Channel Relationships and Partnerships

Channel Relationships

Paul Eitmant

Developing relationships is important in sales, business, and life. While there is some overlap in how we develop relationships and partnerships, they are not the same. As sales professionals, I think it’s important to be clear about what we are really trying to achieve. More importantly, I think it’s important do understand what our customers are want to achieve.

When I started as a salesman for an electrical wiring device manufacturer, the relationships I formed with distributor inside and outside sales personnel were crucial for our success, increasing sales and profits for both parties. 

As the years flew by and we earned promotions on both sides of the fence, these relationships became stronger. In some cases we were close in forming a partnership.

The Internet gave me the following definitions.

Relationship: the mutual dealings, connections, or feelings that exist between two parties and/or people.

Partnership – a cooperative relationship between people or groups who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal. 

• A relationship created through an expressed or implied commitment 

• Join together to achieve common goal 

• Combine their assets to accomplish the goal

Partnership involves a lot more than just a shared vision, values and goals. We each are committing our time, resources, money, and other things to the success of the partnership. We are sharing the risk. I can’t be successful in this partnership without my partner, and neither can he.

Too often, I think we confuse rich and deep relationships with partnering. We want to develop deep relationships with our customers and we hope they value their relationships with us. But partnering is different. The level of interdependence, the commitment to each other is very great.

We don’t see a lot of true partnerships in the electrical industry. Most distributors/manufacturers simply can’t afford to. It’s not just the financial investment, but also the time and other resources that it takes to make a partnership work. 

Relationships are important; partnering is also important. They overlap in many ways, but partnering requires more than just a relationship.

The one thing that has not changed over the last 40 years is that the distributor salesperson to manufacturing salesperson relationships in every territory across the country are still the backbone for success for both parties. 

The scary thing, however, are those salespeople who want to be our partner, or those who want to develop a deep relationship, when all they really want is the order. 


Paul Eitmant is President and CEO of IP Group International, which serves the needs of business-to-business enterprises in over 30 countries worldwide by adding specialized expertise to the business planning and implementation process; Tel: 480.488.5646;


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