Avoiding the 20/80 Rule — 5 Ways to Engage Your Channel for Success

Getting your Channel model right is extremely rewarding. If your Channel model is not set up correctly this can be a futile exercise, wasting time and money. What are the “right conditions”, and what are some pitfalls to avoid when working with the Channel? Read on where we clarify these questions by providing a basic guide to understanding your Channel partners, and helping them to be successful.

You’ve just signed up a new Channel partner! They’ve completed all the necessary paperwork (contract, NDA, business plan, etc.), passed the required training courses, and are now considered “experts”. Two months later, they haven’t sold a single subscription or license. What is the problem? They are highly trained and competent. They are listed prominently on your website as a top-tier partner, able to sell, install, and support your solutions. They are selling a lot of other technology that is complementary, so why haven’t they sold anything of yours?

Vendors often assume that because a Channel partner has gone through the on-boarding process, they will automatically become a successful, profitable member of the Channel program. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case, and the partnership eventually withers on the vine, never producing results.

To understand why this happens all too often, you need to understand the Channel partner — and more specifically, their sales reps. Sales reps are going to sell what they know, what they are familiar with, what they’ve sold to customers in the past. Adding new products or services to their existing portfolio is a form of change. Change is difficult. Change is scary. Change is what you need to help them overcome.

The sales rep doesn’t want to sell or recommend anything that could potentially damage their relationship with the customer. As the vendor, it is in your best interest to help the sales rep overcome these barriers. In doing so, you will be building your own relationship of trust with the Channel partner sales rep. He will begin to understand your product, your processes, and how your products interact with what his customer is already using. He will become comfortable with your product, your processes, and your team.

Here are five key things you must do to make sure your Channel partners are productive:

  1. Get to know the partner sales team. Lunch-and-Learn activities are a great way for you to meet and interact with members of your partner’s sales team. They will gain a better understanding of your company, personnel, and corporate culture. You will gain an understanding of who they are, their strengths, and the customer relationships they have nurtured.
  2. Set ground rules up front. Do you have a list of customers that your internal sales team is targeting directly? Letting the partner know up front will prevent any misunderstandings down the road. The partner reps will be more likely to trust your organization with their own customers if they know your sales team will not be poaching from them.
  3. Understand the compensation structure of the partner sales team. Once you have an understanding of how the partner sales reps are compensated for the deals they close, you can better tailor your Channel program incentives to gain mindshare and attention to your products and services. Remember, the partner sales reps are working with many different vendors!
  4. Proactively bring leads and opportunities to the partner sales reps. Before they have the necessary understanding of your products and processes, partner sales reps will need some hand-holding with a few sales opportunities. This “care and feeding” of the new partner will show them what it’s like to sell your products, and that there is money to be made by working with your organization.
  5. Bring the partner reps into the sales cycle early. Waiting until the deal is nearly won before you involve the partner doesn’t really teach them the “in’s and out’s” of selling your products. Don’t just give them a fish, teach them how to fish!

Building a relationship of trust between a vendor and a new Channel partner can be a daunting task. At Operatix, we have made it our mission to understand this process. We have the tools and experience to help guide our clients through the process of building and maintaining relationships of trust with Channel partners. Once those relationships have been built, you will see growth from your Channel partners, and success with your Channel strategy.

The Channel Management team at Operatix have a wealth of experience in developing and managing global Channels for clients in the tech sector. Working with Executive teams and sales teams in organizations throughout North America and Europe, the Operatix team enables Channel sales teams to accelerate success and focus on the important aspects of the Channel plan.

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