Those selling cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are at the forefront of a changing sales world. Cloud-based deployments of subscription-based solutions that serve enterprises far away from the provider has opened up a world of new ways to make money working directly with clients — and now channel sales is beginning to show its value; offering unique benefits to this unique selling model.
It’s becoming clear that leveraging partners can have some real benefits for those selling SaaS solutions. Partners can bring your SaaS offerings to new customers and new markets, cut down on your need for a full in-house sales staff, and increase your margins by cutting down on the support you have to offer for your solution. But there are potential pitfalls, too, if you approach setting up a SaaS partner program the wrong way.
This quick guide will explain what to do – and what not to do – when setting up your SaaS channel partner program to get the most out of your partner relationships.
Get Ready for the Channel
Creating a channel partner program requires preparation. Figuring out what types of partners you want to sell through, which partners can best present your SaaS solution the way you need them to, and which will work the hardest to make your product a success are all critical to a good partner program.
Building out well thought-out partner personas, determining what you want out of your partners and where you want to sell your solution, and setting yourself up to move through the recruitment process with real intent are the first steps to success.
Do not just put up a form on your website soliciting potential partners. You may find some potentially good partners by casting a wide online net, but you’ll also end up having to spend your time (and money) separating out the fly-by-night operations, the people who aren’t going to help you grow your business, and the people who don’t understand your product or your vision. You want your partnerships to be targeted and strategic, not the product of a completely random application process.
But on the other hand, do not overcomplicate things from the outset. Tiers, rewards, and the like can come later. First, get people onboard and get a feel for what it’s like to work with them.
Recruit, Test, and Monitor
Pick your team. Once you’ve gotten your personas in place and know the kind of partner you want, recruit your partners – and start with people you know. Take a look at your extended network of contacts and find the people who you can trust and rely on to best represent your product.
Start out small. Start out selling with a beta test of the full program with a limited amount of those partners who seem to be the ideal fit. Make sure that you have benchmarks set for how you’ll determine what is working and what isn’t.
See what works. As things get off the ground, monitor. Don’t be afraid to make changes and tweaks to how things are set up – or to pivot entirely – to inspire the kind of selling behavior you’re looking for, and get the corresponding sales that you want.
Now you’ve got your partner program in place. You’ve got solution providers in locations and markets you never could have touched on your own ready to sell installations of your solutions and keep their clients subscribed, adequately supported, and coming back. Don’t let these important relationships die on the vine. Cultivate them. Build them. You can do that through properly communicating.
Ongoing engagement through the right channel communication solutions – one that can facilitate communication between direct and channel sales teams, provide automatic notifications for important developments, and offer dynamic training opportunities that go far beyond just a shared drive full of PDFs – is critical to keeping your channel in the loop, and setting them up to succeed on your behalf.
Above all, make your partners feel like they are part of your team – or, more accurately – make them understand that they are part of your team. Because they are, and when they succeed in selling your SaaS solution, so do you.