Many channel companies view their ability to collaborate with partners to build out IT offerings as a vital part of their sales and marketing strategy. When managed effectively, the channel can lead to increased sales, lead generation and additional capabilities and services.
The challenge is putting together an effective channel network that not only benefits your business, but also positively impacts all parties involved – vendors, partners and end users. This means outlining a direction for partners that’s clear and concise, but also keeps pace with the change of readily available technology without jolting the foundation that promotes a healthy and sustainable partner program. In essence, an optimal channel strategy is dynamic, adopting new strategies that engage customers, deliver strategic marketing and sales initiatives and amplify service offerings.
To provide this, vendors must arm partners with the relevant solutions and training needed to increase profitability, and with a plethora of tips and tricks available, it can get confusing for companies just starting their partner programs. With that in mind, we’ve narrowed it down to the top three tips to enhance your channel program and ultimately add value to the ecosystem.
1.Provide Sales & Technical Enablement
Today, information can become obsolete very quickly, so providing the right tools to enable success is critical for a company’s partner program. The ultimate goal of a partner program is to deliver new revenue streams where companies can capitalize on investments, but partners cannot sell appropriately if they are not equipped with the right tools for success. To get out in front of the competition, many organizations see a need for broader IT education and channel training to improve communication and transparency with their customers.
One way to do this is by offering training-as-a-service and self-paced training models to encourage partners to learn about vendor offerings and what would best suit customer needs. Vendors can offer this through webinars and on-site training to provide an opportunity for partners to check-in on the latest tools and services that will be beneficial to customers.
When partners are armed with the right training and support, it frees up time for IT teams to focus on growing the business. Partners must work to identify companies that can provide adequate training services to create a profitable model, help generate leads and close them. By doing this, they are easily able to see where a company is headed and whether this direction aligns with their goals as a company.
2.Provide Performance Predictability
Another challenge within the channel is evaluating performance predictability. For example, a partner program can encourage a never ending number of resources, including VARs, MSPs, consultants and distributors, to recommend or sell products and associated services, but each presents a unique set of challenges when partnering
For instance, an MSP remotely manages a customer’s IT infrastructure and end-user systems, and the company is solely responsible for the vendor’s system operations used by the customer. However, in an outsourced cloud model, for example, an MSP has little control over the actual performance of the product. If there is a performance issue with an IT solution, customers won’t accept that it was a vendor’s fault. As a result, the channel partner takes all of the risk with little of the reward.
To help combat situations like this, vendors and partners must work together at the outset of an agreement to provide key benchmarks and performance indicators that accurately define a successful partnership and can set both the vendor and partner up for success. By providing this type of reliability, customers can begin to build trust with both the partner and vendor, and will continue to go to both for additional services that can help their business. On the contrary, if programs are constantly altered and have inconsistent processes, it becomes impossible for partners to build long term plans with the business at the center. The more you can prepare partners for what to expect from working with your company, the easier it is to construct a long term strategy.
3.Recognize That Not All Partners Are The Same
While it’s important to find a partner that fits a specific need, even partners that closely meet the criteria will have distinct differences in their approach to selling services. Despite the varying levels of expertise, each partner is important for channel success, and it is up to the vendor to find what will motivate the partner to sell. For example, providing solution rebates for sales and upfront discounts for new deal registrations is one way to incentivize the work the partner will do.
By providing incentives that will allow them to work based on their needs, a vendor gives its partners the tools to differentiate within the market, ultimately providing a better sales channel. Because of this, channel partners should be treated the same way your business would treat a valued customer. The more your company provides relevant, timely information that incentivizes action, the more successful the program will be.
The channel is the lifeblood that many modern organizations rely on to grow their company. To be successful in an increasingly competitive IT landscape, companies should work to purposefully identify valued partners, provide necessary training for them to succeed and develop clearly defined goals and that align with your company’s overall mission. The result will be a productive channel program that ultimately supports company goals, boosts the bottom line and supports happy customers.
Gordon Mackintosh is the Senior Director of Worldwide Partner Organization at Extreme Networks, a global networking solutions provider serving customers in over 80 countries.