Relationships are key to success in the channel. Taking the time to build a strong professional network gives you the ability to harness the collective knowledge of your community to avoid common pitfalls and find success faster. Here are four easy ways to get started:
 
1. Pick the Right Community
Joining a community can deliver invaluable benefits that include training on new technologies, industry research, and access to experts in your space. That said, not every community is going to be right for every managed service provider (MSP). Explore a few before committing to a membership:

  • ASCII – Focuses on offering the community exclusive vendor and distributor discounts, marketing assistance, professional networking, knowledge, and advocacy.
  • CompTIA – Facilitates IT communities and councils on relevant topics, conducts research studies, and holds events throughout the year.
  • HTG – Connects leaders in the industry through collaboration, consulting, coaching, and peer group organization.
  • MSPAlliance – Delivers insurance, consulting, certifications, and channel programs.
  • Robin Robins – Offers marketing training, consulting, and business planning to effectively build marketing strategies.
  • Spiceworks –  Answers hot-button IT questions, provides vendor reviews and creates a place for IT pros to learn together.

 
2. Build Relationships
Simply showing up at an event and taking notes isn’t enough. To truly benefit from a community, you need to build personal and professional relationships. From referrals, to gaining authority within the industry, relationship-building is where 50 percent of an MSP’s success is made.
 
Getting to know other business leaders in the channel, including peers, vendors, and community leaders at — and outside of — conferences can make the difference between surviving and thriving in the channel.
 
3. Listen to Learn
As you’re forging new relationships in the channel, make sure you’re not always trying to sell something. Being too ‘salesy’ is a surefire way to quickly make it to top of influencers’ ignore/avoid list. Instead, actively show interest in what the other person is saying by listening to learn rather than just focusing on your pitch.
 
If you don’t fancy yourself a skilled conversationalist, then take a page from Dale Carnegie’s critically acclaimed book How to Win Friends and Influence People: “Be a good listener, and encourage others to talk about themselves.” 
 
Through this process, you’ll discover how much you not only learn about strengths, challenges, and needs within your industry, but also find solutions, insights, and suggestions that drive your business or career forward.
 
4. Be Responsive & Helpful
Relationships are give and take. Do your part to keep your community alive and thriving. When someone approaches you with a question, aim to deliver a quality response within 24 hours or less.
 
Put yourself in their shoes. When a peer or partner requests information, it's typically because it wasn’t easily found or understood. This presents you with the perfect opportunity to save the day with your expertise and, earn some goodwill while also helping a fellow technologist. 
 
The Bottom Line: Strong channel relationships are worth their weight in gold!
 
About the Author
Jennifer Bodell is the Director of Channel at Pax8. She is one of CRN’s Women of the Channel and CRN's Power 100. She was also recently named one of CRN's 100 People You Don't Know But Should