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Channel Sales Business Plan and Proposal – Guidelines and Tips

This article will explore the key components of a channel sales business plan and proposal, digging into tips and best practices for each element. Read more below.
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You’ve likely heard of, and maybe even developed, a business plan in the past. Similar to a standard business plan, a channel sales business plan explores the goals, intended strategies, associated costs, and other essential elements of a new project. Channel professionals can use this plan to communicate intentions for your partner program and get buy-in from leadership.

When Should You Create a Channel Sales Business Plan?

A channel sales business plan is essential for gaining buy-in from your leadership team and the rest of your organization. Therefore, it’s essential to develop one prior to first starting your partnership program. This helps leadership understand your goals and the resources you’ll need to achieve them.

Similarly, a channel partner business plan can also be effective for getting buy-in when you’re considering implementing a new strategy. This could involve first involving integration partners, beginning a new co-marketing campaign, or engaging ISVs.

Finally, once you have a program up and running, it makes sense to revisit your channel partner business plan every few years to ensure your goals and initiatives are up-to-date.

What Are the Essential Elements of a Channel Partner Business Plan?

As you develop your channel partner business plan or proposal, there are the key sections you’ll want to include. Depending on your reasoning for developing this plan, you may leave out a few of these sections or focus on one area more. The below descriptions are designed to serve as a guide for what to include when building out your channel partner business plan.

Essential Elements of a Channel Partner Business Plan

Initial Market Analysis

Your initial market analysis section should set the tone for your business plan by painting a picture for whoever is reading. Describe the relevant business landscape right now that makes your partner program make sense.

Explore recent business activities and industry trends that support your efforts. This is an important place to include statistics and studies as well as anticipated upcoming trends. In addition, this section of your channel business plan should briefly discuss the profile of your ideal partners as well as the customers you’ll serve through these partnerships.

Operational and Management Strategies

In this section, you’ll dig into your team and resource needs for accomplishing the plan. It’s essential to include this early on as it’s a vital part of the “ask” involved in a channel partner business proposal. Highlight any new hires, such as a designated CAM to grow the channel.

Specify what involvement you will need from other teams, such as new resource development from Marketing or prospecting calls from Sales. This section should also detail different resources you anticipate using, such as PRM software to streamline and scale management demands as the channel grows.

Goals & Objectives

This portion of your channel sales business plan is all about what you hope to achieve. First, describe the KPIs and OKRs associated with your program. These should be specific and realistic enough to attain. Don’t include stretch goals just to impress your leadership team — focus on achievable milestones that future efforts will build upon.

Ladder the program’s goals to broader sales initiatives to demonstrate how partners can effectively help the company enter new markets, promote new products, and more. This is an important strategy for ensuring cross-functional buy-in and improving collaboration as each team will know exactly how they’re contributing to broader company objectives.

For example, let’s say your company aims to expand into international markets. Your channel sales business plan can highlight how you would nurture strategic partnerships within priority regions, helping them generate traction on an expedited timeline while building brand equity the Direct Sales team can leverage for their own goals.

In another scenario, if your company will soon release a new product, key integrations with channel partners can swiftly generate real-life use cases that can help audiences further understand the technology’s value.

5-year Projections

Explore what the next five years of the program will look like. The early stages of the channel sales plan should be more specific, with the latter stages having broader goals. Your projections should include potential team growth, resource requirements, needs from other functional areas, and anticipated ecosystem growth.

So what are the clear goals? They need to be aligned with the company goals because that will be crucial later on. If you’re running a partner initiative and you have that company goal alignment, then it’s much easier to go to the marketing team and ask for their support. Because if your initiative plays into the company goals they are also trying to achieve, then it should be a win-win situation.
       – Martin Scholz, the Partner Channel Podcast (S2E40)

Competitive Analysis

Building on your initial market analysis, conduct a competitive analysis to explore what others in the industry are doing now. Additionally, look to example partner programs to see what specific tactics helped them achieve success. Use a SWOT analysis to dissect others’ strategies and highlight your opportunities and any threats you may face.

Anticipate Hurdles and Create Strategies to Overcome Them

Your leadership team will not positively respond to a channel partner business plan seemingly written with rose-colored glasses. Acknowledge potential barriers and build the readers’ confidence by outlining solutions with as much specificity as possible. For instance, if a goal is to reach Indian audiences but there is little consumer hunger for the types of products you sell, specify how you plan to collaborate with channel partners to educate audiences about why they need the technology you offer.

Highlight in your business plan any known scenarios in which competitors confronted similar hurdles and found success, underscoring your own likelihood to achieve similar results.

Financial Projections

What will it cost to get your program up and running? What resources will your organization need to invest in? How will you structure commissions for partners and sales reps? Your business plan should explore all the financial aspects of your channel program, including how you anticipate it will make money for your organization and the costs associated with doing so.

When Should You Revisit Your Channel Partner Plan?

It’s a good idea to revisit your channel partner business plan annually. This is a great time to review your actual progress compared to your projections and update your goals, financial forecasts, and 5-year plans accordingly. Take this opportunity to also audit your own operations and partner ecosystem strategy to better understand what is and isn’t delivering results as expected.  

Don’t be afraid to make modifications to your initial business plan. The market and competitive landscape will likely shift over time, and your approach to your channel partner program should remain fluid in response.

Craft a Channel Sales Business Plan That Gets Your Team’s Buy-in

Whether you’re looking to start a channel sales program, expand your ecosystem, or shift your channel’s focus, creating a channel sales business plan is a strong way to communicate your objectives and gain team buy-in. By including your goals, financial projections, and industry research, you’ll demonstrate the benefit of a channel program and communicate what you need from other departments.

Compiling a channel sales business proposal is also a great way to ensure you’ve done all the necessary research to begin a successful program once you gain approval.

Want more helpful resources for growing your channel sales program effectively? Subscribe to the Allbound newsletter for guides on topics like managing channel partners remotely, developing a partner scorecard, and expanding your ecosystem globally. Additionally, we compiled related readings below that can further inform your channel partner business plan.

Additional Articles to Assist With Your Business Plan

Want more helpful resources for growing your channel sales program effectively? Subscribe to the Allbound newsletter for guides on topics like managing channel partners remotely, developing a partner scorecard, and expanding your ecosystem globally. Additionally, we compiled related readings below that can further inform your channel partner business plan.

Channel Partner Marketing Plan Checklist – While a marketing plan and a business plan are two separate strategy documents, it’s rare that one exists without the other or for there not to be cross-references. Use this template to ensure that your marketing plan hits all major talking points and accounts for the nuances that come with brand promotion through channel partners.

Perfect Your Partner Management & Sales Framework – Cooperation with other teams? Check. The necessary technology to build scalable processes? Check. Defined commission structure? Check. This article will help you identify and secure all the necessary components that form your program’s framework and may need inclusion in your channel partner business plan.

40+ of the Best SaaS Partner Programs (and Why They Are So Good) – When thinking of your own channel partner business plan, it’s a good idea to see examples of successful companies. Here, we dive into programs of varying sizes and industries to exact key takeaways from which you can learn.

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