All partners and partnerships are not created equal. I think we can all agree on that. The million-dollar question I always get from clients is, “How do we get Partners to engage with us?”.

From partner portal logins to deal registrations to events – getting partners to give you a slice of their time is a very big ask. During a recent Channel Acceleration Bootcamp (CAB) class, a student shared that their partners have 150 vendors on their line card. 150 vendors! How do you gain preference when you are 1 of 150? Even if you are one of their strategic partners, it’s a big ask for a partner to commit their resources to you if there is no money exchange (deal) involved. So, what differentiating value can you provide?

Besides opportunity revenue, partners need trusted sources of information relevant to their business and roles. They need someone to tell them what they need to be successful. Someone to help them be more efficient with their time; to help them develop professionally. Someone to help them be more successful with their customers. Someone to help them be more competitive than the next guy. If you can be any or a combination of these things, then your partner is more likely to pay attention to you.

When you provide value to your partners, revenue-generating deals or otherwise, you begin to add drops of trust into your trust bucket, and your partners will begin to actively engage with you.

One of our other clients, a newly hired executive, shared that he met with two of their most strategic partners for the first time. The meeting with one partner was described as engaging, exciting, and strategic. The meeting with the other partner was lifeless, somber, and detached.

Why were these two meetings with partners of the same program status and level of strategic importance so different?

In a word, Trust.

The relationship between vendor and partner must be rooted in trust. Where there is trust, there is space and opportunity for engagement, excitement, and strategy.

Here are a few best practices to help you drive and create more positive engagements with your partners:

  1. Be mindful of the value exchange

When you are talking about a deal, it is very easy to get attention because revenue is involved, and as long as the partner is making a good margin on the deal, you’re likely to get a positive effect with this level of engagement. However, if the revenue is not profitable, if there are negative circumstances, and if there is less than expected value, it is likely that this isn’t helping you drive engagement.

  1. Have open communication and knowledge sharing

Partners appreciate quick access to data and communications that are directly relevant to their business. Every time you connect with a partner it is an opportunity to create preference with you as their vendor. Are you always asking for something from them, or are you equally offering something to them? This relationship is as much about giving as it is about receiving. In our Partner Performance Advisor program, we talk about three things that are imperative for Channel Managers: being a collaborative coach, a growth consultant, and a partnering expert. With these things in mind, open communication and knowledge sharing will prosper.

  1. Know their business

One of the best ways to know a partner’s business is to have a joint business planning session with them where you take the time to understand and align on goals.

  1. Make it easy

Preference is equal to ease of doing business. How many clicks on your partner portal until a partner is at the deal registration page? How many fields do they have to complete? How hard is it to navigate to and launch training? How easy is it to find and access useful information or marketing asset? If you think about putting yourself in your partner’s shoes, you may re-evaluate your entire Partner Experience!

So, in the tale of two partnerships, the vendor who adds value, maintains open and consistent communication, knows their partner’s business, and makes it easy on their partners is the one who will succeed at winning the mindshare of partners.

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®. Reach out to us to learn more!