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No Easy Button for Channel Sales

Following the precedent set by the last few years, 2023 brings with it no economic guarantees. As channel leaders and CEOs do their best to prepare for a looming unknown, I revisit a specific interaction I had during 2008’s Great Recession. 

At that time, I led a channel program for a venture-backed company. Called into a meeting with my CEO and CFO, I received the question: can we grow our channel revenue? Immediately, my imagination took off with ideas for new resources, co-marketing dollars, co-hosted events, and incentive programs. However, before I could speak, the CFO clarified their request: to grow revenue by 50% while cutting the program’s budget by 20%. He further explained that he saw the channel programs as having easy opportunities for efficient growth. 

As a channel leader yourself, you may field similar conversations in the near future. The CFO’s misconception is widely shared by those unfamiliar with the nuances of managing a channel program. Outsiders often have the view of build it, and they will come, the “it” referring to a portal, and “they” being eager partners. However, channel sales is not a field of dreams.

The hard truth? Efficient ≠ Easy.

Changing the minds and hearts of your senior leadership comes down to education. To help you organize key talking points, the Allbound team compiled a presentation template for you to make your own. Other tips? 

  • Proactively share information with leadership on a semi-regular basis. We recommend presenting some form of the template at least quarterly. Through regular conversations, you can further the leadership team’s appreciation for the program’s potential and coach them on what is (and isn’t) possible.

  • Tell a story with the right data. Revisiting the example of the 2008 conversation I had with my CEO and CFO, I shared with them metrics that proved the partner program had a higher ROI than Direct Sales. More specifically, I tied individual spending decisions to specific outcomes, such as the implementation of quarterly incentives driving higher revenue numbers. This gave the CFO confidence that each dollar spent was necessary for the efficient growth the company desired. 

  • Prove indirect value that furthers the company’s goals. For instance, when talking to my CEO and CFO, I highlighted that partners attended trade shows on our behalf, meaning that our Direct Sales team didn’t have to spend their budget traveling to the event. Think hard enough, and you may be able to find similar cases. Perhaps international partnerships boost the company’s perceived credibility amongst new audiences. Or your partner’s software addresses in-demand gaps in your company’s suite of products, improving customer retention. The more you can demonstrate value outside of direct revenue, the more your leadership will view budgetary requests in a positive light. 

We encourage you to download this presentation template. Additional materials which may be of use:

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