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Getting Channel Ready: Building Indirect Sales Channels in the Subscription Economy
May 11, 2017
Getting Channel Ready: Building Indirect Sales Channels in the Subscription Economy


indirect sales

As SaaS and the cloud increasingly creep into every nook and cranny of today’s businesses, technology companies are being forced to implement more innovative ways to stick out in a crowded market—to differentiate, establish a thriving customer base, and embed themselves into the way people work.

So where are they turning? Well, from large enterprises to the scrappy startups, channel partnerships have once again become one of the most critical strategies for businesses who want to scale quickly and efficiently. And for good reason: Strong channel programs allow companies of all shapes and sizes get their solutions to massive, diverse businesses far outside of their usual reach while spending less. And who’s crazy enough to argue against that?


If you’re a SaaS company (or any business in the subscription economy, for that matter) building a channel partner program isn’t as difficult (or expensive) as you might think—even from the ground up. Follow our guidance to set yourself up for indirect sales success.

1. Find the Right Partners

Obviously, not every software platform suits every need, and not every SaaS solution has a place in every office environment. By that logic, it follows that not every partner you come across has the ability to get your solution into the hands of a client who needs it. For far too long, we’ve seen partner programs focused on quantity rather than quality, thus resulting in situations wherein only 10% (or less) of a company’s channel partners are generating 80% (or more) of its channel revenue. Today, that’s simply not acceptable nor affordable. In fact, it’s no different than a business who has 80% of its revenue coming from only 10% of its customers, which is otherwise a recipe for disaster.

That’s why, as you dive into partner recruitment, approach the search strategically. Start by identifying the qualities in a partner whom you’re interested in working with (aka, a partner persona). Does a partner have a specific strong suit or work with clients in a particular area in which your solution can solve a problem? Look for partners who are a match. You can also explore tools that can match you with prospective solution providers who meet your needs.

And of course, it’s not just “qualities” but also proven quality that you need in a partner. Look for ones who will promote and implement your solution effectively as well as add value to your channel sales ecosystem.

2. Offer Support

Partnering is about more than just what you get out of the relationship; it’s also about the value you can provide to your partners and the individual people who make up the business. Their success and their clients’ success is, after all, your success. Facilitating partner success takes insight and effort on your side of the partnering equation as well as the use of the right tools to direct that effort.

A partner sales acceleration tool that offers a convenient gateway through which you can maintain an ongoing discussion with your partners to assess their needs, track and evaluate their successes, and help guide them in the right direction is one of the most important things to have in place when you’re selling through channel partners.

As you scale, providing targeted educational resources—and even certification—is another way to help your partners succeed on your behalf. You can also start thinking about tools and methods to help guide your partners through the sales process, such as automating the delivery of strategic playbooks as deals are registered or referred.

Just as a partner sales acceleration tool can facilitate the kind of collaboration and communication necessary to a mutually beneficial relationship, it can also allow you to disseminate such resources in a way that allows your partners to quickly and conveniently make use of them.

3. Communicate in Real Time

If you’re selling SaaS or a cloud solution, there’s no doubt you understand how important constant connectivity is to your success. Just like your solution always needs to be available for users, your channel partner program always needs to be available to your partners for communication and collaboration. In the 24/7 business cycle, partners need to be able to communicate customer concerns, new potential deals, and other business-critical developments right when they happen.

A solution that allows you to communicate with partners in real time can prevent potential conflicts, people talking past each other, dropped information, and other forms of confusion that can frustrate business and prevent you all from profiting together.

4. Customer Success: It’s Not an Afterthought!

If your partners are implementing, managing, and supporting your solution for your shared clients, it’s critical that you provide them with the tools and resources to represent your product correctly. Often, it’s your brand name the client sees on the screen, and it’s your functionality they’re taking advantage of. So if you’re dealing with a partner who’s giving sub-par service due to misunderstood expectations, not only are you going to see churn, but your reputation is also going to suffer.

That’s why today partner onboarding isn’t just a matter of sending out an email with links to documents for your partners to meander through. You have to have the tools in place that make it easy to get partners up to speed as soon as they join your partner program. You can disseminate training materials and content to partners and track their interactions to make sure they’re set up for success. Just remember, when your subscription revenue, customer success, and ultimately your brand’s name are dependent on your partners’ abilities to provide ongoing value to your shared customers, you better not leave them on an island to figure it out on their own.

5. Take the Next Steps for SaaS Channel Success

Once you have the right partners onboarded and have enabled them to do their best on your behalf, it’s time to think next steps. So build these relationships and strategies carefully and thoughtfully. As your subscriptions begin to grow, continue to manage, support, and tweak your channel.

Daniel Graff-Radford
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