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Table Manners – Using the Roundtable to Connect With Your Channel Partners

In this tough economy, one of the greatest challenges Value Added Resllers (VARs) are facing is finding an effective way to work with their channel partners. The link between partners needs to be strong so that both sides benefit but, too often, each side does its own thing. There IS strength in numbers but you need to make the connection. And this doesn’t mean “connecting” by sending out a few e-newsletters, picking up the phone and making a couple of calls or “staying in touch” via email.

How do you strengthen your channel partner relationship so that it grows based on experience and trust? Building strong connections with your channel partners means you must focus together on the needs of today and those that are looming on the horizon. Neither of you can successfully do it alone. Together you can leverage your expertise to support each other as you work toward a common goal – success!

You are likely spending valuable time seeking out and evaluating new partners. How will each one help you grow your business? And what will they expect in return? What is the ideal relationship between the two of you? How much time will be required for both of you to realize the results you desire?

Take the time to evaluate your partner relationships Create a scoring system. For example, how much time do you dedicate to your partner? How strong is the communication? What about responsiveness to your inquiries? Do you have to wait around for input and ideas or do you have a proactive vendor who is clearly interested in helping you succeed? Do you have a channel partner who seems to have potential for better results if you cultivate the relationship? Are you randomly working with your partners or do you develop concrete strategies for brainstorming and developing programs and ideas? Whether you are a channel partner or a vendor serving channel partners, you must develop ways to plan and grow your relationships.

One of the most effective ways to build partner relations is to hold a virtual roundtables, which is a gathering of business leaders both from within the industry and sometimes from outside of your genre, to discuss a particular topic in depth. These meetings can be held monthly or quarterly, depending on the group’s interest and availability. The roundtable discussion is led by a moderator and often welcomes a guest speaker who will draw a crowd and spur on discussion. As a host, you are creating a networking source for your partners but are also positioning yourself at the heart of the leadership circle. You will hear their issues first and show that you understand and can help them be successful – ultimately becoming a trust advisor. While there is no immediate ROI or sales output, over the long term, these techniques will certainly help to grow your business. Here are a few ways to create your own unique roundtables to build those relationships that are critical to success:

  1. Library Discussions – The one aspect we know about libraries is that using them in most capacities is usually free. Contact your local library to see what space that you can utilize for free. Then create a network support group that meets monthly to brainstorm and discuss important topics of the month. Not only are you positioning yourself as the resource, but those in the group may begin to start doing business – new business – with each other. Ask local business resources to come in and speak to the group on a particular idea. The whole group gains greater access to information and resources as a group than an individual would.
  2. CEO Breakfasts – Invite the CEOs of your key partners and various other local businesses to come together for a breakfast brainstorm. This affords you the opportunity to hear concerns and issues from other business leaders in order to understand and then solve their problems (and yours, presumably) better. It provides a way for CEOs to network with each other as well – as service that they will thank you for by hopefully partnering with you. As you develop the breakfast concept, you can also place an ad or use word-of-mouth reminders to get people to join the group. Ultimately, you want YOUR breakfast to become the place business leaders “want to be seen.”
  3. Virtual Roundtables. There is no rule that says you have to physically meet somewhere to have a great discussion. Gather a group of like minded partners and create your own group, with you as its leader. Then, to give the group even more credibility and a broader information base, add in someone who is an influencer. For example, if 8-10 resellers came together to discussion similar situations and solutions, a local magazine or business news editor might be a good addition to the discussion group. The editor can offer a voice to help get attention and push their views and ideas into the world a bit more. You can do this by simple email exchange and as the group grows, considering setting up a profile specifically for the group on Facebook or LinkedIn for even more partner development.

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