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Ahead of the Curve eNewsletter: Partner Issue Resolution Strategies



In this month's edition of Ahead of the Curve, we share partner issue resolution strategies inspired by a leaping lizard.

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Jacqueline Franklin
Chief Partnering Officer

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Leaping Lizards

Several lives ago (Southern California, chapter 242), I accompanied my spouse to a Sunday brunch meeting with his then-business partner and her spouse. We met at The Inn of the Seventh Ray, located in Topanga Canyon. Topanga Canyon is best known for its bohemian artists, a nudist colony (closed in 2002), the infamous Charles Manson, and as a Hollywood retreat. The restaurant sits along a creek surrounded by lush vegetation, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Birds sing, frogs chirp: it's a veritable meditation tape. So, likely it won't surprise you to learn that the menu is filled with such healthy adjectives as free-range, organic, fresh, whole grain, and paprika-dusted. You get the picture.

Our table was nestled comfortably aside a rock, where we peacefully and professionally made small talk. It was shortly after the waiter poured our osmosis-infused water that I spotted the perky little lizard on the branch near my husband's shoulder. When I made eye contact with the pint-sized reptile, it sprung with unusual force across the table directly onto my chest. Within a second, my mind registered the news that the reptile's tiny little feet had made contact with my skin, at which point an alarmed scream emanated from within the depths of my soul. And, just as quickly as it had vaulted across the table, the lizard sprang back onto the rock and scurried away, undoubtedly, to report its exploits to its friends.

Aside from the lizard making its way to and from my chest, what remains most intriguing to me is the reaction of those around me. While clearly there wasn't an employee or patron that didn't hear me scream, it happened so quickly that not everyone understood what had transpired. While most people abruptly looked our way, they just as quickly got back to their food and conversation once they determined that there was not, in fact, a chain-saw killer on the loose. Even my tablemates were nonplussed after the initial shock was over. It was back to business.

And, while everyone else moved on readily, I am still telling the story and remember it like was yesterday. Now, drum roll please for the point of this reptilian reminiscence.

Not a day goes by that a channel executive doesn't get an uncomfortable, sometimes extremely charged, call from a partner. Typically when the phone call ends, the executive picks up the phone or emails someone else within the company to get the ball rolling on the issue. The lizard, if you will, begins to jump around terrorizing people who had many other things on their list that day.

Some issues, like my outdoor brunch incident, can be diffused quickly, and become nothing more than an entertaining story. But if the issue is a recurring one, trust that the lizard will grow in size and aggression, and may get downright venomous. Before you know it, the issue has found its way to your partner blog and your next partner meeting is steaming with emotion.

So, consider the following partner issue resolution strategies to minimize the disruption and keep focused on building strong relationships and selling productively:

1) If it's not someone's job, it's no one's job. No one ever argues against customer 
    support, but for some reason, partner support often takes a back seat. Have a
    place for partners to call, with a clear escalation process.
The VP of Channels
    shouldn't learn about an issue for the first time when a partner dials the number
    as a last resort. And, while channel managers are fine as a starting point,
    saddling them with start-to-finish issue resolution is distracting and keeps them
    from building strong relationships and growing customer revenue.

2) Don't expect what you're not willing to inspect. Just because you don't hear
    about it doesn't mean that trouble isn't brewing, or a particular issue has
    been resolved. Ensuring that there is a process for capturing and reporting on
    key partner issues up and across the food chain is critical, including a clear
    path for prioritization and resolution.
Make it your business to stay on top of
    what's keeping your partners up at night as well as what's standing in the
    way of their success.

3) It's not the "what" but the "how." If resolving an issue will take some time,
    make sure your partners understand that. Share your timetable and ensure
    that your partners are in the loop on progress, or the lack thereof. While
    partners don't want to hear bad news, it beats not knowing, and they'll surely
    appreciate your transparency and integrity.

Partner support and, particularly, issue resolution can be a thankless job. When done well, a solid relationship will thrive through the good times and bad. And, if you're lucky, the lizard will be long gone before anyone knows what hit 'em, allowing you to stay, at least, a step ahead of the curve.

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