Managing Your Channel Partner Sales Strategy: 6 Best Practices for Success
Developing an effective channel partner sales strategy is essential for modern sales organizations. Channel partner programs are the key to scaling sales efforts and maximizing revenues. But an ineffective or mismanaged channel partner program can have detrimental impacts on your company’s bottom line and actually hinder your efforts at achieving business goals.
Channel sales strategy programs – implemented and managed effectively – allow today’s growth-driven enterprises to gain market share, increase brand awareness, and remain competitive even in the most saturated niches. Your channel sales strategy program should run like a well-oiled machine, allowing you to focus on strategy and growth rather than putting out fires and managing ineffective partner relationships.
Align Your Strategy to Buyers’ Needs
In an article on LinkedIn, Arif Razvi notes the importance of having a deep understanding of your markets and prospects. When you start with an in-depth knowledge of markets and buyers, you’re better able to predict through which channel a prospect is most likely to purchase your products or services. “Aligning your channel strategy around the buyer is also the best way to ensure that your partners will be focused on the right prospects for your product. This will eliminate wasted time in partners generating leads and opportunities that are not in your sweet spot,” Razvi explains.
Deliver Targeted, Valuable Incentives
Attracting qualified partners isn’t as simple as it once was. Today, partners have a plethora of options available to them, meaning they have more power in selecting vendors offering more attractive incentives. Vendors, on the other hand, are often inclined to keep incentive programs simple to avoid the overhead costs and organizational challenges associated with handling and paying claims for more complex incentive offerings. But by simplifying your incentive offerings, you’re taking the risk of losing potentially valuable partners to your competitors who may offer inferior products but are putting forth the effort to make the incentive structure attractive and valuable for partners.
“What’s needed is a purpose-built channel management solution that provides capabilities for managing complex and/or high-volume incentive programs. The essential capabilities include those which help channel teams to define, operationalize, and assess incentives,” according to a February 2015 white paper from Revitas, Accelerating Revenue through Channels: Eight Best Practices.
Appoint a Channel Sales Champion
A big factor in the success of any channel sales program is supporting your partners. In order to do that well, you need a channel sales champion – someone responsible for the oversight and management of partner relationships who, either solely or through the management of a partner support team, ensures that partners are equipped with the training, tools, and incentives that cultivate the growth of the program and strengthen relationships between your company and your most valued partners. Without this key oversight, your channel program may fall through the cracks and leave partners feeling unsupported and unmotivated.
Couple Strategy with Clear Objectives and Careful Execution and Management
Strategy is important, but it’s difficult to implement without clear objectives, careful execution, and ongoing management. Defining measurable, actionable, and specific goals for your company and your partners sets expectations for both sides of the relationship. Coupled with joint accountability, continuous feedback loops, and ongoing, periodic reviews provides visibility into progress, enables you to identify shortcomings or areas in which your partners require better support, and provides a means through which you can evaluate partner relationships and prioritize your highest-producing and most valuable partnerships.
“Successful programs for partners are not ‘one-size-fits-all,’ so vendors must provide the necessary flexibility for a program to adapt to the profile of a partner,” explains Jim Sullivan, Director of Channel Sales for Kaspersky Lab North America in an article for Channel Marketer Report. “When all these parts fall into place and work together, a mutually successful incentive program for a partnership is realized.”
Product-Partner Fit is as Important as Product-Market Fit
Everyone’s familiar with product-market fit, and that’s a critical piece of the puzzle, but what about product-partner fit? It’s just as important to identify potential partners already offering products your target customers often bundle with products like yours to increase the odds of channel partner sales success. In an interview with Technoport, Jennifer Vessels, CEO of NextStep, a Silicon Valley-based global consultancy, explains, “The best way to determine the sales (and possible channel) strategy that is best for your organization is to talk with your current or potential customers about how they purchase products and services similar to what your company offers.”
The next step, Vessels says, is to “learn about the companies that they either purchase from and / or have existing frame or service level agreements with. Your goal is to identify ways in which your offering can complement the potential partners’ current product line. When your product is offered by the channel partner and / or packaged within their offering you can more quickly and easily acquire customers and leverage in new or existing markets.”
Recognize That Not All Channel Partners are the Same
While it’s important to find the right partner fit, even those partners who closely meet your criteria will have some distinct differences. In essence, your channel partners should be treated as you’d treat a valued customer – providing them with relevant, timely information that incentivizes a desired action. In this case, your goal is to motivate partners to perform and drive revenue, rather than make a direct purchase.
Anna Sophie Gross, in a post for Fielo, suggests using mobile technology to deliver information and making that information available at convenient times. Additionally, content should be tailored and personalized to the unique needs of your partners. “You need to give your channel partners customized offers based on 100 degree data about their tastes, demographic and history,” Gross says. “What has engaged them in the past? Utilize this valuable information to pinpoint the resources, activities, offers and rewards that will stimulate them best – these will ultimately be your path to success.”
Channel sales strategies are the lifeblood of many modern sales organizations that need to tap into a multitude of resources to expand their reach and scale growth, but these programs are only as effective as they are well-managed. Purposefully identifying valued partners, developing clear goals and objectives, and continuously measuring results while cultivating and supporting partner relationships result in a productive channel program that supports company goals and boosts the bottom line.
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