Friendship is a Two-Way Street, so are Partnerships

Developing a successful reseller channel based on strong relationships can provide multiple business benefits, here we share the secret of Apteco’s success in this channel and how you too can implement a successful reseller channel model.

Reasons that our reseller channel works and why.

When I joined Apteco in 2002 I was immediately immersed into a new sector and product environment. Coming from a Telecoms/Computer service background the shift in working environment was huge. Apart from products and sector differences the biggest change was the culture shift between my old company to that of Apteco. The culture at Apteco was, and still is, very much one of contribution and self-management with an emphasis on empowering individuals to make a difference and help the company to succeed. 

This attitude is transferred into the relationships we have with our channel partners and end users. In 2002 we had nine partners reselling FastStats technology, today we have 78 worldwide. These range from one man businesses to some of the largest marketing services providers and data owners you could imagine. 

There are many challenges managing a diverse partner channel and I thought I would share some of the reasons we have been successful with this model. We realise that we are not perfect and are always striving to deliver more for our partners and users alike.

Our style is not so much sales driven as relationship driven. We almost turn the traditional product sales model on its head and instead of just passing on a piece of software we pull people into a relationship that is more rewarding.

  1. Transparency is the key element to building a sustainable robust channel. In 2010 we invited the futurist Anne Lise Kjaer as a keynote speaker at our user group conference and for me this provided a moment of clarity that I will never forget. Anne Lise spoke about how in the future transparency was going to be so important, and how organisations would need to ensure it was ingrained within everything they do. It struck me that these values were already the cornerstone to our business. Transparency always has been a key part of our interactions with customers and partners. From how we set pricing to partner contracts through to bug lists we aim to be transparent on all levels. For example helping resellers understand not only how to sell FastStats but help them to understand its limitations and nuances. This enables everyone to trust us and helps deliver better, smoother, implementations and create long lasting relationships.

    Take a second to think through how misleading product representations or hidden manipulative price changes will affect a relationship over years. Will partners or end users want to deal with businesses who mislead them and cause untold confusion in their projects?

  1. Willingness to help and contribute to the efforts of a partner will bring them back time and time again and place your products at the front of their minds. Supporting partners from pre-sales activity through to technical support and showing a willingness to deliver and learn from one another helps to bond relationships and confidence. Being well supported means that channel partners can pitch the products confidently and reduce the cost of implementation and support.

  2. Loyalty comes from trust and shared experiences. There are no shortcuts to achieving partner loyalty. It is probably true that loyalty is only as strong as your last interaction, however strong long lasting relationships will help build a channel and user base in a way that Marketing would struggle to achieve. We begin building these relationships by servicing our clients to the utmost of our abilities and being the “go to” vendor for when they need a solution.

  3. Flexibility becomes more of a challenge the larger a reseller channel becomes. In order to meet this challenge we provide answers to our partners which would be applicable to any partner in the same situation. Operating a level playing field across the channel in this manner allows us to explain our decisions and offer the same facilities to other partners should they need it. 

  4. Do the right thing for the customer and the partner” is a mantra we use a lot. It focuses on what is actually important. Showing that we have the ability to apply common sense to decisions and to do this without delay, or unnecessary bureaucracy, plays a huge part in convincing partners to deal with us and promote our technology.

  5. Educating resellers is a bit like trying to retweet every tweet that exists and get people to read them, we never actually finish passing on information and can start all over again many times in a relationship. Partners need education on how to sell, handle objections, differentiate products from the competition’s, and so forth. This requires lots of effort. We constantly battle with providing enough useful information for partners and we always think about how we can take some of the burden away from them. We strive to automate processes and make self-service facilities available to allow partners to operate whenever they need to.

  6. Make life as easy as possible for partners as they have other commitments and quite often will not be able to invest enough time in your products. Identifying the things they need the most and making these easily available can save everyone time.

  7. Cooperation not only between Apteco and our partners but also within Apteco plays a huge part in our success, and ensures that teams are able to communicate effectively and quickly. All teams are well informed of what is happening within the channel and we can react quickly to any issues that may arise.  

  8. Never compete with your channel unless you want confusion to descend on your business. We have seen good examples of how this seems attractive but actually never works. The initial attractiveness of acquiring revenue is short lived and not sustainable.

  9. Be there for the long haul and don’t make decisions on the basis of short term wins. We have partnerships that have lasted over 14 years and many started out as small relationships that have flourished over time. Relationships don’t stay the same however and the status of a partnership needs continuous dialogue and to be reassessed on a regular basis. Contact between Apteco and its partners is an important driver in providing more involvement and sales. We measure partners and ourselves on engagement rather than just revenues and this is used to reward partners with, for example, higher rankings on our website searches, and impacts on how we assign opportunities.

Given the right channel, the right people, a good product/market fit, and a lot of patience, the channel sales model can be one of the most rewarding and profitable business models. Like everything though, in order to be successful, it requires commitment.

Takeaways:

  1. Be transparent in your customer / partner relationships

  2. Educate  your resellers

  3. Foster long-lasting relationships through constant communication 

Get behind the numbers, find out what FastStats users are really doing and use the data to drive your marketing forward: Download our free eGuide: ‘Trend Report 2014 / 2015 data driven marketing’

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Simon Fletcher's picture

Simon Fletcher

Known to everyone as Fletch, Simon is an experienced business manager, a data driven marketing advocate & IDM graduate in Direct & Digital Marketing. We have recruited over 70 partners since he joined Apteco in 2002.