How to Manage the Four Types of Channel Sales Partners

For organizations that use indirect channels sales partners for all or part of their revenues, Channel Partner Managers (CPMs) play an essential part of those companies’ success. Unfortunately, in working with our clients, we find that the role of the CPM is often defined too vaguely. Without clear guidance, a CPM will spend too much of their time simply reacting to partner requests, instead of working proactively to develop and maximize channel partner sales results.

A CPM’s role should reflect the kinds of channel partner types with whom that manager is working. There are four different types of channel partners:

  1. “Sell to” partners – these typically embed your product inside theirs and resell it. In essence, these partners are your customers, and you generally have very little to no visibility to their end customers.
  2. “Sell through” partners – these are typically dealers or distributors. CPMs may have some visibility on these partners’ end customers, but don’t actively engage with them. Instead, CPMs working with “sell through” partners generally focus on enabling their sales force to sell.
  3. “Sell with” partners – CPMs generally play an integrated support role to these partners’ sales teams, and they have a high degree of visibility on these partners’ end customers and prospects. CPMs are often called in on “sell with” partners’ sales calls as a subject matter expert. In many cases, the CPM also acts as a virtual sales coach to partner sellers.
  4. A hybrid – many channel partners use more than one of the above models, depending on the sales situation, and so, the CPM may have to play multiple roles in support of those partners.

Finding the Right Partner Success Criteria

A CPM’s success criteria will differ, based on the type(s) of partners with whom they work.

CPMs can work with one or more types of partners, depending on the channel strategy and partner programs. Understanding what kinds of partners your organization works with is fundamental to knowing how best to support them, and is critical to the success of CPMs.

We’ve prepared a convenient infographic that illustrates the different types of channel partner sales models, to help you determine the best way to work with each of your partners.

How You Sell Is the Last Advantage