Direct selling is often less complex than channel/partner/alliance sales. It’s you against a competitor to secure the contract from a prospective client. Of course there are complications but the key questions relate to whether the prospect will do business with anyone and then it’s about how well placed you are to win.

Adding a channel partner into the mix on any deal and this is likely to add some further complexity to this single transaction.

Consider your sales model for a moment. Is it ‘sell through’, ‘sell to’ or ‘sell with’? For ‘sell to‘ this is effectively a direct sale but for the other two there are different challenges, requiring that you assess your position against two sales. By this I mean;

  1. The partner sale to the prospect for the overall solution including (potentially) your offer.
  2. The sale of your offer to the partner against other possible suppliers for them to consider working with you are part of the team.

Often alliance and partner sales teams find themselves at ‘arm’s length’ from the end customer and this makes it more challenging to capture relevant insight. However, I find that the use a consistent approach to deal assessment, working alongside the partner, encourages the partner manager to ask the relevant questions. Together each party will be better prepared to develop a winning strategy.

How are you doing?

Consider for a moment the possible outcomes for each partner deal you are working on. I believe there are four potential outcomes, namely;

  1. The prospect doesn’t go ahead with the contract. This is common and represents the outcome for over a quarter of b2b deals on average. You both lose.
  2. The partner loses the contract with this prospect to one of their competitors.You both lose (unless of course you are also working with the other winning partner).
  3. The partner wins and they select you to work with. You both win.
  4. This partner wins and they don’t select you to work with, instead selecting another supplier. The partner wins although you lose.

With b2b win rates a little over one in three opportunities, the time spent on lost deals represents a significant waste of effort.

How to evaluate whether to invest in a particular partner deal?

First, consider whether or not the end customer is likely to procure at all. To do this review with the partner the end prospects intent to change and their ability to deliver.

Having identified that the end prospect will be buying something, next assess the current competitive position for this partner relative to alternatives. Are they likely to win this contract? Amongst the areas to consider include the partners alignment to the buying process and criteria evaluation criteria. Can they differentiate themselves and are they an easy procurement route for the end prospect?

Finally consider your position. Are you going to win if the partner does? In situations where the partner wins we believe there are two major determinants for success.

Two routes for success in partner sales.

Successful partner sales activity will perform well in two key areas.

  1. Do you make it easy for the partner to sell your solution? No, if there is an easier alternative they will take the path of least resistance.
  2. Do you make it worthwhile for them to work with you? In competitive situations this means demonstrating strong commercial value from your company, without this the partner will consider other options that will make them better returns.

So, whats next? Consider the comments in the diagram below.


Good luck with partner selling.Our Partner specific version of DealSheet solution gives a customisable assessment framework to support these issues. It does the thinking for you, recommending the key considerations in building a winning strategy