‘Your first partners become your local ambassadors’
Christof Majer, CEO for the German company ChannelXperts and former Global VP for Board International and Qliks, is specialized in implementing global partner networks for high-growth, high-tech companies. In this blog he shares the do’s & don’ts of building a partner network.
About Christof Majer
- Worked on the European expansion of Altiris (now part of Symantec) from 2001 to 2006
- From 2007, he focused on the internationalisation of Qlik, enlarging the partner network from (around) 100 to over 1,000 partners.
- In 2021, Majer was Global VP Channel & Alliances at Board International to drive international growth
- Since 2022, CEO and co-owner of ChannelXperts (a cloud-based software solution for managing partner networks)
What strategy would you advise when your company is still fairly small and wants to venture abroad?
‘Enter a market with a de facto partnership rather than a legal partnership with one or two other partners. When I worked for Altiris, US based IT infrastructure software company, that approach allowed us to be fast and flexible. Altiris at the time was already big in the US but had a limited presence in Europe.’
‘When you are small in size as a company, you also need small, entrepreneurial partners to drive growth. Nobody in the market knows your name yet. Big resellers are not really interested. You therefore need partners that want to grow with you on the journey.’
‘Start off with a small number of partners, so you make sure the pie is big enough for everyone. Your first partners then become your local ambassadors.’
How do you set up a partnership contract?
‘Don’t call them contracts, call them partner programmes. Avoiding legal terminology makes it sounds nicer and more harmonious.’
‘Create a contract with all the details and incentives. Go into great levels of detail. For example, you can decide if the partner should translate your global marketing material and if they are allowed to create material adapted to their local audience.’
‘Part one is the contractual framework. This covers the legal aspects – like confidentiality, infringement, and so on.
Part two covers the business conditions. This is a document that is renewed every year. For example: in year x, the partner gets 30 percentage points commission pro licence, and a monthly and yearly bonus if targets are met. The staffing requirements are in there, and the amount of training managers will receive.’
‘Be pragmatic. When Qlik, a Swedish-American data analytics & integration company, started in Spain, that was a market we didn’t really understand. The market did not know us. So, in the contract we added an initial commission of 50 per cent, going down over time.’
Can a market be too difficult to enter?
‘Many companies struggle with this question: Should we go into China? It is easy to get extremely enthusiastic about the enormous market but never forget that some markets are very, very different in terms of transferability. In China, everything is different: the time zone, the language, the culture, the politics. There is wisdom in staying in your comfort zone. When you venture out of it, take one step at the time.’
On internationalisation: how to choose between partnering with local companies and acquiring a local company?
‘They can co-exist. It is actually a good idea to start off with a partner office and then over time, buy the partner out. It can be appealing to an entrepreneur to know that after 5 or 10 years, when he or she is successful that they can sell the business to you and perhaps retire.’
‘When you sign your first serious contract with a partner, make sure this clause is already embedded in there. If it is not and the partner becomes successful in time, the asking price for the partner company might become an unfavourable discussion point.’
Internationalisation strategy examples
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