A plea for the practical for today as well as the strategic for tomorrow.

Many companies I work with daily are concerned with the future state of strategy and innovation. While proactive planning is essential, it is critical to remember that many partners live moment by moment, and day by day, with the present state of their business their primary concern.

In the wake of post-covid supply chain issues, with orders on hold for days, weeks, – even months – partners are more worried about what’s at hand than what’s happening next week, next month, and next year. Partners are betting on rich software margins, partner-led professional services, and renewal revenue to stay afloat.

As with most things, being keen on the partners’ needs begins with awareness, best practices, and curiosity.


As a vendor, your business proposition to a partner must meet their current and future needs. A good rule of thumb that I learned early in my career is this – you need to meet the current needs of the partner and their customers before you can talk about the future. If you ignore that first step, then whatever you say will go in one ear and out the other. You need to meet primary needs before asking someone about the next steps.

Think about a “Partner Hierarchy of Needs,” similar to “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” You must start at the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up. Being aware of the primary needs of the partner will grant you access to the top of the pyramid – the strategic points. The top of the pyramid is where the magic happens, and you can’t get there until you have established a position and trust within the account first. Be aware of your position in the pyramid and solidify this before you move on.

Best Practices

There is so much transformation happening in the channel. From SaaS to Cloud to Ecosystem, vendors are quickly hopping on the transformation bus and are hoping partners come along for the ride.

It isn’t that easy for a partner, I’m afraid.

You are asking them to disrupt their business, often with different timelines from other vendors and from their own strategy. Helping them navigate this change is a best practice for vendors. I have often said that vendors have a responsibility to help partners navigate unchartered waters, from technical alliances that ensure product interoperability and customer success to coaching and consulting partners on how to bring cloud, SaaS, and recurring revenue into their business successfully. Which, by the way, shows you are aware and helps establish your position of entanglement and preference with partners. As a best practice, you should help to lead partners there gently, don’t just expect them to change overnight.

Be Curious

The best way to understand what is happening with your partners is to ask questions. Take the time to be curious and understand what a partner needs before thrusting your needs upon them. To establish your position with partners, start by asking them these simple questions:

  1. What are your top 3 priorities this year?
  2. What can we (the vendor) do to ensure success with your customers?
  3. How can we (the vendor) invest in your business, so you are very successful and competitive in this space?
  4. How can I personally support you?

As a CAM – or partner-facing supporting resource – mastering the knowledge and skills for today’s ecosystem partners is critical to your success. If you want to get out of the 90-day funnel cycle of death with partners and get into a compounding success flywheel of success, then you need to ask questions, establish your seat at the table, and bring value to that table each and every day. This is what we teach in our PPA Certification.

As a Channel Chief or Program Manager, establishing formal feedback processes with partners is a best practice. Partner advisory boards, regional feedback sessions, and broad-base partner experience surveys like VMi™ provide the feedback you need to make data-driven decisions, improve the partner experience, and establish preference with your ecosystem.

As vendors, you love the shiny new object, the thing that gets noticed, gets press coverage, and that our bosses love to talk about. But, it’s the day-to-day with partners that ultimately makes the shiny object successful, so keep one eye on the prize, and the other clearly focused on the step in front of you.

If you want to learn more about how AchieveUnite can support you, let’s schedule a quick chat to see what we can do to make you successful!


AchieveUnite is a partner performance company built by experts with extensive leadership experience in channel strategy, program development, partner ecosystems, go-to-market models, leading edge education and management coaching. We empower companies and individuals to create value-driven, lifetime partnerships and drive transformational business results through Partner LifeTime Value®.