3 Secrets to Smart and Successful Channel Relationships

What does a successful channel relationship look like?

That was the first question we asked channel influencer Stephen Denny in our webinar. The “Killing Giants” author has been in the channel for a very long time. He and Sudhir, our CEO, discussed what these relationships look like to them. 

Here are some of our key takeaways. 

1. Your partner’s view of success is different than yours. Find out what their view is and make sure your views align. 

2. Your partner relationships need to involve many people. If your channel manager or your point of contact on the partner’s side leaves, you’ll be out of luck. You avoid this by having more than one person talk to your partner. 

3. Grow and maintain a relationship through regular contact. Unlike marketing automation software, relationships can’t be set up and run automatically. They take work.

To see the recording and to hear about future webinars, register below.

Changing Years, Changing Channels

If you didn’t get a chance to keep up with all the Changing Channels episodes this year, then the Best of Changing Channels 2021 episode is a must-listen. As their final podcast of the year, the episode covers the highlights. 

Here’s some of the highlights you may have missed. 

  • “Be where your sales team is not” – from Lori Cornmesser, vice president of worldwide channel sales at CyCognito. Cormnesser’s episode was on what to do as a new channel chief and this is a great piece of advice. Your partner program can give you access to places that your sales team isn’t focused on which can help you reach an untapped customer base. 
  • Frank Rauch, head of worldwide channel sales at Check Point Software Technologies, stresses the importance of having KPI’s for your partner program and how those KPI’s get you a seat at the executive table. Want to know what KPI’s you should track? Especially for partner engagement? Check out The True Measure of Partner Engagement.
  • According to Joe Sykora, senior vice president of worldwide channel and partner sales at Proofpoint, the best partner incentives are things that make business easier for partners. This could be things such as giving partners a playbook on how to negotiate prices, a course on knowing their audience, or something else that gives them necessary skills and makes business easier. 

Take a 30 min break and listen to the podcast here.

Things You Didn’t Know About the Holiday Season

Here are some holiday facts about the holiday season that we found interesting. Grab a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate (we love ours with marshmallows and a bit of whipped cream) and enjoy. 

  1. Approximately 350 million Christmas trees are grown in the U.S. and Canada. These trees are grown in all 50 states!
  1. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Vietnam was the largest importer of tapered candles from the U.S last year. 
  1. In Canada, there’s a tradition of taking a dip in freezing cold water to celebrate the new year. 
  1. In Norway, people hide their brooms on Christmas Eve so that mischievous spirits wouldn’t steal them and take them for a joyride. 
  1. In a brilliant marketing campaign, KFC immortalized itself as the go-to place to get a Christmas meal in Japan. People start placing their holiday meal orders 6 weeks before due to extremely high demand. 

Happy Holidays!

Why is GDPR important to the Channel?

his post is part of a series in which we explore how GDPR affects the channel especially when using marketing automation tools. As we’re not legal experts, please consult with your own legal experts for specifics about your situation. 

Why we’re still talking about GDPR

In the past few months, numerous companies have had their security breached and their customer’s data privacy violated. Authorities are cracking down hard on companies who can’t secure their customer’s data and companies are finding that they need to update their data policies and rethink the way they gather and collect data.

While this is great for the consumer, it’s difficult for companies to actually do. It’s especially tricky in the channel space as more than one company handles a consumer’s data. Vendors, partners, and data processors such as marketing automation platforms all share consumer data. Each of these parties must comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR. 

GDPR is the most prominent of these regulations and can be tricky to navigate, especially as it applies to anyone who does business with anyone in Europe. We’ve created a series in which we explore how GDPR affects the channel, especially when using marketing automation tools.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Act protects data belonging to European citizens and residents. It applies to any company that obtains and/or handles personal data belonging to these citizens and residents. This includes processing, storing, and transferring data as well. This is true regardless of where the company is located. So a software company in the US that handles European personal data would still have to comply with GDPR even though they aren’t located in Europe. 

Under GDPR, personal data can only be processed if any of the 6 specified criteria are met. For the channel, those criteria would be

  • Consent has been given
  • Processing data is necessary for the performance of a contract 
  • Legitimate interest


Like a medical consent form, the consent form for data collection must explicitly state why you are collecting the data, what it’s for, how it will be stored, and for how long it will be stored. This consent must be obtained from anyone whose data is being collected. For the channel, consent must be obtained from the customer/prospect, the partner and the vendor if using a data processor, an entity that processes any data you give it according to your instructions. An example would be Mailchimp who processes your contact lists and sends emails to those contact lists.  

Once consent has been obtained, it must be stored by everyone who interacts with that person’s data. For the channel, the vendor, the partner, and the data processor must keep the consent authorization for their records. Consent must also be renewed on a recurring basis and may be revoked at any time. 

Data Processing 

Under GDPR, data processing includes collecting, recording, storing, etc…pretty much anything you do with data would be considered data processing under GDPR. Examples would be

  • Collecting emails for a mailing list
  • Storing IP addresses for security purposes
  • Storing contact information in a marketing automation platform

Data processing must occur for a specific purpose such as collecting emails for a newsletter mailing list. You can’t just process data for whatever reason; it needs to be specific and clearly defined when asking for consent. 

Legitimate Interest

This is when your personal data is used in a way you would expect. The data collected for this purpose should be necessary for the organization to collect and the benefits of processing it should outweigh the risks. 

An example of this is someone uploading their resume to a job board such as Indeed. In this case, the person who uploaded the resume can expect recruiters, hiring managers and anyone else looking to fill an open position to contact them based on the information provided in the resume. 

Why is GDPR important to the Channel?

Under GDPR everyone who handles the personal data of European citizens and residents must obtain explicit consent in order to use, process, store, or transfer the data. In the channel, there are typically 3 parties involved in obtaining, using, and storing this data. They are the vendor, the partner, and a data processor such as Hubspot. All 3 of these parties must obtain consent from the prospect/customer. This obtained consent must be stored in each party’s records. This means that consent must be obtained from all 3 parties even though the vendor may not even be located in Europe. 

GDPR is tricky for the channel as obtaining explicit consent means that customer/prospect information has to be shared between the vendor and the partner. This is a large concern when using a through-channel marketing automation system as the partner will be sending the vendors’ campaigns to their (the partner’s) mailing lists. Currently, most marketing automation platforms that the channel uses don’t have the network/software architecture necessary to properly separate the partner’s data from the vendor’s data. This data separation is necessary to be GDPR compliant and since most platforms don’t currently have the separation in place, they run the risk of noncompliance. 

What are the consequences of a GDPR violation?

The penalties for violating GDPR are steep. Fines can be 4% of annual global revenue or more than 20 million euros which is roughly equivalent to $24,000,000. These fines are determined by a number of factors such as whether or not the violation was intentional, how soon it was reported, and whether or not the fined company cooperated with the authorities. 

Since data in the channel is handled by more than one party, it’s possible that if one party such as a partner is found to violate GDPR, the other parties such as the vendor may also be violating GDPR. This is why it’s important to ensure that all parties involved are GDPR compliant. 

How do I know if my partners are compliant?

It’s not just you who has to be GDPR compliant, but your partners too. Rather than leave your partner to navigate GDPR compliance by themselves, you should guide your partners through the process of becoming compliant. 

  1. Be on top of regulatory changes

Make sure to keep up to date with any GDPR and other regulatory changes and inform your partners of them in a timely manner. Be sure to check in with your partner at regular intervals to ensure that they remain compliant. These updates can be sent in your regular newsletter. 

  1. Rework your partnership agreement

Your new agreement will need to include a data-sharing clause as GDPR requires any data sharing to be disclosed to the consumer. This clause should outline what data will be collected, how that data will be used, and how it will be stored. It should also state how long the data will be held for and how it will be removed from both parties’ systems.

  1. Educate partners  

There’s a high chance that none of your partners have lawyers on hand to help them figure out how to be compliant. You should educate your partners on what GDPR is, how it affects them, and what the consequences are for violating it. Make sure to share material like checklists that will help them be compliant, host webinars, and provide additional support and training when necessary. 

  1. Establish compliance procedures and metrics

Make sure to lay out some metrics and procedures so that your partners can show you and others that they are GDPR compliant across all their platforms. These procedures and metrics will establish an audit trail that you and your partners can show the authorities if necessary. 

  1. Know when to let the relationship go

It sucks, but sometimes your partners may not want to be GDPR compliant. If that’s the case and you’ve tried everything to make them see that it’s necessary for their business, then it’s time to let them go. There are steep fines for noncompliance and if your partner gets fined, you might get fined as well. This is the last resort step. 


GDPR is the most prominent data protection regulation that affects a large number of companies. Everyone who handles the data of European citizens and residents must comply with it or risk being fined up to 4% of their annual global turnover. Under the regulation, companies must obtain consent to handle a consumer’s data. They must also have a data policy that lays out how they will collect, use, share, store and destroy the data that they obtain. 

For the channel, the vendor, partner, and data processor (ex. A marketing automation platform) must be compliant. Each party must hold a copy of the consumer’s consent and have a data-sharing agreement in place. Vendors can help their partners become compliant by educating partners and establishing compliance procedures and metrics.

2 Problems Deal Registration Creates

In our previous post, Deal Registration, the good and the bad, we explained deal registration as a way for partners to share leads and deals they have been developing for their vendors. That registration lets partners claim a lead for a set period of time and prevent other people including their vendor from stealing the lead. Once that period of time has expired the lead opens back up. If the partner hasn’t managed to win over the prospect by that point, everyone else can start selling to them. 

It’s supposed to be a way to minimize channel conflict, but sometimes it creates problems instead. This happens because when partners fill out a deal registration form, they don’t have any visibility into what the vendor does with that information. One problem is that the vendor could hand that information over to their direct sales team and have them go after the deal. Another problem is that two partners could have registered the same deal. This is more of a problem for the vendor than their partners, but it’s still a deal registration problem. 

Problem 1: The direct sales team

When a partner registers a deal, the vendor gets notified. Normally, what happens is the partner gets a period of time to close that deal or work that lead without anyone else interfering. However, sometimes the lead decides to check out the vendor’s website and gets themselves on the vendor’s marketing list. 

In this scenario, both the partner and the vendor’s direct sales team fight over the lead. The vendor then has to decide who should pursue the lead. If they upset their partner, their partner may stop engaging with them and stop giving them leads. On the other hand, if they upset their direct sales team, their team loses confidence in them and may walk away. 

Then there’s the lead. If the lead has a frustrating experience because both the direct sales team and the partner are talking to them, they’ll go to the vendor’s competitor. They’ll probably also write a review online telling people about their experience causing the vendor’s reputation to slip. 

Vendors try not to let this happen, which is why they require the lead to be registered in the first place. When the lead is registered, the vendor can then check to see if the lead is already in the system. If they are, then the vendor tells either the partner or their direct sales team to stop pursuing the lead since one of them has already talked to them. 

For more about the direct sales-partner conflict, read: How to make sure your direct sales don’t collide with partner’s deals

Problem 2: Which partner gets the credit for a deal?

Sometimes a vendor has two of their partners register the exact same deal on the exact same day. In that case, the vendor is unable to tell which of their partners was first to register the deal. 

Today, most deal registration forms only note the date that the deal was registered on. For most cases this is fine, but it causes a problem in the scenario above. Since the vendor doesn’t know which partner registered the deal first, they have to pick which partner gets the credit and the commission for the deal.

The vendor has to decide who to give the deal to based on a number of factors such as who is more likely to close the deal, what’s best for their prospective customer, and their relationship with the partners involved. Considering these factors will help the vendor make a decision. 

Factoring in who is more likely to close the deal will provide the best chance of success at winning the deal. Keeping what’s best for the customer in mind will remind partners of what’s important and prevent them from promising the customer things they can’t do in an effort to look better than the other partner. Finally, considering the vendor’s relationship with each partner will help the vendor keep the partner’s best interests in mind. No matter what the outcome, partners are more likely to respond favorably if the vendor demonstrates that they have the partner’s best interests in mind.

Other tools the vendor can use to make a decision are conflict resolution strategies. If the partners find out that another partner is competing for their deal they won’t be happy and conflict occurs. The vendor can use conflict resolution strategies such as sticking to policies and procedures and moving things forward when none of the other strategies work. 

Following policies and procedures means that vendors have a guide on what to do if two of their partners register the same deal. At the same time, the partners have an idea of how the vendor made their decision. This helps prevent the vendor-partner relationship from being damaged as partners understand that the vendor made the decision independent of what that relationship looks like. 

For more about how to handle two partners registering the same deal, take a look at our post: 2 Strategies to Resolve Deal Conflicts Between Partners


Deal registration is a useful tool for letting partners lay claim to a lead and gives them the best chance to win that lead without anyone else interfering. However, deal registration can also cause problems. Registering a deal alerts the vendor to a potential lead. The vendor can then hand this lead over to their direct sales team bringing the partner and the direct sales team into conflict. Two partners can also register the same deal putting the vendor in the position of having to choose who gets commission for the deal.