Mutually Beneficial Channel Partnerships Are Rooted in Trust

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Part 2: Building Bridged Across the Channel Series

In the first part of our series, we laid the groundwork for adopting a partner-first mindset. Here, we shift to the idea of trust within channel partnerships. Trust is the bedrock upon which success is built. However, with each partner bringing their unique approach, how do teams ensure smooth collaboration?

Key elements include mapping or aligning goals (mapping), learning about each other, and communication to stay on the same business path). Applied with consistency and good faith, transactional relationships can shift into long-term, collaborative relationships set for growth opportunities.

Mapping: Defining Where Partners and Vendor Teams Want to Go

Once partners and vendors agree to work together, assigning roles and responsibilities is the first step.

Early on, define and align internal roles with a partner’s structure. Think of it as creating a detailed map where every road leads to a specific destination. This process helps teams recognize synergies and gaps, ensuring everyone knows their responsibilities and how they fit together so they can work to fill the gap and strengthen ties.

Assigning defined responsibilities is central to trust. Whether it’s a technical issue or a strategic motion, having a clear “who is who in the zoo” setup ensures that requests are made to the appropriate team members. Understanding responsibilities ensures both players know where to turn for maximum efficiency and sets guardrails so no one steps on each other’s toes. In a kick-off meeting or shortly after, define and share this alignment matrix (such as a RACI diagram) with your partner and get their buy-in. This step is vital. When issues arise or new information comes to light, having this agreed-upon structure lays a clear path for smooth communication and effective problem-solving.

The Channel Champion
In mapping roles, a Channel Champion ensures that partners and vendor teams remain aligned and promptly and effectively address outstanding issues. Ideally, this should not be an executive or the day-to-day contact but someone with visibility and access to the executive team, trusted by both sides. Their role is to act as a neutral guide, actively checking in, facilitating strategy sessions, and moderating tough conversations.

Learning: Growing Together Through Strategy Alignment

Establishing trust through mapping and defining roles is just the beginning. Planning, staying engaged, and checking in must be an ongoing process to maintain and strengthen that trust.

Depending on where you are in the lifecycle of building the business, a lack of short-term tactics, long-term strategy, and the ability to adapt to changes from either side can sink the partnership and set it up for failure. The relationship needs to evolve at the same rate as the growth of the business. This evolution can be facilitated through regular strategy sessions. These sessions aren’t merely formalities but opportunities for each side to applaud successes and tackle obstacles—talk about headwinds, tailwinds, what’s working well, and what needs help. Such engagement ensures that both sides remain genuinely involved and committed.

More in-depth annual or bi-annual meetings serve as long-term strategy sessions focused on new technology, overall business, and plans for the following year or quarter. However, treading lightly in metrics and accountability discussions is recommended. The goal is to foster a space where both parties can share insights freely, align their strategies, and address any issues that may arise.

Communication: Consistent Engagement

Maintaining strong partnerships and ensuring alignment across all levels of the organization takes work, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are actions vendor teams can take to foster transparency, accountability, and collaboration.

Working team meetings and annual strategy sessions

  • Each team should participate
  • The Channel Champion listens in or facilitates as needed
  • Be prepared with a clear agenda, updates, and action items. Send a recap of the following steps and assigned responsibilities

Executive alignment
Schedule quick overviews in advance to ensure regular alignment despite busy schedules. The Channel Champion can lead these meetings, recapping partnership status and developments, noting any relevant executive needs and ensuring strategy alignment on behalf of both parties

Internal communications
Agree on a communication schedule that makes sense for each department involved with partners. This can include relationship managers, technical teams, marketing, and other relevant players.

External communications
In addition to focused partner meetings, schedule regular status updates about partnership programs through channels such as:

  • Blogs/Newsletters
  • LinkedIn posts
  • Video updates
  • Informal communications

Trust is the cornerstone of successful channel partnerships. Vendors and partners can build strong, mutually beneficial relationships that stand the test of time by implementing effective mapping strategies, fostering continuous learning, and maintaining consistent communication. As we’ve explored, the journey from transactional relationships to collaborative partnerships requires dedication, transparency, and a willingness to adapt.

Stay tuned for our final installment of the Building Bridges Across the Channel series, where we’ll cover strategies for maintaining and strengthening these partnerships over the long term.

  1. Canalys, Global IT Opportunity Analysis, 2024
  2. Gartner, Gartner Forecasts Worldwide IT Spending to Grow 8% in 2024, Apr 2024