Running a Partner Playbook for Success

Consistent growth requires discipline and repeatable practices, which is why most high-performing solution providers have core behaviors, standards, and structures.

By Diana L. Mirakaj

Some would say my knowledge of sports is far from vast. They would be correct. However, I’m very familiar with a practice applied by most – if not all – coaching staffs of major sports teams: use of a playbook. If you want your players to win, they need to be prepared for the game.

Substitute “players” with “partners,” and “win” with “succeed,” and the same rule applies in the channel.

Since establishing a channel is not, in itself, a strategy, what goes into that partner playbook is extremely important. The ability of a vendor to develop well-managed relationships with its partners that can support strategy implementation, achieve above-average sales performance – at a consistent level that realizes profit – and sustain repeatable results has the potential to be a true differentiator.

Technology vendors always say they want productive partners – solution providers generating and expanding sales and revenue. Vendors can budget against productive partners with a reasonable degree of certainty that expectations will be met. While the channel, as a whole, produces tremendous revenue for vendors, only a fraction of partners meet the productivity standard.

What vendors really want are “contributing” partners, which is a different standard entirely. Contributing partners add accretive, measurable returns on the vendor-partner relationship, most often seen in boosting the vendor’s growth, while “productive” means merely that there’s a level of consistency, even if the outcomes don’t rise to the contribution level. As applied to a tiered channel-program model, contributors would be Platinum partners, whereas productive VARs would be Gold and Silver partners.

The matter at hand is not whether a partner is productive, but whether a partner’s productivity contributes to a vendor’s growth.

Research by The 2112 Group finds that 15 percent gross annual growth is the “line of demarcation” between contributing and non-contributing partners. The numbers get fuzzy when specific partners are examined, but that percentage is generally the minimum growth rate that partners need to remain relevant and contributing to the success of an overall channel program and vendor’s success.

Learn more about 2112’s report on The 15 Percent Rule of Solution Provider Growth.

To achieve and exceed revenue goals, vendors may want to place more focus on partners with capabilities that include business attributes – management, sales, marketing, finance, etc. – that reflect a more forward-thinking organization. They also show a solution provider’s willingness to invest in its business, accept risks, and strive for higher levels of growth.

Consistent growth requires discipline and repeatable practices, which is why most high-performing solution providers have core behaviors, standards, and structures in place that align to the operations, governance principles, and management constructs of vendors.

Keeping those similarities in mind, consider the following data:

  • A third of solution providers don’t have a business plan.
  • Nearly 40 percent don’t have a strategic, long-term plan.
  • Two out of three don’t set sales goals, or have sales plans.
  • Half don’t have marketing plans.

If tomorrow was the big game, what information would you give your team before it takes the field? What would you include in your partner playbook?

Being a leader, coach, and partner all at once is a tough role – but not an impossible one. A combination of the right people, solid planning, good products, effective messaging, and customers (of course!) can be a game-changer.

Oh, and don’t forget to check the air in the ball.


dianaDiana L. Mirakaj is president and chief operating officer of The 2112 Group. You can follow her on Twitter at @dlenam.