3 Steps to Finding the Right Channel Partners

March 16, 2015

When it comes to selling and marketing through the channel, the choices you make about who to partner with can make or break you. At a high level, you need to be sure that you’ve chosen the right category of partners. As you drill down and conduct due diligence with individual partners, you need to ensure that each partner is a good fit philosophically, operationally, and in terms of ability to perform. Here are three steps to get you started.

3 Steps to Finding & Evaluating Channel Partners

Step 1: Begin with the End Customer

Everything comes back to the customer, so it makes sense to start your search by looking at their needs. When thinking about how to identify channel partners, look at how your customers buy and use your product. Where are there gaps in their experience that could be filled by a channel partner? What types of additional support and facilitation do they need to make the best use of your product? You are looking for opportunities to help them succeed at the highest level with your product.

As much as possible, talk directly with the people who are in the trenches. Customer interviews can be very helpful, but don’t overlook the value of talking with internal resources like your customer service and technical support teams. These people will be able to provide you with a real-world sense of exactly where customers need more help or are suggesting complementary products and services that might be best delivered by a partner channel.

Step 2: Identify Potential Partner Roles

Once you have a sense of customer needs in the context of your product, you can begin to research the different functional roles that help customers meet these needs. Who externally is already working with your customers, providing guidance and support on matters related to your product? These are likely the organizations you want to partner with.

In addition to looking at the different functional roles partners play, you also want to consider potential partner types in terms of the value you can bring to their business. How can you help each potential partner type grow their business by expanding or scaling services? What types of related support can you deliver that will help them succeed against their own business objectives?

Step 3: Define Your Ideal Partner

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a particular partner type, you can start to get more specific about how to define your ideal partner. You may use criteria such as location, audience scope, service offering, or niche focus to help you further define which potential partners will be the best fit for you. You may prioritize your partners by sales performance, breadth of reach, skill level, sales capability, or technological assets — whichever criteria make the most sense in the context of your channel objectives.

Armed with these kinds of details, you’ll be better equipped to begin a strong partner recruitment effort.

Channel Partner Evaluation Form

Use the form below to help you clearly evaluate each channel partnership opportunity in terms of potential effectiveness and fit. Download a copy.

Channel Partner Evaluation Form

Photo by Ben K Adams


<strong>CeCe Bazar</strong> is an Associate on OpenView's investment team. She was previously a Sales Strategist also at OpenView.