How to Turn Your Channel Into a Competitive Advantage

Competitive advantage
LifeSize's Tim Maloney

Tim Maloney

By Tim Maloney, SVP Worldwide Channels, Lifesize

In my 20-plus years in business, I have found that there is only one constant regarding your success — it is rarely accomplished alone.

Often, organizations rush into channel partnerships thinking only of short-term gain; however, when a business puts the appropriate time and energy into understanding what it takes to develop mutually beneficial relationships – both before and after a deal is closed – that insight can lead to channel partners becoming a competitive advantage. Businesses that fail at this create an environment where the customer can get lost in the equation, and the equation is supposed to be about the customer.

To ensure the opportunity for growth and scale for both parties, I focus on three core elements to build strong, symbiotic relationships. Suppliers, are you doing these things regularly? Partners, are you choosing vendors that invest the proper time, money and thought into your relationship?

Pick the right partners: This sounds obvious, I know, but there are fundamental attributes that a partner must have in order to be a right fit. Those include being focused on the right market, having a quality customer base, and aligning revenue. In the initial stages of a partnership, I always ask myself a few simple questions to make sure our business is on the right path. Why are we interested in this partnership? Do we get access to new markets or new dollars? Is it incremental? What is the unique value that this partnership allows us to offer? Are we a good fit for each other?

The answers to these questions help align go-to-market strategies and tactics.

While both sides most likely share the goal of making a profit, there are other intangible elements in play, which is why the best business partners also align their values. For example, at my company, Lifesize, we have a goal to “act with integrity and authenticity,” so we look for like-minded partners who operate in a moral and ethical way. To do this, we evaluate the health of the partner’s business and research both its approach and reputation before signing on the dotted line. We hold our channel partners to the same level of standards that we hold our own business, and expect them to do the same in return.

This is also the case in how we treat of our customers. (See our CEO’s take on “customer obsession.”) We believe in delivering truly exceptional customer service from every department throughout our business. We look for channel partners that live by this same mantra because this is the only way to provide a stellar customer experience before, during and long after the point of sale.

Be partner-obsessed: In most cases, the channel partners in our industry don’t have the manpower to lead significant marketing efforts or communicate changes around a new product at the drop of a hat. And they shouldn’t, since that isn’t their core value proposition. As vendors, we need to arm them with …

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