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You know your product best, so when it comes to finding companies and reps to sell your product through a channel instead of through inside sales, you want to make sure you are working with valuable partners. Not every potential seller should sell your product. You want to make sure you are reaching the appropriate customers through informed and respectable partners.

But how do you separate them from the bad partners? Great question!

Create Criteria

The first thing you want to do is create the criteria of what your product entails, and who might be a good seller for your product. Try to be as specific as possible. Do you sell hardwood flooring? Perhaps look for home improvement contractors who could install your product. Do you sell telephone hardware? Consider telephone companies that might bundle your products with their services. You don’t need to list specific companies at this point – that comes later – just list the types of companies at this point.

Customer Service

How complex are your products or services? Does your partner need a lot of training and resources on your product? Do you need to get involved at all, or can your partner handle all interactions with the customer? These questions and more will determine how complex your program is and give you a good idea of what kind of channel sales partner you need. If your product is very complex, you may want to weed out the partners who won’t be able to provide the necessary support. On the other hand, if your product is not complex at all, complexity won’t be a heavily weighted criterion.

Market Position

What area of the market do you want to sell to? Are you looking to sell your product to other businesses, or to consumers? Do you want your brand to be associated with higher end partners, or accessible to the masses? By looking at the market you wish to target, you can evaluate which partners are best for your brand.

Marketing and Advertising

Do you want to handle most of the marketing or do you want your partner to do it? Some channel partners will handle all the marketing, while others will do little to no advertising. Some companies even provide a marketing fund to the partner to use appropriately. Depending on your brand and what you are able or want to do, keep in mind whether or not you will be responsible for outreach to your customer base.

Bonus Points

Consider anything else that may be beneficial to you or your partners with a working relationship. When considering a partner, look at all the pros and cons. Maybe you have worked with them before and know them to be a reliable partner. Maybe they have great referrals? Look at all the tiny pros that may not be accounted for in a checklist that would set the partner apart from the rest. On the other hand, there may be things you don’t like about a channel sales partner. Maybe you’ve heard negative reviews about them, or they are too difficult to get a hold of. There are plenty of ways a partner may be good or bad, and the bonus points section is a good way to collect your thoughts.

Reviewing your Channel Sales Partner

When you are considering a particular partner, make a list of all the pros and cons, following the criteria listed here. Write it out so you can see the strengths and weaknesses. Maybe even provide the option to rank the partner 1-10, where 5 is neutral, and 10 is best. In the end, only seriously consider partners above a certain score, determined by your company.

But how do you find the programs in the first place? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, where we discuss the research methods you can use to find new channel sales partners.