The Psychology Of The Partner Sales Channel



Technology is one of the fastest growing industries, and the go to market via channel partners including resellers, distributors and the MSP is how Tech Vendors (OEMS’s & Manufacturers) get scale and volume. With all the investment, enablement and support a Channel receives, how is it that the 80/20 rule still exists? Meaning 80% of your channel revenue comes from 20% of your partner base.

Recently, Jay McBain from Forrester said, “While channel incentives programs are growing in scope, complexity, and scale, 22% of global marketers already consider managing their channel partners to be one of their greatest challenges.”

Why is this?

A lot of this has to do with the psychology of channel. Managing Channel Partners is very different from managing our own direct sales team. These are just some of the differences:

  1. We don't pay the salaries of our partners sales people

  2. We can't tell them what they need to do today

  3. We can't tell them not to talk to a customer about other solutions they sell

  4. We can't performance manage them

  5. We don't have carte blanche access to train them whenever we wish

We can liken the psychology of this situation to being a spectator in the crowd at a baseball game and we are trying to get the team on the field to listen to our coaching and advice. The team has a coach; the coach is calling the plays. Our only hope is to shout louder than the next spectator and get the coach and the players on the field to hear and adjust to your advice.

So, when considering this situation, we believe it is more valuable to spend your time and effort on:

  1. Selecting the right partners to begin with

  2. Developing the type of enablement that supports a partner's top of funnel pipeline development efforts

  3. Investing in the capability that provides us with real-time visibility of their top of funnel pipeline development effort and results

Now connect 1, 2 and 3 above into our channel workflow. Recruit the partner, enable them in the simplest and most agile of ways to immediately engage in sales conversations with prospects conversations in less than 30 days, and measure the results of these sales conversations. If we don’t see certain early stage pipeline indicators coming to life in 90 days, move on. 

Today, most vendors must wait 6-9 months to see if a partner is going to be a good partner. This is because we chose to roll out an enablement program that is probably the same program we rolled out to our internal sales team. Remember the psychology of channel from earlier? We don't have control over what they spend their time doing. It is no wonder it takes 6 months to execute. The more alarming problem is we don’t have any data points regarding the early stage sales conversations these partners are having on our behalf and we can only wait to see if any revenue arrives after the typical sales cycle has run its course. How much time, effort and resource does this cost us? And then at the end of all this we are still only batting 1 in 5!


Overall, channel enablement is undeniably a tech vendors holy grail. The top performing organizations prioritize channel enablement strategies. However, the mistakes we continue to make is failing to consider the psychology of channel when deciding on how to enable our partners and accepting that we have no way of measuring their performance because it is disconnected from the enablement program. 




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Ensure and Increase Your ROI on Your MQL Investment
Channel Enablement Drives Success
Supporting Your Channel Partners to Become Sales Champions

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We reduce the the time to results by empowering impact players with the drills, information and feedback necessary to level-up.