Did you know that Q1 is the best time of the year to prospect for new partners?
New technologies and new product offerings are being evaluated against last year’s successes and failures in both solutions, and partnerships. Whether the partner prospect is modifying their business model or jettisoning unproductive partnerships this means that a prospecting window of opportunity is now open to you.
You have 3-4 months when partners are making changes to their previous business model and partnerships; and they’re more open now than ever to hearing your pitch. Later in the year they’re beyond making new partnership decisions and they should be well into wrapping up their new partnership certifications and engaged in sales and marketing activities with the new vendor.
Before listing a few of my favorite prospecting techniques we need to make sure that your head is in the right place for this endeavor. What I mean to say is, do you know what prospective partners want to hear and do you know what turns them off?
If you’re thinking that they want to hear about the massive margin/discount you’re offering, or that the product is so easy to set-up and install anybody can do it, or you win most deals because you’re the cheapest solution, then Congratulations – you’ve just won the Clueless Channel Manager Trifecta!
Today’s Solution Providers are looking for 65/35 Services/Products revenue splits or better. When you take away their services and minimize their product profits proudly proclaiming how cheap and simple your solution is – you’re talking to the wrong audience, save this language for end users.
At some point early on in the initial call you’ll need to address the enormous services opportunity your solution delivers. That message is just as effective with consultants, developers and system integrators.
Or, it may be that you really do not have a product that is Channel viable; perhaps direct, online or retail sales is really where you want to be. The VAR-City offers a self-evaluating Channels Readiness Quiz that can help you consider your positioning before investing your heart, money and resources in an unproductive pursuit. Find out for yourself, take a look in our Downloads Locker.
10 Super Tips, Tricks and Techniques to Productive Prospecting:
- Identify your ideal partner profile based on your offering and their business model. Secure a list. Look at your competitors’ partner program as one list source.
- Complete your Business Value Proposition (BVP). Why should they do business with you? Save the feature/function presentation for the next phase unless asked. Talk about profitability of the program. 5 key points in bullets and be sure to feature services opportunities. To better illustrate this I like to use a spreadsheet I create for each vendor and call it the “Partner Profitability Calculator”. It gives me a great excuse during my initial prospecting call to schedule a follow-up GoToMeeting with other prospect team members and show them how/where the profits come from. I’ve closed more new partners at this point than the product demo.
- Be prepared to reply with all necessary documents. Before making your fist call be sure that you have everything you need to promptly follow on the prospects’ request for information. Appropriate partner-facing marketing collateral or partner agreement. Delays getting back to an enthusiastic or marginally interested prospect can kill your efforts – and it sets a bad precedent.
- Set a goal for your calls to measure success. Goal is to schedule demo, schedule follow-up call, deliver documentation and contract? What is the next step?
- Target Executive Leadership – Owner, President, CEO, VP Sales and/or Marketing. They’re interested in the business value and growing their business around the partnership – features and functions are rarely of interest at this point. NOTE: This is the most common mistake vendors make when prospecting – tune your opening message to your audience.
- Send personalized program invitation email. If done right this business case email can solicit a call from prospect before making your follow-up call. Especially now, while that Q! window is open. Add personalization by using their first name, reference to their location and other products they sell that make them the perfect partner. Through this you let them know that this is not a mass mailing, but you have singled them out because of A, B and C. If you have email addresses for other staff officers cc them on the email.
- Make follow-up call (you already told them to expect it in the email) within 1 business day of sending. Conduct your initial prospecting calls from Tuesday through Thursday. My rule is that with each prospecting call I have 20 seconds to convince the prospect that I deserve another 10 minutes to deliver my prospecting pitch. Your prospect probably receives 5-10 such calls per month – work on differentiating yourself. Surprisingly, by not showering them with a flood of feature and function marketing gibberish you’re already way ahead of the first 5 callers.
- Engage them in the call – let them know that you want to hear what they are looking for in a partnership. They will often tell you about how dissatisfied they are with current or previous vendors. Leverage what you learn.
- Tell them about your post signing quick-start program. Let them know that you have a very specific on-boarding process for technical certification, sales training and sales & marketing support. It’s surprising how few vendors actually have the processes in place to rapidly advance new partners through their first couple of deals. What? You don’t have a formalized on-boarding process? Time to rethink your position on that.
- While they’re evaluating you and your program you should also be evaluating them as a future partner. Here are “red flags” I watch out for -when any of these discussion points turn up during the prospecting phase they generally signal a thin ice partnership:
- Exclusivity – Unless you’re talking with an ISV and they serve a very niche marketplace do not entertain any exclusivity discussions.
- Leads – If a partner asks me about how generous we are with leads I tell them that they should not plan on building their business around those expectations. Partners should be the source of incremental (non-cannibalized) revenue and understand that we don’t need then for the purposes of taking or fulfilling orders.
- Too Eager – I get nervous when a partner is too eager, I expect a little reasonable push-back from worthy partners. Unless you’re getting a ton of favorable press and the world is standing at your door with P.O.s in hand, a good partner should be a little wary and cautious. Too available means that they don’t have enough business already and that makes me nervous.
We’re always happy to talk with our reader’s about how we can help make 2013 a year to celebrate with a successful reseller community.
Happy New Year from The VAR-City!