The process required for recruiting channel partners is very similar to the process required for recruiting key positions in your company.
First you develop an ideal profile of what you want and then you look for candidates. With a long list of potential candidates, you undertake interviews to shortlist the most appropriate, and then invite to the final selection event. By the end of the process you negotiate the terms and conditions and sign the agreement.
The challenges associated with early stage channel partner recruitment are also identical to the challenges associated with executive search. Established brands get a solid stream of unsolicited applications while unknown brand names won’t get any. Established brands get tons of applications when advertising, unknown brand names get very few applications, and most often none at all.
Proactive recruitment required
If you are in the early mode channel development stage, chances are that you have no other option than getting out there and “headhunting” your new channel partners.
The biggest challenge with headhunting is not finding the potential candidates, but convincing them to become active candidates for the positions you have open. This explains why you have to go through the process of defining partner value propositions, developing partner programs and identify the ideal partner profile before you are ready to embark on the channel partner recruitment endeavor. Spelling out the value for the potential partner is much more important when you have no solid track record to show off.
So unless potential channel partners are knocking on your door, then you must identify them, initiate the contact and start the process of convincing them to invest in a business relationship with you.
Caution required in the beginning
Initially you don’t want channel partners that are poor performers and you don’t want partners that may hurt your reputation. So even though you are desperate for getting new partners on board you must be very cautious. Invest in a management workshop with each partner reviewing the business model, the partner program, the investments required and the long term opportunities offered. When both parties agree on a joint action plan then you can sign the Business Partner Agreement.
Changing Dynamics of Channel Partner Recruitment
As you move into growth mode, you can change your objectives and simplify the recruitment process considerably. You will still maintain and most likely further diversify the threshold criteria for becoming a channel partner, but as long as newcomers meet these criteria you will sign them up without the elaborate process of interviews, assessment centers and executive workshops.
Time will then show which of the new channel partners have growth potential and you can then allocate more resources to support them. As you increase your market penetration capacity and your market share, the stream of unsolicited inbound inquiries from potential channel partners will also increase and you can refocus your outbound recruitment efforts on filling out those areas in the market where you still have too little coverage.
Hans Peter Bech is an Amazon bestselling author, keynote speaker, economist and advisor. He blogs on issues related to growing software driven companies to global market leadership and write books and whitepapers on business development in the software industry.