service. This is important as partners want to sell more of their product, not yours.
  • Do they believe they are at a competitive disadvantage by not working with your product.
  • Are they seeing you in their customer accounts and do they believe working with your product will enhance their account control.

A strategy worth pursuing at this stage is reaching out to Partners with whom your prospects or customers are already working. Ask every prospect who they rely on as their strategic partners. The goal will be to help identify the mutual benefits of working together on the particular account, with the goal of replicating this mutual success across multiple customers. As the motto goes, success breeds success.  Customer success will influence your success with partners.

Question 3: At my current stage, should we even focus on Partners?

Very selectively. It’s more important to focus on getting real customer traction through your direct sales channel.

The real customer traction will begin to drive clarity around three areas: 1) You will know how and why customers are buying your product/technology including product packaging and pricing model which resonates the most; 2) Real, documented use cases which help the Partner better understand the value of your product/technology to their customer base; and 3) A better understanding of the types of Partners who can help your market traction the most, including a clearer definition of how a Partner may generate their own revenues related to your product.

While you are laser focused on generating your initial customer successes, identifying which Partners are also working with your customers is a great way to target and engage your initial set of Partners.

In summary, as you are just entering the market, embrace the concept you will be in complete control of your destiny and will keep your resources focused on driving your initial market penetration, which you will be able to leverage with Partners in Stages 2 and 3 to accelerate revenues.


Stage1_Partner_TableThis is the first of our 3-part Partner strategy series. Don’t miss the Sales articles with strategies and tactical steps to successfully scale your revenue from Stage 1 to Stage 3.

In our next article we will discuss how Partners may participate in your market expansion strategies.

Mitch Ferguson & Herb Cunitz

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