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Greg Goldstein, Senior Director of Global Channel Sales and Development for ON24, joins me, Jen Spencer, to discuss mid-market and enterprise consulting partners, business planning for channel managers, partner exit interviews, and more on this episode of The Allbound Podcast.
You’ve helped build some pretty phenomenal channel programs over the years; you have mentioned Sage, Sugar, Act-On. So when you first join a software company with that goal of either creating or further developing a channel program, where do you start?
There are a lot of ways to approach this, and I think everybody who’s been in channel will look at it from a different perspective. There are five buckets that you want to look at.
First is, what’s the market for that opportunity? What’s the market for that platform? Is it a market that is on a growth curve, is it in a maintenance curve, or is it in a downswing? It’s a crucial point when you question, can a channel be built successfully around the product or services that the publisher is going to market with?
Number two, fit for the partners. Is it a technology or a solution that the partners in your ecosystem aren’t easily adaptable to? The market that I fit into are partners around business applications, CRMs, ERPs, marketing automation, those consulting firms that are out there to solve the problem for their consumers. So that’s the second thing; is there a fit for a partner channel for that service?
Third is what is the current ecosystem of that channel? So if you’re talking about webcasting or marketing automation or CRM, what’s the channel like? Is there a robust channel? Is it a product that’s in demand, that partners realize they want to exploit those needs in the marketplace? Is there a fit in the ecosystem for that product?
Fourth is partner profitability. Does the product or service provide the partner with a revenue stream not only in product sales but also in consultative services? These are businesses like all other organizations that have to profit, and they have to be able to utilize their staff to be profitable. Some products have a very low cost point, but a high services rate. Other products have a really high price point but very little services. You have to weigh margins and consultative services to really determine, is this a good fit for a partner?
And fifth, which to me is one of the most important ones, is partner commitment and organizational commitment. Is the publisher committed to the success of a channel? If you have an organization, and ON24 has absolutely opened its arms to this new concept of building out a new partner channel, are they committed to doing this? Building a channel is not a one-quarter or two-quarter event, it’s a marathon. And a marathon has many steps. It’s enablement, it’s recruitment, it’s onboarding, it’s building a strategy that helps partners be effective. But also, are partners committed to this? Do the partners understand or need to be educated that their consumers need that product or service? Do they need it? If they don’t need it, do they need to be educated as to why they need it? There are a lot of partners that look at products and say, “You know what, that’s too far ahead of the adoption curve from my install in customer base.” That’s another component that you also have to consider. Where in the adoption curve is that product or service?
What do you think is the biggest challenge for sales professionals overseeing a channel program? What do you see is the greatest opportunity for those same leaders?
The challenges and opportunities are the same, it’s the same coin, opposite sides. I always try to do personal business development with my top partners and those partners that raise their hands. I’m a big fan of old-school SWOT: strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat. I really think not enough channel sales people, channel managers, channel leadership really understand where the partners are in their specific lifespan of their consulting firm. So when you say challenges, I’d probably say understanding what the partners are actually looking to achieve from their own perspective. As a channel leader, I know what my company’s looking to do. I know exactly what I am trying to do, build an effective selling machine that is self-sufficient and competent.
Okay, so challenges, there’s a lot of lackadaisical attitude in channel today and I don’t personally understand it. I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve seen the most effective channels flutter when the day-to-day business development requirements are taken away from channel sales people. The channel needs to be understood, listened to, and when they have an issue or there’s a gap in their go-to-market strategy, they need to be addressed. So I would say, the education from a channel sales perspective as to what each individual partner needs to be successful is, in my opinion from a business development standpoint, a big challenge today.
Why do you think there’s inertia in the channel?
Competency breeds confidence. I think today there’s been a move from, in some areas, from publishers to not bring in people that have strong business backgrounds to manage partners. I think that is where the latency in success is happening. You have channel sales people that don’t take their role seriously. They don’t understand the fact that they need to know business, they need to know business development, they need to know marketing, but on top of it all, they need to know the product that they sell. I can tell you numerous experiences where I’ve been at publishers where the channel person did not know their platform. I’m sorry, you can be a business development person, you can be a channel marketing person, you can have the best business strategy concepts in the world. But if you can’t sit there and have at least an advanced sales rep’s skillset around the platform you’re selling, you’re going show weakness to the channel partner.
To learn more about running a successful agency partner program, tune in to episode 16 of The Allbound Podcast.