Keith Lubner, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Channel EQ, joins me, on The Allbound Podcast to discuss determining company readiness for building a channel, and common pitfalls to avoid once your channel exists.
Is it the customers that are driving the changes you’ve seen in the channel and causing these organizations to look ahead as opposed to always looking behind?
That’s a great question. Customers are a part of it, but really the root cause of it is technology itself. Technology is allowing a couple of things to occur. Number one, especially in the SaaS space environment you’re looking at a complete seismic shift in the way customers are buying now, and the customer journey is a lot different than it was years and years ago. What that is causing a lot of channel organizations to have to do is to change themselves and be more adaptable to the customer and their journey; and the journey is different than it was before. Customers are going into more pilots now and they're going into more smaller projects and they are able to execute a lot faster. Customers are also able to get to a lot of information around a vendor and their offerings easier than before. Now that vendors have lost a lot of control they need to - especially from a sales perspective - adapt to the environment of that customer. The problem is that there’s a huge gap in skills. There’s a gap in skills from what they were years and years ago from being static or being reactive, to what they have to be now and being adaptive.
A lot of our podcast listeners don’t have partner programs yet. How do you determine if and when a company is ready to build a channel partner program?
That’s a really interesting question. What we talk a lot about is triangulating the truth, it’s a mouthful, triangulating the truth around three primary areas. Number one the technology has to be rock solid. Technology has to be rock solid because people can bring technology to market a lot sooner than ever, ever before, so you need to compete. And if you need to compete for the mindshare of a partner it's really critical that this technology is good. Number two is commitment, you need to have absolute commitment from the executives in order to make all of this happen. If you have that commitment then the executives are going to make the strategy and bring the strategy through a lot easier than you ever could. And then the third area is primarily around investment. This is one of the most critical ones, so if you have the first one checked off, great, if you have the second one checked off that’s very important because commitment from executives to make anything happen is important, but the third area, investment, is really where the rubber meets the road. The company needs to be willing to invest in the systems, the processes, and most importantly - from our viewpoint is - in the skillsets to make the channel happen. You can have the best product in the world, and you can have executives saying “yeah we are committed to doing this” but it’s the investment they’re not willing to make. If they’re not willing to make the investment the channel will progress very, very slowly and just won’t happen. So, those three things are really what we see as critical. We call it triangulating the truth; if you check off those three points of the triangle then your chance of success goes up tremendously.
What are some of the mistakes you see executives make in the channel? What are some of the pitfalls that our listeners can try to avoid?
Focus on systems, the processes and the people. The lessons are always keep an eye on those three particular things. Make sure you have systems, make sure you put the processes around the systems, make sure you have people aligned with the processes and the systems. If you keep an eye on those three things you’re fine. What happens is the eye is taken off of one of those three things. So for instance, we see people go into implement systems and they put processes around that and then they expect their people to operate efficiently; and it never happens that way. They don’t train their people, they don’t get it up and running, they don’t enable them effectively. And then you can say the same for people. They get people that are rock stars when it comes to the channel, and they understand it, but they don’t put the process and the systems in place to help support them. They expect them to go out there and magically build the whole thing. So the mistake to avoid is taking your eye off of any of those three components.
To learn more about creating a partner program from start to success, tune in to episode 12 of The Allbound Podcast.