Setting Channel Partner Expectations

Quick Summary: Minor bad news or even good news can have an adverse reaction to your partner if it is a surprise.


It is easy to focus on your internal activities and simply forget to keep your business partners informed.  Invariably, this can lead to negative surprises.  Even large positive events, such as unexpectedly receiving a large order, can be a negative surprise to a partner causing them to quickly respond.  Continuously communicate with them to help them be a better partner to you.

Instead of the last article in this series on Distribution Channel Partners, this article could have easily been the first.  An Internet definition of Partner is “a person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business or company with shared risks and profits.”  Throughout this section, the advantage of working with partners has been thoroughly discussed.  Additionally, some risks and pitfalls were also discussed.  Virtually every person and organization enters into a partnering relationship with the expectation that it will be successful for them and, hopefully, mutually successful for their partner.

Mutual success is the fundamental expectation.  Applying the Second Business Principle “Treat All Individuals with Dignity and Respect,” to business partners is absolutely essential.  It will help them meet their goal of providing an acceptable return on their investment in the partnership (the Third Principle) by understanding issues that may impact them.  Below are ten simple guidelines to follow.  All of them are common sense.  Unfortunately, it is easy to not follow them due to the everyday hustle and bustle of business.  You, or someone empowered in your organization, should review this list regularly for every partner relationship that you have.  It won’t take long, but it will go a long way in solidifying your relationships and building your reputation as a company that can be trusted.

  1. Get in the habit of providing both good news and bad news regularly and timely. Don’t let the rumor mill beat you.
  2. Your goals and their goals, although closely aligned, will never be completely the same. Understand the differences and except them accordingly.
  3. Although each of you may view your partnership as a one-to-one relationship, both of you probably have multiple different relationships with other companies.  Some of those relationships can impact each other.  So both of you have many-to-many relationships, and your partner may have to sub-optimize certain aspects of your relationship to satisfy the needs of others.  You will do the same thing.  Keep this fact in mind when you see a partner doing something that may not be in your best interest.
  4. All companies are jealous of their own customer relationships.  Never put your partner in the position of choosing between you and their customer.
  5. Companies are also jealous of their reputations.  Do not, through your actions or inactions, tarnish theirs through guilt by association.
  6. Openly share your impediments to success with your partners.  They may be able to provide advice or solutions to help you address them.  They cannot fix what they do not know is broken.
  7. Stay informed of activities and trends in your market and share them with your partner.  Similarly, stay abreast of the activities and trends in their core market.  They may have a direct impact on your relationship.
  8. Share forecasts early and often to allow your partner to prepare for both good and bad contingencies.
  9. Share any and all competitive information with your partner.  Let them determine if it is relevant or not.
  10. Share your plans to change, enhance, or in any way change your product or service that might impact what they do or how you will interact.  Do it with enough advance notice to allow them to comment and make changes as appropriate.

All of the above can be summarized as “be the first to communicate and do it often.”

Article Number : 5.050306   

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