In our work with channel organisations around the world, we encourage channel segmentation into three categories: Achievers, Believers, and Deceivers. Many organisations find these designations useful for highlighting future potential instead of judging channel partners based solely on their past performance. The key is to focus resources on those distribution partners who want to succeed and are willing to do what it takes but still need you to show them how. These are the Believers.

However, as a colleague of mine and I were discussing the concept, we decided the description might be too limiting.

In previous posts, we’ve suggested that channel managers should let Achievers, those partners that seem to have reached the pinnacle of performance, run on autopilot so that the channel manager has time to develop the Believers. While that’s still generally a good rule, there is a special group of Achievers that might actually be better classified as Believers.

These are the top performers with even bigger plans. Just because they are in the top 10 percent or even in the top 1 percent of your revenue producers, doesn’t mean they’ve reached the pinnacle of their definition of success. They might want to add a new office in another country, double their sales volume, drop your major competitor and focus exclusively on your solution, or add a new vertical. Whatever their goals, don’t let your satisfaction with their past performance hold them back.

Unlike many of your channel Achievers, these partners are not on autopilot, so don’t treat them as if they are. Do business planning with them, find out what their goals are, and assuming they are aligned with your corporate strategy, do what you can to support them. Achievers that are really Believers are the best partners you can have. They already know what success tastes like, and they want even more of it. This is the time of year when channel leaders and channel managers start planning for next year. One critical element of planning is to assess partner performance and potential to determine where you should apply your always-limited resources.

So, ask yourself: Are your achievers really believers?