Best Practices in the Channel for on boarding & Enabling Specialized Channel Partners

Sales Enablement Round Table  

Baptie Specialized Channel Focus

This e book summarizes the key learnings and shared approaches reviewed at the Baptie and Company Specialized Channel Focus Conference in November 2016. Representatives from IT vendors across Software, SAAS, PAAS, and Hardware provided input during round table discussions and learning forums. These discussions led to the following “best practices” for the channel around on boarding and enablement.

We are defining “best practices” as a method or technique generally accepted as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things.  Partner with the specialized channel is evolving and emerging as a pathway unique to traditional solution provider ramps.   It’s important to go native – to get to the partners and customer verticals in their worlds not like the days of old where the channel comes to the vendor for the privilege to participate in the company’s program.  To earn business with the specialized channel partners, we as vendors must go where they are!


  1. Training – it must be a solid line bridge to technology. Alyssa Fitzpatrick General Manager – SMB Worldwide Sales at Microsoft offered, “How do you Influence Senior leaders? Don’t pollute them with technology. Instead offer the decision makers answers to the WHY question.”  
  2. With Sales enablement – it’s about business value and positioning outcomes.  Leverage Use Cases, Buyer Personas, and Customer Success stories with ROI and Key Metric outcomes.   
  3. When designing your organizations to target specialized channel partners, consider employees with strong vertical market backgrounds and pas roles in the verticals you are targeting.  For example, hire a past CFO who will lead your engagements with new accounting firms as partners. Organize them into a SWOT team and charter them with onboarding and getting the partners to revenue.  Then turn it back over to field teams to manage once success is proven.
  4. Specialized channel partners have verticals and then micro verticals.  It’s important to understand and profile the micro vertical. Examples include:  Marketing agencies – could be further broken into branding companies, social media marketers, and social demand generation companies.   Events matter – attend or sponsor events that are in the partners’ targeted micro vertical world.
  5. This type of partner is not all about compensation.  Important characteristics are: customer loyalty, customer stickiness, the services and profit wrap around a product.  Partners want to maintain trusted advisor and influence status and high customer loyalty and stickiness.
  6. The Two Tier Model – Value Added Distribution has a very strong role to play in the specialized partner model when done right. Consider two-tier models to find countries, develop and manage different partner types and get access to the SMP market.
  7. Rethink the “Personalization of the Partners Experience.”  According to Salesforce, this is critical. We must show up with them in the way they think and buy versus how we as vendors consume.  The Welcome door approach is a personalization of the channel experience. Partners self-identify and self-select an engagement model targeted to their needs and product.  Specialized partners should fit within a common program infrastructure and automation stack. However, the next wave of programs must be customizable by partner type to incent the key behaviors needed for success.  Use Incentives selectively. Incent based on behaviors you want and they may or may not be needed.
  8. Simple agreements are critical – gone are the days of 10 page contracts and laborious business practices.  Key ingredients of ethics, enterprise service requirements, branding and associated disclaimers are needed.  Affiliate influence models though need simple and concise business agreements.
  9. Social Proof Concept is critical. SAP explained the customer referral network is one of the most powerful ways to drive new business. The Success stories, social network promotion, and use cases of people we trust will drive your new business significantly in the coming years. Thought leadership from the vendor is another way to drive social proof – it’s one of the most important value elements the vendor can give these partners for their marketing efforts with clients.
  10. Partners to Partners learning increases in importance with specialized partners as they value what other companies like them adopt and choose.   Accounting firms like to see other accounting firms in different geographies and verticals’ success stories and use cases. Foster vehicles and opportunities for partners to tell their own stories and collaborate with one another.


In summary, it’s important to partner with the specialized partners in their world.  Language is critical – we must speak in their language. For example, agent is not preferred; instead use referral, influence, or affiliate. Move from franchise to licensing; and non-traditional to specialized.  We must go native-get to the partners and customer verticals in their worlds.

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