Co-Sell Transformation Pitfalls

February 20, 2024

As outlined in The Sales Transformation Imperative in 2024, companies realize they need a new sales playbook to support modern buyers and win deals with more complex dynamics. Building a high-performing co-selling motion with your best partners is the answer. When done right, co-selling can source more pipeline for your direct sales teams and source more opportunities for your channel partners. It can accelerate sales cycles and increase your win rates. As you navigate this massive opportunity, there are a few co-sell strategy pitfalls and a few co-sell program design pitfalls that can undermine or sabotage even the most well-intentioned plans.

There are three strategy pitfalls that are important to acknowledge and address early in your co-sell journey.

Co-Sell Strategy Pitfalls graphic

Co-Sell Strategy Pitfall #1: Culture eats strategy for breakfast 

The best co-selling strategy is quickly undermined if sales leadership continues to celebrate the “Lone Ranger” sales rep instead of celebrating the sales reps that proactively engage with partners. Instead, celebrate, reward and compensate winning together. For a deeper perspective and recommendations I suggest you read Stop Focusing On The Lone-Ranger Sales Rep.

Co-Sell Strategy Pitfall #2: The siloed approach

It’s a big mistake to think about a co-selling strategy only from the perspective of the partner and channel teams, or only from the perspective of the sales team. Keep sales reps and sales plays front and center in your co-selling strategy, because only sales reps and channel sellers close deals. At the same time, partner and channel teams must be involved because they understand the business model, organization structure, politics, and priorities of each of your partners.

Co-Sell Strategy Pitfall #3: Going through “shadow IT”

A real killer for any co-sell transformation initiative is to try to go around your IT or world-wide tools teams. You need IT and enablement teams to scale up a co-selling motion across your sales teams, partner teams, and channel teams. Starting with an ‘on-the-sly’ skunkworks initiative might feel like a faster start, but it will set you back months (or years) just when you’re starting to see some early results. Suck it up and address the concerns of security, IT, privacy, and legal teams up front. At PartnerTap, we help our customers get through these reviews and address all their concerns up front.   customers get through these reviews with 

Next, there are three pitfalls that slow companies down as they design their co-selling program.

Co-Sell program design pitfalls

Co-Sell Design Pitfall #1: Anti-collaboration financial incentives

Make sure your sales teams are incentivized to work with partners, and that partners aren’t penalized for engaging with your sales reps. Compensation plans must be updated to ensure both sales and partners are encouraged to work together. At a minimum we recommend neutral comp plans so no sales rep or partner is punished for co-selling. Even better is a comp plan where both sides have extra incentives to collaborate and sell more together. If you want to talk to an expert who can help you design your incentives structure for co-selling I recommend engaging the experts at JSG or Spur-Reply group.

Co-Sell Design Pitfall #2: A ‘take-first’ approach

A partner-first mindset wins, but that’s not where many sales reps are today. Co-selling must create wins for your partners and your sales reps, and that starts with asking the right questions and teaching reps how to engage with partners. If collaborating with partners is new for many of your reps then I suggest talking with the experts at Achieve Unite about putting your team through one of their excellent training and enablement programs. Your sellers will learn how to talk, engage, and co-sell with partners in a way that generates more pipeline for both sides.

Co-Sell Design Pitfall #3: Lack of enablement

“Announce it and they’ll do it” is a fallacy. Up front training, enablement, and ongoing change management are critical for your co-sell program to be successful. It starts by communicating the “WHY” and the value of co-selling to sales teams and partners, then training sales how to engage with new partners, and investing in ongoing change management to really drive adoption and real sales transformation over time. 

If you’re ready to operationalize co-selling at scale, check out the 11-Step Co-Sell Transformation Playbook next.


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