Is channel readiness really that important? 

Absolutely! It can dramatically impact the time it takes partners to ramp to revenue. 

But what is channel readiness? And how do you know when you have it?

Readiness is relative – meaning that one size does not fit all partner types within an ecosystem. The best channel-led companies start with the partner at the core of their sales and support processes with specific mechanisms to capture the voice of the partner. Understanding how partners work and how to speak to them in their language is the foundation of partner readiness.

Average new product adoption and ramp time for the indirect channel ranges from weeks to many months. Therefore, to accelerate ramp to revenue, we must fully understand channel readiness and how to put readiness standards in place. The common misconception is that channel readiness is just about the channel partners. However, as we learned many years ago from Rohner & Associates, there are three dimensions to channel readiness, all of which are very important for the product, marketing, and sales teams to embrace.

  • Is the product or service market-ready? Just because you launch a product doesn’t necessarily mean it is market-ready.
  • Is the product channel-ready? You mean there’s a difference between market-ready and channel-ready? You bet!! Hint: Business proposition.
  • Is the channel ready for the product? This is beyond your standard sales enablement.

So, let’s break this down. 

#1 – Is the product market-ready? 

This section provides your basic product marketing launch readiness list. 

  • Clear target market segments and ideal customer profile
  • A clear value proposition 
  • Product completeness – functioning as promoted with lighthouse customer success stories
  • Competitive position and considerations
  • Availability to buy – pricing for all regions, order process in place, implementation requirements documented
  • Product sales & technical training content
  • Pre and post-sale operational processes ready – sales support & product support 

Market-ready products are more attractive to channel partners as they can leverage the market demand and create the needed profitable differentiation to grow revenue.

#2 – Is the product channel-ready? 

All the elements in the market-ready list are baseline requirements for channel readiness. Partners of all types are usually lean, mean selling machines. They not only want but need the ability to “serve themselves” with ready-to-go content, training, sales tools, and marketing material PRIOR to a product launch. This can be a daunting deliverable in an era of rapid release product cycles. All departments are driving hard to hit their respective launch schedules. All too often, the channel is the last consideration, and we find ourselves out of sync and scrambling to complete the needed launch materials to ensure that the product is, in fact, channel-ready.

What’s in it for the partner?

The answer can differ considerably by partner type and is more than simply “another great product in the portfolio.” Keep in mind that all the teams within a partner business have their own objectives that they are focused on and may not have the mind share or time cycles to absorb “another great product in the portfolio” without some added information and motivation. Now, motivation can take various forms. It can be as simple as easy to find content on the partner portal. How often have partners told you that they can’t find the material they seek? The easier it is for the partner to access your content, the more partner mind shares you can capture. 

While financial rewards are paramount, access and self-service are key elements to providing a great partner experience. Standard partner discounts and terms might be enhanced during the launch promotional period. I have not yet met a partner who says they have too much margin, but the business proposition is so much more than just margin. When planned before the launch by product teams, partner profitability can be enhanced. Cost offsets, extended terms, short-term margin enhancement, and plug-and-play marketing campaigns are good elements to include in your pre-launch channel readiness checklists.

#3 – Is the channel ready for the product? 

Let’s look at this from two perspectives: the channel as a body of independent sellers and the individual partners within that body. When considering the population of partners and the different partner types, can you be sure of the market coverage you need to bring the new product out and meet sales objectives? Being able to spot coverage gaps or over-saturation can mean the difference between a revenue ramp of weeks versus months. The old 80:20 rules apply here as well. Take a good look at your coverage profile and develop your launch playbook to fit your needs. 

Train, train, train, and train some more. A single training webinar will not suffice for most partner organizations. And yet many companies have a “one and done” attitude about partner training. Wherever possible, employ role-based training to enable your partners to go to market and win. These are the basic roles you will need to build training content for:

  • Product management team
  • Sales teams
  • Pre and post-sale technical teams
  • Marketing team

Using your partner portal for training access allows you to track compliance for each partner. A good standard is to train your direct and indirect sellers with most of the same material. This ensures consistency and prevents unwanted surprises in the sales process. 

Lastly, will your channel partners be able to actively market the new product? You can build amazing campaigns-in-a-box for new product promotion, but if the partner is not ready to use them, you will not get the traction you need. Partner account managers and partner marketers in all regions should be able to determine whether a partner is ready to actively market. If they are not, then they are not ready for the product.

Operationalizing channel readiness standards can have a measurable impact on partner experience and, most importantly, on channel time to revenue. These approaches and requirements to channel engagement live throughout the company, not just with the channel-facing functions.

Building a channel? Learn more about AchieveUnite’s Channel Acceleration Bootcamp (CAB) designed to help you deliver a unique channel strategy that fits your business needs and drives value for your partners.