If you are an B2B sales rep, you have likely pursued some high value opportunities with some sort of alliance partner.

Relationship based selling doesn't always mean leveraging just relationships with the ultimate consumer of your products and services. 

There are many kinds of industry specific sales channels which get products and services to market: 

  • Retailers
  • Value added resellers
  • Distributors
  • Wholesalers
  • Integrators or technical/trade contractors
  • Consultants
  • Industry alliance partners (such as complementary material/application vendors)

In many cases, working a sale in co-operation with with one of these partners may feel as challenging as competing with them. Yet if you apply some of the time-tested social skills you learned in primary school, you could find you are building lucrative relationships which help you achieve success in attaining your sales quota. 

Here are four lessons from Kindergarten (with thanks to Robert Fulghum) you can use to build great partner relationships. 

 1. Share with others

When you are pursuing opportunities with a reseller or alliance partner, sharing information is critical. You don't always have to share good news, sometimes information which leads to a decision not to pursue a sales opportunity will help to partner avoid wasting time on an unwinnable opportunities. With B2B partnerships, quality relationships trump quality. Play nice in the sandbox, and you'll have more fun. 

Find partners who have entrepreneurial spirit - and are willing to share opportunities with you, so you can reciprocate. If you are a product vendor working with implementer/service provider partners, be sure to train your partners as you would your own sales force. Their success is your success, so empowerment of your partner channel is critical. 

2. just like goldfish, partnerships die

If you are putting in more effort to get a partner to work with you then they are, don't grieve too much if you have to flush a partnership down the toilet. Consider some of your top performing partners, and how hard you have to work to support them in winning business, relative to how much revenue the generate for you. Make sure you are offering your partners the support they need in terms of information, product samples or demos, and fair treatment in terms of opportunity to cover their costs of selling your products. 

If the relationship isn't worth the sweat equity you are putting into it, flush it down and focus on partners who are pulling their weight. 

3. Don't Talk About Others Behind Their Back

You wouldn't want someone speak negatively about your business when you aren't around to defend yourself. In that spirit, don't speak to one of your partners in a negative light about another partner. Confidentiality has a direct impact on a reseller's ability to compete, so exercise discretion when discussing business matters which might damage one partner's reputation. Trust in B2B relationships is equally as important as personal relationships. 

Even though your reseller partner may have a vested interest in selling your product, your behaviour as a product or service vendor can set the tone for how your partners view your company relative to your competitors. If you come across as a vendor that isn't partner friendly, your partnerships could be compelled to seek out one of your competitors which is more tactful, trustworthy, and values their relationships more. 

4. partners need to help each other to succeed

Remember in Kindergarten, when everyone would hold onto a large blanket, or a parachute and raise it up in the air and down again? The bigger the group of people around the perimeter, the higher up the parachute would go. It would be impossible by yourself. If you are working on an opportunity with a partner, keeping the end customer in mind as a common goal is a better way to succeed than just considering the single win of one opportunity. 

Supporting a partner through their first opportunity, and onboarding them successfully isn't just about one win. It's about the first, second and many successful subsequent wins for you, your partner and the end customer. The "parachute" of everyone winning can go higher than a single company getting a sale. 

Building out a B2B partner channel sales involving two sets of clients needs at once. The partner's need to have a supplier that provides quality products for their use on time, and as promised, and the ultimate end customer. Building out a successful channel network takes more than product knowledge and technical expertise. It also requires some of the basic life lessons you learned when you were just a kid. (But don't always remember to put into practice!)

What strategies has your company applied in building B2B partner channel relationships? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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