Virtual Partner Connections Require Objectives, Structure

Vendors need more than just collaboration platforms; they need insights and strategies to make the tools more effective.

By Larry Walsh

One of the initial lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is that you don’t need to go to an office, get on an airplane, or suffer lousy convention center coffee to make connections with partners.  

Over the past three weeks, I’ve talked with scores of vendors and partners about their experiences in maintaining operations during this crisis. Nearly all said the connections between vendors and partners are stronger than before social distancing.  

Vendors say they’re having more conversations with partners. The tech industry made a smoother shift to the “work from home” paradigm than many sectors. We’re accustomed to working from home offices and hotel rooms. Getting on conference calls at odd hours and doing presentations via every available platform is old hat. 

Channel account managers are making more and better connections with their partners. With more time on their hands due to less travel and field time, partners are more accessible. They’re willing to take calls and spend time with their vendor counterparts.  

Webinar attendance is up. One vendor told me they had more than 400 partners join a webinar. Before the pandemic, they struggled to get 50 partners to sign up for – much less attend – an online presentation.  

The number of partners using tools provided by channel programs is also increasing. Vendors say they’re seeing more partner portal logins, engagement with online training programs, and certification testing. Many partners say they’re using the lull in their business to catch up on their training and certification requirements.  

The lesson channel professionals should take away from this experience isn’t that they can cope with disruptions, but the importance of building and maintaining digital platforms for partner engagement and having strategies to help channel managers and partners remain focused and productive.  

In the 2112 reportCOVID-19 Impact on the Channel, channel chiefs said they were planning investments in either acquiring or optimizing partner portals, learning management systems, through-channel marketing automation, and customer relationship management. The tech industry talks a lot about doing more with less and driving better results through automation. The operating conditions created by the pandemic are proving that digital channel platforms for partner management, education, and access to resources are vital. 

Automation and systems aren’t useful without a strategy and intent. Vendors need to develop frameworks to help their channel managers and partners make the most of their time and resources. According to 2112 research, nearly half of partners don’t have a business plan to guide their priorities or operations. Another 56% do not have sales plans or revenue goals. If partners have time to talk, vendors should engage them in meaningful conversations about opportunities, challenges, objectives, and strategies. 2112 provides vendors with scorecards, checklists, and market intelligence that can make partner engagements more structured and meaningful. 

The 2112 Group offers a tool, 2112 Blueprint, that helps partners understand business planning and perform a self-assessment of their business planning completeness. 2112 Blueprint is customizable for vendors and their specific partner-engagement needs. Vendors using 2112 Blueprint apply it as an onboarding and planning tool, providing channel teams and individual managers with deep insight into the businessreadiness of their partners.  

2112’s Validator, too, offers vendors and partners with deep insights into their competitiveness. Partners are quickly discovering they have gaps in providing the products and services customers need at this time. 2112 Validator gives partners a look at what their competitors are offering and how their capabilities compare. For vendors, Validator – also customizable for specific go-to-market needs – gives channel chiefs and teams a look at how well their partners – en masse and individually – are meeting customer needs and expectations.  

The 2112 Group and our partners know these are challenging times. We’re here to help you maintain and improve your channel strategy and performance. Here are some resources:

2112 COVID-19 Channel Impact Research
The 2112 Group is making all of our topline COVID-19 research complimentary to help vendors and partners understand how the pandemic is affecting the channel.  

Sign Up for 2112 Brainstorm
2112 now offers Brainstorm at pro-rated subscriptions for the remainder of 2020. Through 2112 Brainstorm, you can get access to all of 2112’s published research on channel trends, operational benchmarks, and performance resources. For more information about 2112 Brainstorm subscriptions, contact 2112 at [email protected]. 


Larry Walsh, The 2112 GroupLarry Walsh is the CEO of The 2112 Group, a business strategy and research firm servicing the IT channel community. He’s also the publisher of Channelnomics, the leading source of channel news and trend analysis. Follow Larry on Twitter at @lmwalsh2112 and subscribe to his podcast, Pod2112, on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and other leading podcast sources. You can always e-mail Larry directly at [email protected].