Channel partnerships can make or break your sales revenue goals. This is true whether you have 5, 50, or 5,000 channel partners. Quality, not quantity, is what matters most.


Strong channel partnerships mean greater mindshare and more sales. Weak partnerships mean your products barely factor, if at all, in the sales process.


How strong are your channel partnerships? 


Maybe you go through distributors. Or value-add resellers bundle your products with others and service end users. These partnerships supply 25%+ of your revenue. Revenue is down, and you’re looking for answers.


First, take a look at our “Top 10” list of reasons channel partnerships fail. Do any of these apply? If so, read on to learn what you should do next. Strong channel partnerships mean greater mindshare and more sales.


1. Ignoring Why End Users Buy From Resellers

You must understand (and appreciate) why end users value the relationship.


  • One-stop shopping—the ability to buy a variety of vendors’ products from a single retailer
  • Technical support—easy access to advanced product support
  • Logistical support—management of order flow, invoicing, supply chain
  • Ease of doing business—interacting with a small business owner (versus a corporate bureaucrat)
  • Community presence—face-to-face contact with resellers in markets where no supplier reps are deployed


2. Channel Reps vs. Supplier Reps

Is your direct sales force competing with your channel partner’s? If so, your channel partner is likely getting discouraged. Its reps don’t stand a chance.


3. Expecting Channel Partners to Change

Your channel partners are independent businesses with their own agendas. They own the customer relationship, so they hold the power. You have to cater to them. 


4. Sticking with a Failing Partnership for Too Long

The first six months of a channel partnership are critical. You must go from zero to 10% of your channel partner’s total revenue. If you don’t, you’ll become a distraction. You’ll lose mindshare. Your partner’s reps will present your product to buyers less often.


5. Not Understanding Your Product’s Significance to the Reseller

Does your channel partner consider your product a strategic asset? Or is it just a cost of doing business? If it’s the latter, you’ve got the wrong channel partner.


6. Being Too Casual About Selecting Channel Partners

More channels equal more revenue, right? Wrong. You must enable and support your channel partners, and your resources are limited. If you spread your channel managers across 5,000 resellers, you won’t be very effective.


7. Not Understanding a Channel’s Proper Requirements

Channel partners are small businesses that live and die by cash flow. Does your product offering generate lots of gross margin dollars? Then the business owner will lead with your product. It’s an ideal match.


8. Betting on One Channel

Routing a new product to one market through one channel is a common mistake. You need multiple routes to market—and they should be complementary.


9. Avoiding Conflict

If you and your channel partner are competing, it’s not healthy. In fact, it’s a death sentence. You need to deal with it head on.


10. Having No Strategic Plan

You sign up channel partners, give them training and sales materials, and then vanish. This, too, is a death sentence. We recommend quarterly meetings. And a joint business plan that holds both parties accountable to each other. Both parties must invest continuously to help grow each other’s businesses. 


Questions to Ask Next:

Having any of these 10 red flags presents a quandary. Do you fix your failing partnerships? Or do you cut them loose? Here’s what you need to ask yourself.


Q: “If I end the partnership, what are my alternatives?”

Should you build out a direct sales force to replace it? Find a new channel partner? Or opt for a different indirect channel entirely?


Q: “What’s the competition doing?”

How are your competitors routing their products to market? Are they using the same channel partners? If so, do they have a stronghold on those relationships? (Meaning, is your product being used as “column fodder”?)


Q: “What do I have to offer a new partner?”

What makes investing in a partnership with you worthwhile? Can you provide adequate support? Your prospective channel partner will want to know details. You need to be ready with answers. 


This is helpful:

We’ve prepared a case study showing how our team tackled a difficult channel management problem.  The Case Study shows how our client resolved channel conflict and increased revenue per channel. Download it here.




Greg Alexander

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by getting the product team, the marketing department, and the sales organization into strategic alignment.
Learn more about Greg Alexander >

Greg is the host of The SBI Podcast, the most listened to sales and marketing podcast on the internet.


He is the host of SBI TV, a monthly television program broadcast on the internet featuring top B2B sales and marketing leader sharing their strategies to grow revenues.


Greg is the Editor-in-Chief of The SBI Magazine, the leading B2B publication focused on sales and marketing effectiveness.


He is the author of two critically acclaimed books Topgrading for Sales and Making the Number.


Greg has authored over 100 articles on SBI’s award winning blog, The SBI Blog.


He graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English and received his MBA from Georgia Tech.




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