The obvious first thing is to recruit more “right-fit” partners. The challenge is finding those who are “right-fit” and building the types of relationships that will drive predictable and sustainable growth. We have no definitive research data, but depending with whom you speak to, between 10% to 15% ends up becoming “right-fit” partners, but less than 3% become “champions” (Results vary based on the actual pool of target prospects and your definition of a “right-fit” partner, but I would encourage every vendor to analyze their partner base to know their data points).

Identifying “right-fit” partners is not so easy. You can build a profile and persona of the ideal partner, but remember some partners may not fit the traditional mold, yet they can become very strategic for your growth. Therefore, qualifying your best target channel partners may require a variety of personas.

Helping more partners with the potential to become champions will need the type of support that most vendors are simply not able to deliver. Getting partners up to speed on product sales and technical knowledge may not be enough. These partners need to also improve their business skills.

The minimum that vendors should do is to provide the right marketing support to help their partners influence end-users. Figure out a range of marketing programs that have worked in the past with other partners and guide funding accordingly (At our recent ChannelNEXT conference, one vendor showcased several marketing programs that have worked successfully for their partners and said that they would be happy to fund similar activities for other partners. Simple and clear! This is one example of a best practice).

The second thing is to push your current channel partners to get out of hibernation to become more pro-active in marketing and selling their products. Unfortunately, most partners end up being left on their own after the initial “courting phase” with the vendor. If partners fall into the top 20%, then they will probably continue to get lots of marketing funds, support and sales leads from the vendor to keep fueling growth. Good or bad, this action eventually solidifies the 80/20 rule, as the 20% will get all of the goodies to dominate the market, while the 80% get very little. Over time, this 80/20 rule becomes 90/10 as the top 20% continues to consolidate. Sooner or later fewer partners will hold the keys to the vendor’s kingdom and while some don’t see anything wrong with that, the business risk will increase.

Recruiting “right-fit” partners while empowering a wider range of partners are the two things that matter the most in channel development success.

Doing something smart and big to move the needle up on your partners (including the bottom 80%) is what separates the leading vendors from their competition. With some effort any vendor can adopt a better channel development business practice. It takes effort but the payoff is huge. We talk a lot about best business practices for partners, but vendors also need to follow best business practices!

Best business practices do not remain best forever! With the influx of new types of partners, the rules of engagement are changing.

The first step in solving any problem is to know exactly what is the problem that needs to be fixed. A good place to start is by understanding your partners’ challenges. Simply invite them to take a best business practice assessment so they can at least know what they may not know. Just send them this link The assessment test and results are 100% FREE for all!

Help your partners to improve their business and sales will follow!

If you are a vendor and not sure if you are running on best practices, then consider doing a Channel Audit. You may be surprised what you uncover.