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.

A channel partner strategy is a process that explains the value, method, benefits, and elements of your overall channel partner program. This strategy should be from the partner’s perspective and answer, “Why should I partner with you?” Developing an effective channel partner strategy requires a deep understanding of your target partner from their perspective, including what motivates them, their priorities, and how they make money. It also requires an honest assessment of your own company and how you can best support your partners in achieving their goals. Having a clear understanding of these things will help you to successfully create and implement your own strategy.

Here are 5 tips to get you started:

1. Make sure your partner will want to be one of your channel partners.

As a vendor, your channel partner strategy generally starts because you have a need in one of the following areas:

  • Getting to the mid-market
  • Penetrating a new vertical market or geography
  • Expanding a stand-alone product to be sold with other solutions/services
  • Participating in the ecosystem-driven economy

A partner typically decides to add a new vendor when they need to expand their capabilities for customers, enable a professional services revenue stream, connect to other vendors in an ecosystem, fill a gap, or replace a vendor in their current solution offering. 

Your channel partner strategy will need to answer the partner’s business proposition. The business proposition answers why a partner would want to build a business around your product versus the alternatives and also differs from the customer value proposition. Distinguishing between the partner business proposition and the customer value proposition is an area that many companies do not get right.

2. Ensure your partner program includes the elements important to your partners

Today’s partners know which program elements are essential to their business, such as deal protection/registration, training, access to support teams, and end-user demand generation support. Partners that create their end-user demand will appreciate market development funds too.

What’s most important in your channel partner strategy is that you solidify and clearly explain the policies you will employ within the program. Before launching, make sure you have your “back-office” ready – program policies, process, and escalation points. Partners will move to another vendor if support elements aren’t in place or if they perceive working with you as challenging.

3. Understand how automated your systems are (or aren’t)

It is plain and simple. Partners do not have the time, nor will they take the time, to go looking for information about your solution. Independent productivity is a must for program scalability, which means automation. Often, program management is an afterthought. When a partner works with an average of 15-20 vendors who are all asking for their focus, no systems means no focus. Prioritize your “Channel Technology Stack” based on what you can do today and plan how you will grow your stack to support your strategy. You’ll want to be able to scale your systems around the one common link of the support infrastructure.

You must consider scalable automation decisions from the onset. For example, consider a Customer Relationship Management tool that integrates well with your Partner Relationship Management tool and your Incentive Automation or Demand Generation Platform. Considering long-term scalability will save you time, money, and aggravation.

4. Know the answer to this: “How will you support me as a partner?”

True readiness comes from all levels of your organization (internal and external) and directly affects your channel competitiveness. Before launching your channel partner strategy, here are some considerations to help ensure channel partnering success:

  • Onboarding Program –A comprehensive onboarding roadmap should cover a partner signing on the dotted line to when they are fully proficient and providing sustainable revenues for the business. This could last for 30-90 days or up to 2 years depending on your product or service and your ability to bring partners through your methodology. Regardless, the first 90 days are critical to the long-term success of your relationship. Keep track of success metrics like training completed, new joint account sales calls, deal registrations, and lead generation campaigns.
  • Channel Team Roles and Support – One of the key ingredients your partners are looking for is support. For most companies, that means a sales support role such as a Channel Account Manager (CAM), pre-sales technical support, marketing, and inside sales. All roles must be clearly defined both internally and externally so that partners know who to contact when a need arises.
  • Channel Tools and Resources – Training and enablement are critical to the success of a partner. Be ready to support your partners with technical, sales, and industry knowledge and skills. Consider various resource tools like: sales playbooks, competitive comparisons, 2-3-minute informational videos, and webinars as a few options. Additional access to product documentation, sales collateral, demonstration capabilities, and key leaders in your organization are also essential.

 

5. Clearly define your partner growth strategy

Partners want to understand your channel partner growth and ecosystem strategy. They want to know if you plan to grow slowly and steadily or quickly and haphazardly by adding as many partners as you can. Setting your vision and guiding principles will keep you on track. Determine your plan early – how will you grow a healthy channel? How will you spur interest from partners to join your program? They will want to know if you are 100% channel, mixed (and how you segment that mix), or leveraging partners in only a certain area.

Generally, you want the partners who are interested in selling a vendor offering on value, not just price. If you are recruiting for partner count and not based on the value-add (revenue and support), then you’re spinning your wheels. This strategy does not usually yield results and will only cost you time, money, and loss of focus with your valuable partners.

Understanding your partner’s business model will help you know what partner type will work best for you and how to structure a business proposition that will attract them to your company.

Partners want to work with “Channel Ready” vendors and to know that you are building everything in your company to enable, support, train, market, and transact business through their businesses. This concept of “channel readiness” never ends; it is a constant heartbeat in the rhythm of your business. Applying these principles upfront will save you time and money. 

 

Ready to move to the next level? Hungry to accelerate your channel strategy like never before? Contact AchieveUnite today to learn how we can partner with you to have your best year ever.