During challenging times, one thing remains true—business professionals who leverage partners will make it out ahead of their competitors. While the COVID-19 pandemic may feel different from past economic downturns, the successful strategies implemented by sales teams in the past can help professionals prepare for the inevitable upturn of the economy.

Mike Daly is an expert in building and scaling channels that have helped the companies he has worked for overcome crises including the September 11 attacks in 2001. As the VP of Sales at Serko—a leader in innovative, integrated travel and expense solutions—Mike is currently working on establishing Serko’s channel in North America. 

Autum Grimm, CRO and Co-founder of PartnerTap, sat down with Mike to uncover his insights about how to effectively leverage channel partners during challenging times to make it out ahead of competitors. Mike shared the four core components of the partnership “blueprint” that he has executed throughout his career to build channels in advance of a crisis to make it out successfully on the other side.


1. Start Building Channels ASAP

Leveraging channel partners during challenging times has proven critical to the success of the teams Mike has worked on. Having strong partnerships in place prior to a crisis taking place can help guide your company through economic distress. When deciding when to start building your channel, Mike shares that you can not start early enough.

“When we talk about timing and building a channel, I have always been a proponent of ‘you should build your channel yesterday,’” Mike says. “Throughout my career, it has always been a good idea to start with a robust and vibrant channel to build a business.”

Serko was founded on the channel structure in 2007 which has guided the company’s success over the years. Forming strategic partnerships with companies has continued to be a fundamental component of Serko’s strategy. At the end of 2019, Serko made the decision to take on a strategic partner to help them expand their success globally. Establishing this partnership prior to the COVID-19 pandemic taking place has helped Serko to leverage the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that work with their partner today.

“If you have not taken the necessary steps now to put yourself in a position to be successful, it will be too late,” Mike says.


2. Don’t Panic & Stay Focused

While the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced unprecedented challenges to industries including corporate travel, Mike reminds us that economic downturns are both unavoidable and overcomeable. True innovators who refrain from panicking and instead remain focused on bringing value to their customers will make it out ahead of their competitors.

“Don’t panic, stay focused–crises have happened before and we have made it out of them,” Mike says. “Invariably, a lot of companies come out stronger on the other side.”

Mike recalls travel coming to a screeching halt following the 9/11 tragedy. When travel resumed in 2002, corporate mandates were put into place that made the return to travel more effective and efficient.

“By going online and creating a corporate traveler and putting them into a visual booking and shopping experience, that was able to drive costs down for a lot of corporations,” Mike says. “After 9/11, you saw online booking adoptions skyrocket. Many companies mandated the use of those tools which really created the online booking world.”

Despite enduring a devastating crisis, the business world grew as companies began strategically thinking about how to innovate to meet consumer needs and how to leverage partners effectively to come out of the crisis ahead.


3. Leverage Technology to Unlock Real Value

Conferences and industry events have historically been a pivotal way for sales teams to generate leads. Now that conferences have been canceled and industry events have transitioned online, Mike advises that business professionals utilize technology to help them overcome these challenges and more effectively work with their partners.

“You have to think about ways to leverage your partners in the channel to get your platform in front of their customers,” Mike says. “You need to find solutions that will help you do that.”

Leveraging the customer base that your partners have cultivated through software like PartnerTap can help you to make the most of your partnerships to gain valuable insights and generate new leads.

4. Continue to Build & Deliver Value to Partners

Soon, businesses will be back to operating as usual and true innovators who have successfully leveraged their partner ecosystem will make it out ahead of their competitors. Set your team up for success by focusing your attention on how you can build and deliver new value to your partners.

“Think about the ways you can build and deliver value to your partners, and then take the next step and align with your partners,” Mike says. “Be vocal about it and do not be secretive. Make sure they know what your values are and what you are delivering.”

Following Mike’s channel blueprint and ensuring that your partnership strategy is aligned with your company’s philosophy and vision will help lead your team to successful outcomes.

“You can do things better, faster, and easier as a business when you are not alone,” Mike says. “Do not do this alone. Let’s leverage each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

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