Top B2B Channel Partnership Co-Selling Strategies

Discover top co-selling strategies for B2B channel partnerships in this comprehensive guide. Maximize sales and collaboration for mutual success.
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By Nick Cotter
Updated Jan 10, 2024

Top B2B Channel Partnership Co-Selling Strategies
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When channel partners sell one another's products or services, it's called co-selling. While this concept has been around for a while, it has renewed importance in recent years as businesses seek to bolster their revenue streams through sales outside of their core competencies. Co-selling can be a boon for both parties if done correctly: It can help two companies avoid cannibalizing their markets and provide new customers who may not have otherwise found them individually.

However, implementing a successful co-selling program is often easier said than done. Suppose you don't know where to start. In that case, you're in luck: In this guide, we'll cover everything from basic concepts to best practices and more advanced considerations that will help your company implement co-selling at scale—and do so efficiently and effectively.

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First off, What is Co-selling?

Co-selling is an agreement between two companies to sell each other's products or services. It's a strategic partnership that provides mutual benefit, so both parties must understand what they can gain from this relationship.

Co-selling is not just about selling more products; it's about increasing your market reach and brand awareness by partnering with another company with a similar demographic base as yourself but who may be in a different industry. 

For example:

If you're an IT company that sells servers and networking equipment, you could co-sell with a software company with an accounting system based on those same servers. The two companies have complementary offerings—the hardware vendor can provide the physical infrastructure while the software vendor offers customized solutions for their customers' unique needs.

7 Steps & Best Practices for Co-Selling:

Now that we’ve established what co-selling is at the most basic level, you’re probably wondering what some best practices to get started are? Below we’ll do just that and share some steps you can take to get started co-selling with our partners.

1. Get to Know Each Other’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

The first step to engaging in a co-selling partnership with another business is to learn about your expertise, the types of companies you both work with best, and how you serve these customers. 

You want to understand:

  • Who are both of your ideal customer profiles (ICPs)?
  • How do you service current clients?
  • Why do you both service clients better than your competition?

This is a necessary first step because it’ll allow you to lay the foundation for your co-selling partnership.

2. Gain a Deeper Understanding of Your Partner’s Sales Process.

If your goal is to partner with a B2B company, one of the first things you should do is gain a deeper understanding of their sales process. 

Understanding their process will help you understand:

  • How do they market their product and service to customers?
  • The value proposition of their product or service.
  • What type of customer needs are addressed by what kind of products and services (e.g., does this company sell high-touch solutions for small businesses or low-touch solutions for enterprise companies at scale?).

Knowing the ins and outs of their sales process will also give you a clearer picture of where you can fit within their operation.

3. Run Customer Account Mapping (If Applicable).

Now that you and your partner clearly understand your service offerings and ideal customers, you should consider the overlap of the current customer base. Knowing this will give you a clear understanding of some early “quick wins” with your partner.

With account mapping, you can identify:

  • % of customer base overlaps with partner
  • Closed-Lost deals that have potential for partner introduction
  • Creative ways to run co-marketing campaigns with specific customer cohorts
  • Current prospective client pipeline

To run account mapping with your partners, you can do this one of two ways:

  • Manual spreadsheet sharing with partners
  • Using account mapping software

Both options will work, but the automated accounting mapping software route may be better if you have a more sophisticated partnership program or thousands of customers to match.

4. Outline the Criteria for Success.

After you’ve gone through the account mapping stage, it’s time to outline your co-selling partnership criteria for success.

This step in the process will hold both of you accountable within the partnership.

  • Define the goals of the co-selling partnership.
  • Define the metrics for success and failure for each partner.

5. Discuss Product Roadmap Alignment.

The product roadmap alignment is a critical step in the partnership process. You want to make sure you are both on the same page regarding your future products. This will help a lot in the co-selling process when you and your partner speak to prospective customers.

If you have a lot of co-selling partners you need to keep updated on the product roadmap and leverage your PRM software to send out bulk notifications when a new feature is going to be released.

6. Build-out Co-Selling Content.

The next step is drafting collateral that both partners can use to promote one another’s products/services (e.g., joint webinars, blog posts, case studies, customer testimonials). This will help ensure that both sides remain top of mind for their respective audiences during the sales process.

7. Create a Plan for Onboarding New Customers.

One of the last steps in creating a plan with your partner for how you’ll onboard new customers. This is such an essential step in the process because this is where you can win or lose a deal with a poor onboarding experience.

Ensure you and your partner are aligned with every step in the process, and run through your checklist together. This will help you set yourself for success when you inevitably begin to onboard new clients together.

4 Tips to Build a Co-selling Partnership Agreement.

In a co-selling agreement, you and your partner agree to work together on sales opportunities. The two or more parties involved will work together to discover new business by sharing leads and information about their products and services. Once you’ve decided on an agreement with your partner, you should ensure that it covers all the details of how you will work together.

A co-selling agreement is a beneficial partnership. For companies, it means that they're able to build their customer base and sales footprint more quickly. For customers, it means they can access multiple products and services in one place. 

Here are three tips for forming a co-selling agreement:

1. Defining the Relationship.

The first step in creating a co-selling agreement is defining the relationship. Who’s responsible for what? Where does each party start and end? How will you work together?

2. Define the Scope of Your Agreement.

The second step would be to define the scope of your agreement. 

What areas or activities do you want to include in your co-selling relationship, and how will they unfold over time? Will it involve just one product or multiple products, services, and/or brands from both parties? Will one of the companies have greater control over certain aspects like marketing but less control over others, such as pricing decisions (like when one company owns only part of another company)? 

Defining these details upfront can help prevent misunderstandings later down the line when working with someone who has different goals that may not always align perfectly with yours at first glance!

3. Strengthen the Messaging.

Building a co-selling agreement between two businesses is like building a house. You can have the best plans, design, and materials, but it won't be standing for too long if you don't nail down all the details. The same is true of your co-sell arrangement: You need to ensure that everyone involved has clear expectations.

Both parties must agree on messaging so customers understand who they're buying from at each step. In other words, if someone buys through you first and then gets contacted by your partner later in their journey, they need to know that they've been sold on "your product" or "your solution" (whichever applies), not just "a product." This can be achieved through consistent use of language across all channels (social media accounts, websites, etc.), which helps strengthen trust with potential customers. There's no confusion about where these products come from or their value proposition.

4. Plan Your Joint Demand Generation.

When you co-sell, it’s important to share a shared vision and value proposition with your partner. Each party should be able to speak credibly about the benefits of their solution in the context of the other’s products or services. In addition, you will want to identify ways to work together to create new opportunities for growth and improvement in both businesses. 

For example: If your company offers an innovative solution for dealing with data management challenges, consider partnering with another company whose product helps users visualize the impact of different strategies on their bottom line by simulating each option using real-time data from multiple sources (so much easier than doing all those calculations manually!).

The goal here is joint demand generation and partner marketing—getting customers who already have one product or service from one vendor interested in buying another.

What’s the Difference Between Co-selling vs. Reselling?

The difference between reselling and co-sell is that reselling means selling someone else’s product, while co-selling is when you sell your product in conjunction with another company.

In a typical resell relationship, you would be purchasing the products from one vendor and then reselling them to your customers. There are no ongoing obligations or requirements for service or support from either party in this model.

Co-selling occurs when both companies work together overtime on training and education and sales activities throughout the year. It may require quarterly meetings between teams from both organizations to ensure success in implementing the program effectively at all levels of the organization.

7 of the Best B2B Partnership Co-selling Examples.

As you can see, co-selling is a strategy that can help B2B companies increase revenue. It's also an easy way to introduce new products and services to your customers and generate more leads.

Here are some examples of how some of the biggest names in tech use co-selling:

1. Microsoft and Citrix.

Image of Microsoft and Citrix Partnership
Image of Microsoft and Citrix Partnership

Microsoft and Citrix have a long history of working together to deliver solutions that combine best-of-breed capabilities in their respective fields.

By partnering with Citrix, Microsoft can offer customers a secure, high-performing environment for workloads such as SharePoint Server 2013 and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition. Customers can leverage virtualization technologies such as Remote Desktop Services (RDS) or XenDesktop to provide secure remote access to Windows applications from any device on any network—whether it’s from home, the office, or even while traveling internationally.

In addition to enabling end-users to access their desktops from virtually anywhere at any time via RDS or Citrix Receiver®, there are many other compelling business cases for using this solution:

  • Improved collaboration across teams;
  • Enhanced productivity through shared cloud storage;
  • Consolidated data center footprint; and
  • Enhanced IT management

2. Salesforce and IBM.

Image of Salesforce and IBM Partnership
Image of Salesforce and IBM Partnership

As a Salesforce partner, we know this business well. And if you’re reading this, chances are you do too. You know the challenges and rewards of making things happen with your customers.

Salesforce and IBM have been working together since 2017 and have built an impressive partnership. They share a common vision around the importance of AI in business and how to apply it to create an amazing customer experience that goes beyond what can be done with any one company on its own.

In 2018 they announced their plans to collaborate on building a new AI platform together: Watson AI Cloud for Salesforce® Einstein™ Platform Edition!

This is great news for both companies because they each have unique assets that will help them deliver truly unparalleled solutions for their customers:

3. Cisco and Google Cloud.

Image of Cisco and Google Cloud Partnership
Image of Cisco and Google Cloud Partnership

Cisco and Google Cloud have a long-term partnership. The two companies are working together to enhance the customer experience, improve security, and increase performance.

4. Dell and DocuSign.

Image of Dell and DocuSign Partnership
Image of Dell and DocuSign Partnership

Dell and DocuSign are an excellent example of a large company partnering with a small company to bring value to their customers. Dell is a Fortune 500 company, but DocuSign is still small enough that it could be considered an emerging technology startup. In fact, it's even smaller than many other co-sellers; it's not even in the Top 100 most valuable private companies in the world!

But despite being such an unknown commodity at first glance, this partnership has grown into one of the most valuable collaborations in recent memory. In just three years since they started working together, Dell has used DocuSign's cloud-based document management platform to secure over 10 million contracts across multiple industries (including healthcare and software development). And that number continues to climb every month as more businesses discover how easy it is to use DocuSign for their own needs!

5. Microsoft and Adobe.

Image of Microsoft and Adobe Partnership
Image of Microsoft and Adobe Partnership

Microsoft and Adobe have a co-selling agreement. Microsoft and Adobe have had a co-selling strategy for years. Microsoft and Adobe started their relationship as partners, but they also have an extensive history of negotiating deals together.

While it's possible that the two companies are not currently working together in any capacity, their long history of collaborating means that any company looking for new customers should consider them as potential partners if they can offer products or services that will make sense for both businesses' target markets.

6. HPE and Microsoft.

Image of HPE and Microsoft Partnership
Image of HPE and Microsoft Partnership

HPE and Microsoft are working together on a number of different projects. The two companies have been partners for over 20 years and in fact, it was one of the first major partnerships that HPE entered into. They’ve since developed several other partnerships over the years, including in areas such as cloud computing, AI (artificial intelligence), and more.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine that HPE would be where it is today without its partnership with Microsoft. In fact, one could argue that many other tech companies have benefited from this partnership too because it has allowed them to learn from one another while also pushing each other forward in terms of what they can accomplish together.

7. Cisco and Dropbox.

Image of Cisco and Dropbox Partnership
Image of Cisco and Dropbox Partnership

Companies must find new ways to keep their customers happy in the digital world. One way is through co-selling, which means partnering with another company that offers a product or service that can benefit your customer.

Cisco and Dropbox are excellent examples of co-selling in action. These two companies have partnered to provide secure access to files from anywhere.

Dropbox is a cloud storage solution that allows users to store data in the cloud and access it via any device with an internet connection. Cisco is a technology company that sells networking equipment such as routers and switches used by large corporations worldwide with headquarters located in Silicon Valley in California (the tech capital). 

This partnership gives customers increased flexibility when using their technology solutions because they can now access important information from anywhere at any time without having physical access to them -- for example, if someone has forgotten his laptop at home but needs information stored on it quickly before leaving work on Friday evening after being called into work early Saturday morning for an emergency project meeting; he could log onto his account on Dropbox using his phone's browser app."

Wrapping it All Up.

We’ve come to the end of this deep dive into co-selling—but as you can see, there’s still so much more to learn! We hope this article has been helpful for you, and that you can use it to inform your decisions about whether or not a co-selling partnership is right for your business. 

Don’t feel overwhelmed by all the information, though: at its core, co-selling is all about a mutually beneficial relationship between two parties who are eager to make sales together. And if that sounds like something you need in your life, we hope you’ll start looking for a great partner today!

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Nick Cotter

Nick Cotter

Founder & CEO

With over 7 years navigating the intricate realms of marketing, and specifically B2B partner marketing, Nick has forged collaborations with top-tier tech brands, prominent agencies, and some of the industry's foremost B2B publishers and content creators. His deep immersion in both marketing landscapes showcases a trajectory of expertise and innovation. Identifying a significant void in specialized resources, he founded Growann.The aspiration? Deliver unparalleled insights and guidance, carving out a dedicated space where the broader marketing and B2B partner marketing communities can flourish.