Implementing channel partner sales can help you reach new customers and, in turn, grow your business – when done correctly, of course. If your model is not set up effectively, however, you’re unlikely to reap the many rewards this opportunity offers.
So, what are the so-called ‘right conditions’, and what are some pitfalls to avoid when implementing channel partner sales? Follow our guide to successfully enable channel sales, as well as understand how it can benefit your business.
What is channel partner sales?
In short, channel sales is a selling strategy that utilizes third-party companies to sell your products, subscriptions, and services to new markets. This includes distributors, referral partners, fulfilment partners, and strategic partners, amongst others.
There are a number of benefits to introducing channel partner sales, allowing you to take advantage of your chosen partner’s reputation and experience. This, in turn, will help you break into the markets and increase brand awareness.
What can go wrong with channel partner sales?
You’ve just got the ball rolling with your channel partner sales and are now collaborating with a third party! They’ve completed all the necessary paperwork, passed the required training courses, and are now considered ‘experts’. Two months later, they haven’t sold a single subscription or license. So, 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 onboarding process, they will automatically become a successful, profitable member of their 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 your chosen 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. They will begin to understand your product, your processes, and how your products interact with what their customer is already using. They will become comfortable with your product, your processes, and your team. This is how you begin to enable channel sales and ensure it’s worth your investment.
Top Tips to Successfully Enable Channel Sales
Building a relationship of trust between a vendor and a new sales channel partner can be a daunting task. However, once those relationships have been built, you will see growth from your partners and be able to successfully enable channel sales. Here are our tips to successfully enable channel sales and solidify that relationship:
- Get to know the channel 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.
- Set ground rules upfront. Do you have a list of customers that your internal sales team is targeting directly? Letting the partner know upfront 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.
- Understand the compensation structure of the channel 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 and enable channel sales incentives to gain mindshare and attention to your products and services. Remember, the partner sales reps are working with many different vendors!
- Proactively bring leads and opportunities to the partner sales reps. Before they have the necessary understanding of your products and processes, channel 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.
- 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!
The channel management team at Operatix has 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, our team enables channel sales teams to accelerate success. Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help grow your business.