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The best way to prepare for a meeting with your channel partner depends, in large part, on how long you have been working together. We’re going to look at five key points, assuming that you and the partner are starting from Square One. If you’ve been working with the same partner for a considerable period of time, you may already have done some of these. But be on the lookout for anything you might have missed.

#1: Look at your IT needs from a business perspective, as well as a technological perspective.

This is not as basic as it might sound. What are the pain points of your company? Where are your costs just a little too high? What types of functions are slipping through the cracks? As you can surmise, the true potential of technology runs much deeper than the basics around email, Internet access and whatever applications you currently may be using. Your partner may have some ideas for new software that can remove extra cycles or help your people more effectively track functions that somehow get lost in the shuffle.

#2: Provide an accurate accounting of the systems and software already in place.

This is especially important when working with a new channel partner. A channel partner who is established in your company probably already has this list. But needless to say, a partner who knows exactly what he’s working with can help your company get the most bang for the buck.

#3: Talk things over with people from various levels of your company.

You may never again seek business advice from the person who does basic data entry. But guess what? That person has a very hands-on perspective on the portion of the IT infrastructure with which they work. Other employees can bring similar value to the table. Leverage them, and don’t let the org chart dictate who gets to participate in this process. The actual purchase decisions are a different story. Those should be made at the appropriate levels. But you just might be amazed by the feedback you receive, and the sources from whence it comes.

#4: Put it in writing.

Once you’ve fully assessed the strengths and weaknesses of your IT infrastructure, write a short report covering the details and provide it to your partner. They will often be able to do a more comprehensive job, if they have something to which they can refer over time.

#5 Be open to guidance from your partner.

Talk over options and develop some longer term ideas, regardless of whether they currently fit into your budget. Successful channel partners are more than just box movers. They can bring substantial knowledge and creativity to the table. Give them the opportunity to consult. And even if you don’t have money to fund a big upgrade at this moment, the opportunity to plan for the future, or even make incremental steps toward the upgrade, can help you map out a straighter, narrower, and more cost-effective path to a leveraging technology for the betterment of your business.

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