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 sales strategy is a document and process explaining the value, method, benefits, and elements of your overall partnership program. It should be from the perspective of the partner and essentially answer the question of, “Why should I partner with you?” Your channel strategy can be the best in the industry but if it doesn’t include consideration of the partners’ perspective, most likely you won’t get your desired outcomes. Your channel partners are running a business with many of the same challenges you face and when they decide to add a new vendor to their portfolio, they have very specific questions to make sure the investment in their resources will have high ROI. Partner-ready channel strategies should address these concerns because this is what they will be asking you. Here are 5 tips when it comes to documenting your own channel sales strategy:

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

As a vendor, your channel 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 being sold with other solutions/services
  • Enabling a company that isn’t set up to sell direct

When a partner decides to add a new vendor it’s often because they are looking to fill a gap in their solution offering, looking for an alternative to their current vendors, change to ones that will offer better financial outcomes, or open up access to a market they are attempting to get into. Your channel strategy will need to develop and answer the partners Business Proposition. The business proposition answers why a partner would want to make the investments required to sell your offerings and build a business around your product versus the alternatives. It should be based on their perspective in the benefit and offerings. It is different than the customer value proposition but does have some overlap with it. This is also a key place that many companies do not get right until they have spent 6-12 months in trial and error (just giving it to you straight here).

2. Ensure your channel 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 gen support. Partners that create their end-user demand will appreciate market development funds too.

What’s most important in your channel sales strategy is that you solidify and clearly explain the policies you will employ within the program to implement your strategy. Make sure you have your “back-office” ready related to program policies, process, and escalation points before you launch. Partners will move on to another vendor if the support elements aren’t in place, or if they perceive you to be challenging to work with.

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

Plain and simple, partners don’t have the time, nor will they make the time, to go looking for the information. To allow for scale in your program, independent productivity is a must, which means automation. Often, deciding how the programs will be managed is an afterthought. When a partner works with on 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 build how you will grow your stack in your strategy.You’ll want to be able to scale your systemsaround the one common link of the support infrastructure.

It’s important to make automation decisions from the onset that will grow with your success. For example, consider a Customer Relationship Management tool that integrates well with your Partner Relationship Management tool, and yet further integrates with Incentive Automation or Demand Generation Platform from solid companies that will be around for the long term. Taking these factors into consideration can save you time, money, and aggravation as your channel strategy and programs scale with success.

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

Several internal aspects need to be addressed to ensure your company is ready to support your partner’s sales efforts. True readiness comes from all levels of your organization and directly affects your channel competitiveness. Before launching the channel strategy, here are some considerations to help ensure channel success:

  • Onboarding program –A comprehensive onboarding roadmap should cover from when a partner signs on the dotted line, to when they are fully proficient and providing sustainable revenues for the business. This could last for 30-90days, or up to 2 years depending on your product or service and the ability to which you bring partners through your methodology. Regardless, it is imperative that you properly engage and onboard your partner in the first 90 days. Keep track of success metrics like key training completed, new joint account sales calls, deal registrations happening and current lead generation campaigns.
  • Channel Team Roles and Support – One of the key ingredients your partners are looking for is in support.For most companies that means a sales support role such as a Channel Account Manager (CAM), pre-sales technical support, marketing and insides sales too. The key is ensuring the roles are defined and the partners understand who to contact when the 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 tolls like; sales playbooks, competitive comparisons, 2-3-minute informational videos and webinars as a few options. Additionally, 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 partner growth strategy. They want to know if you plan to grow steadily and controlled through authorizations and certifications or the more shotgun approach of adding many partners. Typically, that will produce little more than frustration amongst your partners. Determine your plan early, how you will grow your channel tokeep healthy,and how you’ll 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, the partners you want are interested in selling a vendor offering on value, not just price. If you’re recruiting just to up your partner count and not on the value they can bring (revenue and support) then you’re spinning your wheels. In the end, that kind of strategy doesn’t usually yield results and will only cost you time, money, and valuable partners.

It’s important to define the right partner types and develop a targeted profile. Understanding your partner’s business model will help you understand what type of partner will work best for you and how to structure a business proposition offering that will attract them to your company.

Partners want to work with “Channel Ready” vendors and want 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. If you apply these principles upfront, you will save time, money, and profit with building your channel model.

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.