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Session 3: Building a partner channel

18 minutes, 0 seconds


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Many independent software vendors (ISVs) are interested in recruiting partners to sell or integrate their products. Some develop outstandingly successful partnerships; some founder on miscommunications or operational issues, and some fall apart because the partnership foundation was mis-aligned. Diana Kreklow and Gail Mercer-McKay share insight into the keys to success for a successful channel development initiative and best practices you can leverage for your own partnership initiative.

After you view this webinar, you'll have the tools you need to have a relevant and productive partnership discussion between your organization and prospective channel partners and to be able to articulate your joint value to customers. Downloadable resources will help you take action right away.

Do you have questions about building a partner channel? Join Diana and Gail live in the comments section for Q&A on Thursday, April 24 from 10am-11am, Pacific time (UTC -8:00)

 Download the companion guide, Building a Partner Channel 

 Download the .ics to add the Q&A session to your calendar 


About the presenters

Diana Kreklow
Enthusiastic and insightful, Diana cut her business teeth in sales and sales management at some of the world's best organizations including Microsoft, IBM, Attachmate and Computer Associates. Her responsibilities included the development and management of partnership strategies, business and solutions development, marketing innovation and performance reporting.  She enjoys working collaboratively with virtual teams, managing complex multi-partner engagements and developing partner and channel programs that deliver results.

Able to skillfully navigate the challenges facing both smaller partners right through to some of the largest ISV's, she has successfully built programs that include alignment with market leaders such as Microsoft, IBM Global Services, Accenture, and McKinsey Consulting. Her industry experience includes Financial Services, Distribution, Healthcare, Public Sector and Manufacturing.

Gail Mercer-MacKay
With over twenty-five years' experience, Gail Mercer-MacKay works as a leader in the Microsoft ecosystem helping partners create compelling marketing communications stories. Prior to founding Mercer-MacKay over seven years ago, Gail was VP Sales and Marketing for an ISV, taking the organization from start-up to a multi-million dollar software company with clients across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Gail serves as a Board Member at both the Canadian and International level of IAMCP – International Association of Microsoft Channel Partner and is a Business Advisor at the Research Innovation Center in Mississauga where she guides entrepreneurs looking to start and grow their business. She is the recipient of two awards for community leadership for her role as founder and director of "A Woman's Write", a program for patients suffering from mental health disorders at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Corinne Sharp
Corinne Sharp has been working within the IT sector for over 20 years. As the President of Sharp Perspective, she is helping organizations with their channel, sales and talent strategies to scale their business through others.  


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  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    Welcome everyone - it is almost 1:00 pm EST and we will be around for the next hour to answer any questions you might have

  • Hello all-  I'm happy to joining Gail to answer any questions you may have!


  • I'm here too. This was one of my favorite companion guides to write, so I'm looking forward to our discussion!

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    Good to see everyone back today. I just got back to my home office from an IAMCP event at Microsoft this morning and one of the big discussions was how to build the right channel plan to maximize your time at WPC


  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    We had a lot of great conversation about the right approach but essentially it is exactly the same approach


  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    Build out your partner channel plan including a strong value proposition and target the partners you really want to meet

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    Really, this series is happening at an ideal time because WPC in Washington in July is the perfect time to do a rapid execution of a channel strategy

  • Corrine really brings great insights from her deep channel experience!  Happy she could join us!


  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    What did you think was her most relevant observation in terms of what you are seeing with your ISV clients Diana?

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    Actually, Theresa, I am going to ask you the same question - you had some great success developing channel at an ISV

  • It's Corinne here.  I am on line and happy to address any questions.

  • Developing the right strategy and value propositions is KEY.


  • Also think the ISV's should clearly understand the timeline to develop and grow a channel program.  Realistic timeframes set expectations accurately and keeps everyone on target.


  • I know I mentioned focus last week-- I think that's my theme. In working with a client this week, we really had to bring laser sharp focus to our plans to make sure we focused on what's important and used our resources most wisely. One of the questions I got was "how many partners should I recruit?" We thought about the effort it takes to recruit, enable, and empower a partner and about what internal resources were available. Then start by recruiting your target * 5. Say we think we can effectively onboard and manage 50 partners the first year. That means target 250 partners to recruit. The guidebook has great tips on how to profile the ideal partner and what it takes to onboard them. Don't let shiny objects distract you!

  • How many new partner meetings could I realistically get at WPC and should I set them up in advance?

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    That seems like a lot of partners Theresa - what size of ISV would be looking at bringing on that many?

  • @dkreklow: ISVs often ask, "what is a realistic timeframe?" What would you tell them?

  • where do i find the checklists and worksheets? 

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    @DanCassell: Hi Dan - you will probably get different answers to this question. Once you define your ideal partners, I would suggest that you could plan for 9 or 10 new partner meetings - that is around 3 / day. And because plans change, you will get about 1/3 of those as no-shows. So you will actually end up with 2 meetings / day.

    but then you need to consider your ad-hoc meetings - they will occur over lunch as well as in the regional lounges where you can get warm intros from IAMCP members to the kinds of partners you have identified you want to meet

  • @gailmercermac: That depends on the type of partner they are trying to recruit and what infrastructure they have in place. For example, an ISV that has all their sales and technical enablement available online will be able to empower a lot more partners that an ISV that doesn't have those resources. It also depends on what the ISV is willing to invest in terms of partner managers. It's not just size, it's maturity of infrastructure and investment. A small ISV with not much infrastructure and one partner manager can probably only realistically manage 20 or so partners in year one because they will be building out (or managing the building out) of the infrastructure as well as managing the partner activity. Long-winded way to say "it depends." ;)

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    @powerhouse: There is a download button about halfway down this page -right about our bios

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    @TheresaONeil: Thanks Theresa - of course now that you put it in black and white, that makes total sense. Having the right infrastructure in place enables scale. Many smaller partners try ad hoc processes and that can quickly become a nightmare.

  • We recommend all partners attending WPC build out a plan with very specific goals and strategies to leverage the most out the conference.  Clearly outline key objectives around: networking, product knowledge, training and support. 

    The agenda is full of great breakout sessions, keynotes which you should take full advantage of.  I would recommend you determine the number of meetings based on the amount of personnel attending and your planning.  I find out of my many years of attending I'm booking meetings from 7am-till the last networking session. 

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    @corinnesharp: Corinne, why don't we talk about financial investment. You have worked with lots of partners looking for Angel or VenCap funding to invest in building out a channel - what are some of the mistakes they have made that has caused the investors to walk away

  • @TheresaONeil:  Realistically it takes on average 18-24 months to build out an end to end channel program which can support partners via a solid program infrastructure and execution sales.  Those timelines reflect new recruit, onboarding, enablement and sales cycles.  It can vary, however due diligence is important to a building and supporting a channel program.  In many cases we've seen ROI in shorter timeframes, but this is the "average".

  • gailmercermacgailmercerm​ac

    They need to have their plan and their value proposition very clearly defined before they seek funding. So often, the ISV has not built the channel value proposition and just assume everyone wants to sell and implement their solution. They should have some pilot partners (1 or 2 is fine) already working with them in a co-selling approach to prove to investors that a partner truly sees value in their solution and can scale the business locally or on a global level.

  • They need to have their plan and their value proposition very clearly defined before they seek funding. So often, the ISV has not built the channel value proposition and just assume everyone wants to sell and implement their solution. They should have some pilot partners (1 or 2 is fine) already working with them in a co-selling approach to prove to investors that a partner truly sees value in their solution and can scale the business locally or on a global level.

  • I suggest too that ISV's watch next week for the Revenue Recognition session, this will help them understand some of the financials needed to build out a business case for funding.  The tool will be downloadable and it will calculate for partners "what if" scenarios as they build out channel funding requirements.  It's pretty cool.

  • Gail Mercer-MacKaygailmercerm​ac Passionate story-teller

    This has been a terrific discussion - I am signing off a few minutes early today because I have an interview scheduled with a partner who has a terrific case study about the power of the partner channel - four partners aligned to win business that none of them could have won on their own. The customer is thrilled and will be sharing their story with me. It's all about better together.

  • Thanks to all!  This was great and look forward to seeing you at WPC.  Diana


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