AchieveUnite’s Discovery Series is a back-to-basics approach to strategy aimed at helping you learn fast, move quick, and get to market faster than you thought possible.

I can remember when I was the new channel chief for a long-standing technology company. It was my job to lead the development of the company’s channel strategy for the next wave of business products.  Naturally, I started working on my own level of discovery information through understanding the current situation, talking to key stakeholders, the channel team and our partners. Most of the discussions were based on what didn’t work or the limitations within the company. New ideas were met with “go ahead and try it but it’s not going to work.” I decided to step back and think about how best to get everyone out of the old way of thinking so they could open their minds to new approaches for our channel strategy. Based on previous experience I knew if I brought in a consultant they would:

  • Offer a fresh perspective on the current situation
  • Remain objective yet come in with a results mentality
  • Increase our speed to deliverability
  • Have insight into best practices and ideas

Here are some things I learned in hiring a channel strategy consultant, both before, during, and after.

Hiring a Channel Strategy Consultant: Start Broad and Then Narrow Down

Once the decision is made to hire a consultant, it’s time to choose the right one. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making your decision of who to hire.

  • Research online through Thought Leadership content and websites. Get to know the consultant or firm you’re considering talking to and look for a fit not only with their results but in their values and approach to the working relationship as well. Watch their videos!
  • Industry events are great for getting a chance to see who’s out there and where they have their expertise. Often, consultants will speak at these events so make sure you attend their sessions and hear what they say. It’s also a great chance to meet them face to face and start developing a relationship to see if they’re a good relational and cultural fit.
  • Word of mouth from your industry peers is immensely valuable. It’s highly likely that your peers in other companies have worked with at least one or two consulting company and have a contact or connection that can make for you. Be sure to listen to your peers when they tell you about how that engagement went and where they may have encountered any friction or issues.

Hiring a Channel Strategy Consultant: Seek out Channel Specialization

it’s essential that you make sure the consultancy you’re considering has channel as their primary focus (not an afterthought). I’ve worked with consulting companies that had a dedicated person focused on channel consulting, but the rest of the company specialized in other areas. It’s best to look for consulting companies that have one focus (the channel) and have built their practice and client list around that. Make sure it’s what they do and what they know. When you meet with these companies consider:

  • Does it seem like a good fit? Do you feel you have a good rapport? Do they truly understand what you are looking for as an outcome? Do you think you’ll enjoy working with them? If any of these questions are no, then keep looking. They can all be experts but if you don’t like or respect who you’re working with, it’s likely you won’t respect their results.
  • Do they work with similar companies? Is their client roster full of brands you respect as channel companies? Do they work with a wide range of companies in size and technology type? Their expertise should be the work they’ve done in the IT channel, but they don’t need to be experts in your specific area of tech. Their channel expertise will demonstrate a good understanding of the types of partners and programs that will be most effective for your business.

Hiring a Channel Strategy Consultant: Know What You’re Getting

As you narrow down the options or are close to engaging with a particular firm, be sure that you are fully aware of what you’re going to get as part of this engagement, what it will entail, how the pricing is structured, and how long it will take. There are two primary documents to take the time to review before locking in a deal with anyone. They are:

  • Non-Disclosure Agreement. This is a must-have and should be completed after the initial discussions and before you go into great detail of what and why you need help. You’ll want to give the consultant/firm enough information so that they can understand the full scope of what you need. Ensuring an NDA is in place will allow for transparency in what is really needed to develop the detail of what is included in the proposal and expected outcomes.
  • Statement of Work (SOW). This is the outline everyone will work from for final delivery. The SOW should be detailed enough for everyone to understand the process and steps that will take place and include a project timeline for the development of your final deliverables. Generally, SOW’s are laid out in phases or steps like the chart below.

Consultants can get a bad rap because everyone has a story of a consultant that didn’t deliver what they wanted or there wasn’t someone in the company to drive the implementation to see it through.  Reputable consultants will let you know if they aren’t the right fit and probably refer you to a company that’s a better fit. When you select the right channel strategy consultant for your company, you’ll get objective information and feedback and work together to develop your strategy and allow you to implement to success. Depending on the consultants’ business structure, they can help with the implementation too.

In today’s world of networking and access to information, channel strategy consulting companies want the same thing you want, a successful strategy that leads to profitable outcomes.

Looking for a Channel Strategy Consultant? Need a team who lives and breathes channel to help your organization get its strategy, automation, and execution in place? AchieveUnite is here to help. Let’s connect!