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  • Larry Gregory

Expanding To International Markets

While international markets represent an attractive revenue opportunity, pursuing a direct sales strategy isn’t always feasible or prudent. Often, the better path is to identify complementary partners in-market that have an affinity to your product and motivation to achieve mutual success.

Aussie Photo Credit: Chris Birmele

Aussie Photo Credit: Chris Birmele

Define Partner Strategy and Ideal Partner Profile

Define your strategy including which territories to target and the type of partners you want to recruit. ISVs typically pursue partners that can resell their products and deliver enabling services around them, including systems integrators, management consultants, and sometimes more vertically-specific services firms (depending on the nature of your solution).

Develop a profile of your ideal partner. Include industry specialization, certifications/competencies, company size, types of customers they serve, and other characteristics that indicate a good fit. Review examples of companies that match the profile to rank their attractiveness, refining your target partner profile along the way.

Hone Your Messaging

Now that you have a good sense of what the ideal partner looks like, refine your messaging to express both your customer value and partner value. Tighten your pitch so when you have a “first contact” call with a partner prospect, you can quickly resolve whether there is mutual partnership potential: your messaging should resonate with the prospect and their business should align with your ideal partner profile.

Be specific about reselling commission and services potential from typical projects. If the projected revenue isn’t material to the partner, they ultimately won’t invest in learning and marketing your product. If the projected revenue is too big for the partner, they are probably targeting a smaller customer size than your product is meant to address.

Partner Outreach and Assessment

After you have your messaging and target profiles, start data mining. Use search tools and directories to identify companies that match your target partner characteristics. You’ll learn along the way, so adapt the search criteria mid-stream as appropriate. Ultimately, you’ll need to look at a couple hundred company profiles to come up with a target list of 50+ candidates. Through successive outreach, you can usually develop 2-3 that will serve as productive partners, so treat it as a numbers game and be hyper-efficient in qualifying prospects as in or out.

Your first contact calls should convey company stability, customer affinity, and product differentiation. Don’t try to provide a product demo or other depth product info in that first meeting but do convey what the future state is by partnering. Represent a typical deal in terms of reseller and services revenue, including what a run rate of multiple projects looks like in year 2. Partners want material results and this is the opportunity to test for whether your solution will be meaningful to them.

Demo and Letter of Intent

If there is mutual interest in proceeding after the first contact call, propose a product demo where additional partner stakeholders can determine applicability for the partner’s client segment. Strive to make the demo relevant to the prospective partner’s industry and specialization. You want the partner to walk away excited by the potential and interested in advancing to a Letter of Intent. The Letter of Intent is meant to avoid the friction of a formal contract, but define enough detail (reseller terms, training, support, marketing expectations) to enable pursuing the first couple customers.

Enable Early Success

It is imperative to show success in the first few months. Get started right away by assessing clients already managed by the partner and support the sales cycle so you both get an early win. The partner should demonstrate solid sales development skills before you expose them to net new prospects. Once you have confidence, use marketing leads (from your webinars, industry events, and website) to spark additional opportunities for them. Remember, your goal is for them to nurture opportunities directly so focus on partner enablement and knowledge transfer while making it clear they own market development ongoing.

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