Raise your hand if you've ever bought into the Field of Dreams fallacy: build it, and they will come. Unfortunately, this is how too many suppliers treat their channel sales and marketing efforts. Here's the thing. Nobody knows your product better than you do, and the sooner you take steps to effectively transfer that knowledge to your partners, the sooner you’ll reap the rewards in the form of substantial sales volumes.
Better approaches are within reach. Leading suppliers are already leveraging cloud technology and modern marketing techniques to grow, leverage and accelerate their channel ecosystems.
Here’s what you can learn from those leading edge channel businesses:
Get Partners Started – Fast
The key here is to start. You’ve lived by the status quo long enough, and waiting to launch the perfect channel strategy will have you wasting away into channel irrelevance.
Very rarely do channel programs emerge perfectly formed right out of the gate. Instead of taking the time to craft the ideal program, focus on exactly those things that a new partner needs to get started. Develop a solid and robust channel quick-start kit that can engage partners immediately.
You’ll soon recognize that your newly formed partnerships all operate differently and will thus require varied levels of tailored attention over time. As you progress, you can segment your partners and evolve your program in response to your partners' needs, and vice versa.
Get Partners Help – Quickly and Effectively
Partners inevitably will need your help. Think about all the points of interaction throughout the buyer’s journey where your partners come to rely on you. Ask yourself what common challenges exist and find a solution to deliver answers in a commonly accessible, seamless way.
There are several components of a channel solution that many top-rated suppliers have found to be invaluable, even indispensable:
A searchable knowledge base that allows partners to easily help themselves
Escalation to web, or even video support
Immediate phone & field support when the situation calls for it
Some of these channels will grow organically over time, but some will require consideration to the relative impacts across your tech infrastructure and extended channel teams.
Get Collaborative – Enable Cross-channel, Cross-medium Interactions
While it’s important to be available to partners when they need help, more and more companies are finding that they need to proactively get involved in channel sales opportunities. Just as your direct teams has an SLA for managing the gap between marketing and sales qualified leads, you should put time and effort into defining a channel qualified lead. Then create a process to pull in your supplier channel resources to collaborate on those opportunities and aid them through to close.
Educate your own sales staff to collaborate deeply with your partners at every level, from channel managers, to sales engineers and rank-and-file salespeople. If you really stop to think about it, your channel partners are a virtual extension of your own sales team – and sales process. Define your buyer’s journey in a way that includes channel touch points. Create points of collaboration along the way so that no opportunity gets missed.
Get Strategic – Leverage Data On Both Sides of the Partnership
Business has long been about making decision on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The difference in 2016 is that this data comes so quickly, and in such comprehensive form, that you can react in seconds, instead of weeks or months.
Best of all, this data can be shared with your channel partners to quickly devise strategies for mutual business gain.
In essence, almost every sales action you or your partners perform creates data that can be translated into business insights:
Analyze your channel's KPIs on optimization and efficiency
Diagnose, prioritize, and react to trends and issues
Make decisions on the fly with meaningful data as the guide
The best channel organizations make these insights accessible to executives and decision-makers on both sides of the channel equation. Data visibility and accessibility can result in unsurpassed synergy and channel success.
The icing on the cake, of course, is a channel platform that's intuitive and dynamic. When your partners can view data, sales material, and communications from you in a visually pleasing platform that's easy to navigate, everyone's happy – not to mention more productive.
And with productivity hitting record lows not seen in decades, maintaining an energetic sales momentum is what will keep you on top.