Half Steps Lead to Failure
End-of-year business planning is usually fraught with competing priorities. What I’ve learned after more than a decade in executive leadership is that a lack of proper prioritization during Q4 leads to disappointment and failure in the upcoming year. Each member of your sales team will have their own goals and objectives, so channel management teams need to be clear on their priorities for a successful year ahead.
For most channel leaders, the focus of end of year planning falls into these categories:
- Starting a new channel
- Scaling an existing channel
- Tweaking or even overhauling your channel strategy
In this article, we’ll cover the best ways to prepare for these initiatives and how to organize them into a concise plan of action.
Starting a New Channel
For sales and marketing leaders that are thinking about starting channels, having a concise management plan is critical. While you create your channel strategy, you may wind up competing for resources within your organization. Your strategy will be a tough sell unless you have your ducks in a row.
There are the obvious advantages to pursuing channel sales—you’ll be using a fleet of salespeople (who aren’t on your payroll) to sell your product. However, managing channels are far from simple. Correctly forecasting this endeavor is where most companies miss the mark.
Going into channel sales with a “let’s just seeing what happens” attitude and expecting success is a pipedream. Executives are highly focused on ROI and will want to know specific data points before entertaining the idea:
- Company profiles: What type of companies are the best fit for partnerships? Once they become partners, which roles within those companies will you be working with?
• Gather any evidence you have of existing partnerships or companies who have shown interest in partnering. Feedback or requests from our customers for expanded services would fit with specific companies and make the partnership worth it. Prove synergy.
• Demonstrate your understanding of what these companies will gain from the partnership. Map out the benefits or motivations for them. Explain how we’d stack up against (or assist) their competing priorities.
• How many of these companies are there? What’s our strategy to pursue them and create these partnerships?
• Where (if at all) do these companies overlap with ours? How would our offering improve the customer experience or allow for expansion opportunities?
- Partner experience: What will it be like to partner with you currently, and in the future at scale?
• Illustrate what it will be like for companies to partner with you. Detail your organization’s level of effort and strategy for building strong relationships. Also, include what you’ll require from partners to maintain the partnership.
• How will you track partner progress and reward them accordingly?
• How does our partner experience compare to our competition’s partner programs?
• How will we support them with marketing materials, deal support, etc.?
- ROI: What’s the cost of this initiative, and what revenue will result from your efforts?
• Once you’ve gathered enough data from the questions above, you can create a timeframe for recruiting your first few partners. From there, you can test your partner’s journey and adjust as you go.
• What additional resources might you need to see success from your efforts?
• How does this ROI plan compare other competing resources in your organization
For more information on concisely presenting this information, check out our Making a Business Case template.
Scaling an Existing Channel
For companies managing an existing channel program, focus your end of year planning on achieving better results, growing, and strengthening partnerships. The first step in scaling your channel program is to take stock of where you are now. Perform an assessment using a channel audit.
A thorough assessment allows you to see your program’s useful elements and double down on what’s working. Audits allow you to spot bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and areas to improve. An essential element of assessing your channel program is using a partner scorecard to get a clear picture of their performance.
To build a proposal for scaling your channel program, follow these tips:
• Define which partners and company types are most successful.
• Identify which partners or what types of companies bring in the majority of your revenue. This allows you to easily spot other companies that could be a good fit for your partner program. Within your strongest partners, identify the best to work with and aim to strengthen those relationships while seeking them in other potential partners.
• It’s common for companies to know who their best partners are but not necessarily understand why the partnership is successful. If you’re unsure about the relationship’s exact success components, use this QBR template to conduct a business review.
• Identify where your target companies hang out (trade shows, industry journals, etc.) and aim to have a presence there. This allows you to expand your network and meet partners who are a match.
• Get clear on which activities lead to partner success.
• Do you have an effective training program? Identify which parts of your training you could automate. Using platforms like PRM can automate tasks and allow partners to learn on their own time, which allows for scalability.
• How effectively do you and your partners market together? Evaluate the ROI of past marketing initiatives and use the data to create new strategies. Work with the marketing departments on both sides to make useful marketing resources. Ensure that your partners know how to effectively market your product.
• Research competitors’ tactics to inspire your own channel management plan. Pay close attention to their use of automation technology, regional presence, and the number of program participants they boast. If they recruit prospective partners promising cutting-edge efficiencies and a platform with user-friendly interfaces, plan for an uphill battle when attracting and retaining channel partners of your own.
Tweaking Your Channel Strategy
Companies choose to alter their channel management plan for several reasons. Some identify that a different channel ecosystem is a better fit for their business model or industry. They also identify that the original channel plan did not meet goals and expectations.
Changing your strategy is necessary for growth—it’s not a sign of failure. Pinpointing what isn’t working and what the solutions are is critical to future success.
Here are the most common areas companies revisit when altering their channel management plans:
• How accurate was your initial hypothesis on which companies were the best fit? Were you correct about which companies would be most interested in working with you?
• Did your incentives turn out to be enough to motivate partners to behave in ways that boosted business?
• Are the activities and metrics you set forth creating partner success?
• Are your competitors offering a more attractive partner program? Perhaps your competitors are easier to work with, provide better incentives, or leverage PRM software superior to your own.
• This is a great time to reach out to your network of channel leaders. Ask for advice from those that have already made these tough calls and adapted. Check out the Cloud Software Association and Partnership Leaders to meet peers in your industry.
Creating a Business Case for Scaling Your Channel
Creating or scaling a channel program will require the buy-in of other stakeholders in your organization. A business case can be formal or more casual depending on your company.
Regardless of how you present your case, it’s essential to put in the work to create one. Business cases streamline your request and make it as easy as possible to get the resources necessary for initiatives.
• Your business case should include timelines. Map out how long it will take to recruit new partners and help existing partners reach your goals. When asking for resources, illustrate how to complete processes faster with additional people or tools.
• Timing is critical when it comes to ensuring your teams’ reception of your ideas. Be mindful of other significant initiatives underway at the time you present your business case. For example, if your company is making a considerable investment in new networking infrastructure, it takes away the available budget for your channel sales plan.
• Once your plans are underway, don’t forget to track all success metrics and KPIs along the way. Documenting results and long-term ROI allows you to prove your channel sales plan. Logging progress also allows you to properly prepare for future strategies and expand on the business case.
Bottom Line About End of Year Planning for Your Channel
End-of-year channel planning can involve many competing priorities and detract from your goals. Whether you’re just starting a channel program, attempting to scale it, or reworking your existing partnerships, creating a management plan is necessary. Creating a business plan prepares you to present new initiatives and for additional resources. Use Allbound’s free resources on audits and scoring to take stock of where you are in your channel sales journey and make a plan accordingly.
Want to Learn More About How Automation Helps Scale Your Channel?
Allbound’s partner relationship management (PRM) tool allows you to automate partner training, manage MDFs, co-brand, and gain visibility into what’s working all while integrating with your favorite tools. When your business relies on partners, it’s vital to empower them to sell better and more efficiently. Allbound is a flexible SaaS platform that helps any size business recruit, onboard, measure, and accelerate growth through sales and marketing partnerships.
Make every engagement between you and your partners – and between your partners and their prospects – simpler, productive, rewarding and engaging.