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5 Lessons on Building Successful Business Relationships Remotely

Delivering a top rate Channel Partner program virtually can be daunting, but these 5 lessons have proven to be the most helpful in finding success.

This is my story, but maybe it’s yours too, with a few differing details of course.

Last year, I joined Qumu Corporation, a leader in the enterprise video space, to lead their worldwide Channel Program launch.  I joined the sales leadership team with a few thoughts in mind.

 “I can do this, I’ve done it before. I’m a fixer. I have solid contacts in the global partner ecosystem and know the elements needed to design and launch a top-notch global Channel system. Qumu has a secure and massively scalable cloud video solution tailored to Enterprise and Government customer communication needs. In today’s environment, Qumu has never been more relevant. Let’s Go! “

What I hadn’t planned for – what I’d never done – was hire a globally distributed team, build the Go-To-Market vision and strategy, launch a state-of-the-art Partner Portal and recruit partners in the midst of a pandemic.

Building Relationships in Business

What I know, and I’m sure you do too, is that as technology solution providers in the Channel, we must be trusted relationship builders— listen first, then gather the right resources and earn the Partners’ business.  It’s all about what’s in it for them….every day.

Cues like direct eye contact, body language, dynamics between meeting attendees, and what’s left unsaid in discussions have always been important measurements for all of us on how we’re doing. Is our value message translating?  Who’s the advocate, who’s the detractor in the account?  For many years, our best work was done on-site in front of our partners and customers.

The Universe was having none of that in 2021.

How could I deliver a top rate Channel Partner program, attract the right partners and the right Qumu Channel team members in a work from wherever, whenever world with only virtual meetings?  More importantly, how can you?

I developed the following themes over the past year. I hope these insights will help you build successful business relationships & Channel programs as well.

Develop a plan and stick to it.

Some days are easier than others when you’re on back-to-back Zoom calls. Life at Qumu provided some valuable lessons. Because everyone from the Executive Leadership team to our Marketing team to our CXO partner prospects to our Account teams was working remotely, we were able to rally together quickly.  Humor, cats, dogs, and kids appeared as frequent meeting guests and our culture of “fail fast and pivot” helped keep pace with our objectives. (It didn’t hurt that Qumu’s  premier cloud enterprise video engagement platform has immediate value to offer that’s never been more relevant to the Channel with the reality of hybrid and continued remote work.) We had to react immediately and use that to our advantage. 

I’ve observed repeatedly the tenacity, resilience and ingenuity of the private sector global channel, vendor, and technology markets during the pandemic.  We were no different. We figured out the strategy, goal and objectives and carried out the plan.

Hire a team of experts.

The Channel ecosystem is huge with multiple “swim lanes” that are constantly evolving.  Yet this corner of the technology market has a smaller community feel. On the vendor side, your personal brand, attractive channel program and your solution relevance is your ticket to entry.  Qumu quickly became aligned with JSG, Janet Schijn’s team of Channel GTM experts. Not only is their network vast, but their reputation for fast, competent delivery of vendor channel framework and what is truly relevant in today’s Channel hit the mark. 

Partner adjacencies. Be flexible.

Tech Data/Synnex, Speaker Dynamics, GOVSmart, Socialive, Live U, Caption Hub, Kollective and others are great examples of key partners Qumu is proud to team with. These marquee partners understand our value to their customers. We share a common vision of delivery which makes us better together while solving complicated business problems around decentralization, distribution, and large-scale live streaming with security across multiple use cases. 

The channel is going through major transitions based on partner feedback. For example, reciprocal resale and referral arrangements were two new models we adopted over the last nine months with key partners.. The online marketplace providers in the channel have a clever new way to minimize overhead and reach many more partners and clients than the traditional reseller model.  We’ll be participating in that new model too. 

Be creative.  Offer something new.

Vendor flexibility and eye-popping incentives like MDF, badged on- going training and sales enablement programs highly competitive margins will gain attention.  Continuity of long-term executive sponsorship and team level relationships, with easy portal access to use case, promotion and dedicated concierge like services will guarantee revenue growth. 

Business has become highly distributed. Ecosystem partners can help smaller vendors who have something truly relevant to offer by leveraging local decision maker contacts. This is why partners are so critical. 

Engage the help of your Executive Leaders

It has not been often in my career that the Chief Legal Officer and Chief Operating Officer become my best advocates for creative Channel sales and Partner enablement.  It is at Qumu. The Executive Leadership team members block and tackle the internal machinery to gain and keep traction fast. It was critical to achieving our goal of build and launch in nine months. 

Perhaps by reading how I built a successful Partner Program, it can give you guidance on how your story can have a successful outcome too.

Susan Young is VP, Strategic Alliances and Channel Partners at Qumu

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