The United States just wrapped up the most successful Olympic games in history with 121 medals and numerous records. If you are like me, you spent your fair share of time in awe, watching the world’s most amazing athletes compete at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. While I will never know the exhilaration of competing at the Olympics, there are so many things we can each learn from these amazing Olympic athletes.
Olympians are not made over night, and neither are successful channel programs. Successful programs require the same considerations: preparation, the right team, dedication, training and analysis. Here are your gold medal channel readiness considerations.
The Preparation: WIIFP – What’s in it for Partner
As a vendor your channel strategy is naturally centered around your company growth and revenue, however, ultimate channel success must include compelling benefits for your partners. The heart of all good channel strategies is a strong partner value proposition, unique partner benefits and realistic partner expectations. These three items are key preparation considerations for a successful channel.
Start by putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. What are their goals? How do they do business? What unique benefits does your product/solution bring to the table? How are you better than your competitors or other vendors? By centering your program around the partner, their success and goals you will be one step closer to channel gold.
The Team: Know Your Partners
With a solid foundation and clear partner benefits the next step is identifying the right partners for your program. Can you identify the key attributes of a successful partner? Do you know who your partners are or who they should be? A crucial component of a strong channel program is having the right partners. This means knowing who the right partners are and strategic recruitment.
Start by identifying your ideal partner attributes. If you are working with partners today look at your successful partners for similarities. If you are starting from scratch consider: technical expertise, vertical market experience, customer install base, complimentary offerings, or regional coverage. Knowing who the right partners are will optimize your partner resources, decrease frustrations and build the right team of channel players.
Dedication: Internal Strategy
Unfortunately, successful channels do not run themselves, they take resources, dedication and support from all areas of the business. Internal support and commitment are foundation pieces to a healthy indirect channel business. Who will manage day to day partner relations? Who owns partner marketing and communications? How do partner sales fit into your sales process? Who owns critical data and integration?
Identifying the “who” in your channel management strategy will ensure your channel strategy can be executed. Michael Phelps didn’t win the men’s 4x100m relay on his own, he had 3 other teammates that each had an important role in the relay. Channel programs are no different, each member plays a critical role in the overall program success. Identifying your channel team members early will spread out the workload, increase efficiency, leverage strengths and drive channel culture through your business.
Training: Partner Game Plan
Once you have assembled your gold medal channel team you can start working on your partner game plan. A winning channel game plan starts with a partner onboarding strategy. Partner onboarding is more than recruitment and approving partners into your program. Successful onboarding strategies include: contracting, partner training, content marketing, demand generation, customer marketing and partner development. Each of these areas requires a detailed plan and ongoing management.
This might sound overwhelming and it can be, but remember you have a team of people with different backgrounds that are invested in the success of your channel to lean on. You likely have a direct sales team that is successfully delivering your solution messaging. Your existing sales team is a great place to start looking for key onboarding components like training and content. Though your partners will bring different expertise and skillsets to the table, understanding your existing training process will provide a great starting point. I am not suggesting that you dump your existing training and content on your partners. Your content and training will need to be “partnerized” to fit the audience.
Developing a 30/60/90 plan for partner onboarding will help you track your partner’s progress. Ideas for your partner onboarding plan could include partner training completion, a partner sales/marketing plan, customer review, goal setting, and a review plan. Taking the time to develop an onboarding plan will set the stage for long term channel success.
Analysis: Measurement & Results
Olympic swimmers and runners know their times right down to a 100th of a second. In channel management it is essential that you track your channel results. Know your numbers. Seek to understand what is working and what isn’t and commit to make adjustments along the way. Wondering what you should measure? Here are a few things to consider: recruitment, training, opportunities/leads, close rates, onboarding progress, and content usage.
Today’s technologies allow for real time reporting across all aspects of the business and channel is no different. If you aren’t tracking your critical channel metrics look for tools to help you do so. Having defined and measurable program objectives will provide you the insight needed to assess your channel, eliminate barriers and duplicate the successes.
With great partner benefits, an #allstar team in place, a detailed partner onboarding process and measurable goals you are well on your way to a successful channel program. But you are not done yet. You must continually review and repeat the process. Just like our Olympic counterparts we must continually sharpen our skills, review past performance and look for areas of improvement.
Raegan Wilson is the Founder of Channel Squared Consulting. She has spent the past 16 years working for and with channel companies and understands the intricacies of indirect sales. Raegan’s specialties include Channel Infrastructure Analysis and Implementation; Channel Program Automation and Design; Partner Enablement Analysis; and Channel Program Optimization.