Changing the Channel Game

[fa icon="calendar"] Nov 28, 2018 10:54:51 AM / by Chris Becwar

Chris Becwar

Business leaders can shift the trajectory of their companies by adjusting how they approach partnerships.

It should be no surprise to most C executives that indirect channel revenue is a huge percentage of today’s global economy across sectors. In fact, according to Forrester, 75% of world trade flows indirectly.

However, most companies struggle to maximize the revenue opportunity that the channel presents, typically because it’s foreign territory and team members are more tuned in to the traditional direct selling models they are more familiar with.

With the continuing growth of online and subscription-based business models, the way supplier companies go to market through partners is quickly evolving. But the importance of partnerships to business success is as high as ever.

Consider for example the tremendous market dominance and barrier to entry that Cisco, Salesforce, HP and Microsoft have enjoyed against their competitors with their global networks of solution providers, consultants, distributors, ISV partners, and retailers. Or the impact partner relationships have had for younger companies like Snowflake and AvidXchange in quickly ramping revenue in new ‘greenfield’ spaces they are creating.

This new era of partnering presents a huge opportunity for businesses that can fully leverage the potential of cutting-edge technology to engage and enable channel partners in a powerful yet cost- effective way.

1. Outperform the competition in today’s ‘partner engagement wars’

Desirable partners – who can effectively market, sell and support supplier offerings in a modern way - are getting harder to find, and are increasingly ‘free agents’ with an average of 20 supplier partners vying for their attention (PartnerPath). In parallel, there are a lot more supplier companies vying for mindshare of partners and distributors. Thus how well you engage partners vs your peers increasingly decides whether you will grow channel revenue or not.

2. Tackle the partner engagement problem

  • Lack of partner engagement is the ‘silent killer’ of channel success. You can have the right product, the right team, offer the right margins…but if you’re not using everything in your power to engage partners and stay top of mind, you’ll get forgotten and underutilized by your partners.
  • But staff overhead requirements can make a channel program cost prohibitive if it means that every partner needs a human touch for everything.

3. Make it easier for partners to make money

As an executive, it’s critical to be asking the Partner and Product teams: ‘is what we’re offering, and how we are supporting their ability to sell us, truly making it easier for partners to make money than their other options? In essence, are we ‘channel friendly?

If you don’t make it easy for them to get enabled and make money, they will quickly switch to the suppliers that do. ‘Ease of doing business’ was cited as the number 1 factor to how partners choose to work with.

So in addition to making sure your product is channel friendly, be sure to leverage modern technology to automatically ensure the right partner is presented the right tools and enablement at the exact right time it’s needed. Otherwise, studies show that most of the enablement resources and programs you create will tend to go unnoticed and unused.

4. Deliver a ‘frictionless’ engagement experience

As is the case with a customer’s buying journey, each stage of a partner’s ‘journey’ with you - from entering the program to successfully closing business on your behalf – is fraught with risk and distractions.

Every time a partner encounters an obstacle to successfully understanding, marketing and selling your offerings is a risk point that can send them off course and out of the ‘joint sales funnel’.

Using technology to eliminate those friction points means a lot more partners making it through to successfully closed sales for you.

5. Team up to help partners easily close deals

Effective deal collaboration is key to success with partners. Use technology to give your partner managers – and their partners, real-time, shared visibility to how joint deals are progressing, more easily identify what next steps are what friction points and inefficiencies exist, and where their limited collaboration time is best spent.

Without that, partner reps will be prone to spending too much time on lower value, administrative duties and with helping the wrong partners at the wrong times.

6. Achieve shared success

Successfully getting partners through this shared sales funnel more effectively is a true ‘win- win’ scenario. Innovative suppliers see results of 3 to 5x revenue growth as a result of doing this effectively.

7. Turn your partners into passionate fans

Success feeds on success. Enabling simple, repeatable pathways to revenue means real loyalty and more deals in the future. And when they are successful with you, other potential partners will notice, which helps drive additional momentum – and demand for a relationship with you – which will drive reliable, predictable revenue for years to come.

Here’s a new infographic we’ve created to help explain these principles. We hope you enjoy it and encourage you to share it with others.

Topics: Partner Ecosystem, Partner Communities, Engagement

Chris Becwar

Written by Chris Becwar

Chris is a Channel and Marketing veteran with expertise in SaaS platforms & indirect routes to market, advising top channel programs on strategy & trends.