What is the best currency in partnerships?

Trust is earned. It cannot be assumed. It’s not an entitlement. And it’s easily lost. Ahead of his seminar sessions and training workshops at Channel Live this September, Marcus Cauchi, Sales Trainer Sandler and Author, explains why trust is such an asset in any channel relationship.

Channel managers have no direct power, only influence. In channel management, you gain influence by the quality of attention you pay to your partners’ needs, expectations, hopes and fears. Your influence builds based on how well you help your partners get their needs met, help them achieve their goals, meet their targets, both business and personal.

You’re judged by your partners by the value of your contribution not how much value you can extract from them. You achieve prominence in their minds by putting their interests before your own and helping them be successful. In a crowded, competitive market where in all but a few cases they can go anywhere else, you will struggle to gain a preeminent position compared with your competition if you are selfish, egotistical or self-absorbed. You and your products don’t feature in their thinking most of the time, and if all you represent is an unwelcome interruption as you ask “what do you have for me?”, then serves you right when they don’t produce, don’t let you near their clients and don’t want to engage with you.

It pays to remember that you are judged by the promises you keep, not the ones you make. All the contracts in the world will not protect your quota if you break your promises because once you breach someone’s trust, they may forgive but won’t forget.

Establishing and developing long term partnerships that deliver mutual value require both sides to establish the correct foundations from the start. This means having mutual understanding. What does each side want to achieve for their business and personally? Establish clearly defined expectations and boundaries, roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. It means having a clear escalation procedure in the event of non-performance so mole hills don’t become mountains. And above all, it means being clear about both sides’ rights in the partnership and respecting them. Your up front contract (before getting any lawyers or formal paperwork) needs to be mutually agreed, mutually accepted, mutually understood; there must be mutual commitment and mutual comfort with what will be the basis for your partnership. Even agree who gets to keep the kids in case you ever get a divorce.

Unless trust exists, and clear ground rules & boundaries are established up front, it is difficult to have constructive conflict without the wheels coming off. Constructive conflict is a very good thing. If you agree on everything, you are going to become a Stepford partnership.

Consensus is not always essential, just a majority and once the decision is made, for everyone to support it. No backstabbing, no feuding and no petty politicking.

Good questioning delivers insights. Often, the most naive, simple questions can be powerful. What if we stopped doing that? Why do we do that? What if we said no? What if we did the opposite? Can we partner with other partners in your ecosystem? Am I the right person to do this? Would you be better working with one of our competitors on this project?

Vulnerability is a strength, not a personality defect. It takes courage to put yourself in harm’s way and do it anyway. It requires you to have a spine to tell your partners the kind, nurturing, assertive truth and to ask tough or uncomfortable questions even when you may not like the answers. And in order to encourage others to be vulnerable, you need to be willing to be vulnerable first.

Never forget, your partners are your best customers. Fall in love with them. One highly productive MSP/VAR is worth a score or more end users in most cases when you take into account the lifetime value of your relationship. Love them to death. Make them richer than you. And protect them from the idiocy of your senior management who play fast and loose with partners commissions or discounts or attempt to cut them out of deals. Nothing will break their trust faster than this.

Want to know more?
Come and see Marcus at Channel Live this September where he will be speaking and delivering his world class training services for visitors and exhibitors (see page 18).

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine