Blog November 12, 2018

Better Together | Best Practices in Co-Selling With Partners and Vendors

Whenever something “new” comes along, business owners and consumers alike are either extremely excited, or extraordinarily trepidatious and many times, this is rightfully so. However, contrary to what many think is just another “hot” new trend, co-selling is not a new practice and has numerous benefits for both partners, as well their respective customers.

And yes, co-selling is indeed quite popular. When industry giant Microsoft announced their co-sell program in July 2017, a very large hat was tossed into the ring and according to this article at RCP Mag, it is booming.

So what can co-selling do for your tech business? Keep reading to find out about this solution that’s getting so much attention lately.

What is Co-Selling?

Co-selling is a method of product and service distribution where “channel partners” are the primary route to market. These channel partners are organizations or people that sell products or provide services on behalf of a hardware, software, cloud services, or networking partner. Managed Service Providers (MSPs), consultants, Value-Added Resellers (VARs), System Integrators (SIs), Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), and distributors may all be considered channel partners.

If adhered to, co-selling is beneficial for the channel partners VARs, SIs, and MSPs because the practice eliminates the potential for channel conflict between vendors and partners. The co-selling strategy is also extremely useful for identifying areas of opportunity to improve technical support as well as sales overall.

The Difference Between Co-Sell & Resell

Basically there are 3 sales engagement models that technology companies can choose from when building their Go-To-Market strategies.

Tag-Team Co-Sales — the partner and vendor sell jointly to maximize deal size and account impact.

Hands-Off Co-Sales — the vendor develops the opportunity and brings in the sales partner to close, or the sales partner ID’s the business and hands off to the vendor.

Resell — the sales partner acts as the front-line and the vendor provides behind the scenes sales or pre-sales technical support.

Possibly the best way to think about this resell/co-sell question is to first figure out how to optimize your Go-To-Market and Route-to-Market opportunity through partners. The second step is then to figure out how to manage the sales engagement with partners — meaning how independent the partner should be when representing your offerings to enterprise accounts or into the mid-market.

The key to cultivating the right co-selling partnership is to let your Go-To-Market strategy dictate the optimal coverage based on the unique nature of the vendor’s offerings. Consider the following:

  • A hands-off co-sale is usually best when a vendor offering is a material part of a solution sell into the mid market,
  • The dominant model is tag-team co-selling when the vendor part of the deal is significant and you’re selling anything complex into the enterprise.
  • If there is are significant backend services, or involves selling anything peripheral and non-complex, even if the deal size is moderately large, the sales partner typically resells.

Don’t forget to factor in your partner’s unique business models. Some potential partners prefer to sign up to co-sales models and don’t wish to resell, while yet other partners seek to sell without any direct involvement from their vendors.

You can look to sales partners to provide sales leverage that produces a lower e-to-b than your direct sales force provides, but your overall sales engagement model has to align and match the vendor offering, the requirements and needs of the solution provider, and the end user dynamics.

Is Co-Selling Really New?

In three words or less: of course not. Co-selling is getting a lot of attention lately because there are a lot of big names in the industry that have finally recognized the advantages. As a Go-To-Market strategy, solution providers have been selling with vendors for years but the growth of cloud solutions has shifted how many products and services are provisioned and sold. Customers purchase what they want, when they want it, and from whichever company, entrepreneur, or entity that they desire these days and this has put pressure on the market to find and create better Routes-to-Market, in-turn giving rise to a new form of co-selling.

Who Can Benefit From Co-Selling?

Everyone from large corporations and small businesses to entrepreneurs are benefiting greatly by driving revenue with select co-selling partners. Utilizing another company’s marketing and sales resources can be a fantastic resource and avenue to extend your reach and acquire new customers.

How to Get the Most from Your Co-Selling Partnership

Working with a co-sales partner is a unique opportunity and relationship. Not only is it no longer all about your company and products or services, partnerships can work with multiple vendors and as a result, gives you the ability to field a variety of requests and priorities.

Here are 4 best-practices to consider in order to stand out from the crowd, build your partnership, sell more effectively, and get the most from your relationship.

Promote together — It’s extremely important that partners work closely together on promotional activities. For example — trade shows and special events. Don’t just agree to attend together, play an active role in helping to generate leads. Of course since you know your product and services intimately, this will help the partner see how you sell your products. The best part is that you can also play a role in immediately handing over new sales or leads to the partner directly just as they can quickly introduce you to the new leads they uncover.

Co-Invest — You could actually co-invest or co-sponsor your co-selling partner with dedicated sales reps or marketing resources. Co-investment between your company and the channel partner can be beneficial on several fronts: providing the partner with experienced sales reps that are already intimately familiar with the offered services and products, and allows you to cultivate the partnership further. Your organization may also decide to incentivize the partners and their representatives by agreeing to train or provide added commissions for new customers versus existing ones. Co-investing can be a fantastic tool for creating new sales and building a true co-selling partnership that works.

Make it social — Your sales reps need to be on your social media channels. It’s a fantastic place to learn what, where, and how you should be selling — and there’s an amazing amount to learn simply by listening. Customers will be asking questions of course, but so are your partners and distributors and if your sales force participates in these forums they can provide their expertise when called upon. Spending time on social media, particularly the private communities where customers are invited, is an excellent way to sell more effectively through partners.

Don’t stop there — Create a “best practice” community for co-selling management. Take the opportunity to create communities for sales rep’s shared experiences, tips, and strategies. Create an invitation-only pages for all vendors and partners to all come together and share their best practices. This gives everyone access to “just in time” information that can be crucial in addressing a customer problem or find applicable success stories from other partners and distributors. Co-sells partners can also ask each other questions and since the answers aren’t just from the vendor or the manufacturer but also additional partners that are attempting to do the exact same thing they are, the community can quickly become invaluable and is potentially worldwide and always available 24 hours a day.

Today, Co-Selling IS a Best Practice

All-in-all, co-selling in the IT channel just makes sense — when you utilize research and best practices.  Bundling your products and services with other industry professionals is not only smart, it can be extremely beneficial and profitable to you, your partners, and the countless customers on all ends of the spectrum. By combining forces you can offer customers more comprehensive and advanced services and solutions. Partnerships can expand your horizons not just in terms of potential customers but also potential offerings. Going it alone isn’t always the best way and now, thanks to the rise of co-selling, the most innovative and fastest growing companies recognize this.  If you’re interested in learning more about how Connectria co-sells with our partners or are simply interested in the types of partnerships we offer, contact us here.  We would enjoy the chance to learn more about your business and how we can be better together through partnership.

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