January 18, 2019
By Ayesha Prakash, Director of Global Channels, Flashpoint
You might be new to your channel sales leadership position, but the quotas don’t care; you’ve got to get up to speed fast. For most organizations, channel sales outstrip direct sales, which means your leadership and strategy will have a significant impact on the success of your business.
The first 90 days is key: you need to assess the situation, find opportunities for improvement, and implement a strategic vision that will deliver visible change to your sales channel program. And you need to achieve all of that while getting to know the multiple channel account managers (CAMs) you lead, each of whom may have 100 partners, as well as their ideas about strategy.
We recommend you follow these four steps in your first 90 days:
1. Take a Deep Dive Into Your Organization’s Channel Sales Program
You need to learn about your channel sales program as quickly as possible. This information-gathering mission is necessary so that you can make data-driven decisions; don’t make big changes and announce new strategies until you know the answers to the following questions:
How is your business positioned in the market?
What are your competitive advantages?
What systems and procedures do you need to understand?
What are your organization’s routes to market?
What has been the historical performance of channel sales? And what are your global and regional goals today?
Who are your best-performing partners? Who is underperforming?
What is the average deal size and cycle time? Don’t skip this step even if you’ve been promoted from within and are already familiar with the channel sales program.
2. Start Building Personal Relationships with Select Partners
To fully understand your sales program, you’ll need to consult with colleagues and external partners. Internally, you’ll need to meet with regional managers, legal, finance and marketing, as well as the direct sales manager. Externally, your focus should be on building relationships with key partners. These businesses are more than a source of income, they’re also best placed to give feedback on the existing strategy.
Don’t use all your time speaking to hundreds of partners; it’s likely a significant portion of sales are created by just a few — these are the ones you want to talk to first.
These high-performing partners are important relationships and your biggest opportunity to increase sales; a 10 percent improvement in one large partner could be worth the efforts of many smaller partners combined.
You should also speak to a couple of your biggest underperforming partners; the ones who have the reach, resources and customers to sell more, but somehow keep falling below expectations.
Your objective with these sets of partners is to find out how they see their relationship with your organization and how you can better support them in selling your products.
3. Analyze the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Program
Using the information you’ve gathered from within your organization, you now want to look at …
… the strengths and weaknesses of your program and your partner network. Areas you may want to look at include:
Evaluate existing partner relationships: are there any partners whose relationship with your business needs re-evaluating?
Are your CAMs supported with the right technology and training?
Is channel conflict a problem in your organization?
How good is the coverage of your partner network? Where are your opportunities for growing your coverage?
Are your existing partners capable of driving the sales necessary to hit your department’s targets, or is immediate expansion required?
What resources, incentives, training or strategies could increase the effectiveness of the partners who are representing your brand?
4. Select 3 to 5 Strategic Initiatives Where Demonstrable Progress Can Be Made
You should now have a good idea of where the problems and opportunities lie, and it’s time to do something about them. Using your understanding of your current partner network, average deal size and cycle time, it should be clear how much expansion is necessary to deliver the required deals to hit your targets.
Your task now is to create and implement the strategic initiatives which you believe can have the biggest positive impact on your channel sales strategy. Ideally, these initiatives will include quick wins that deliver immediate improvements and longer-term goals. The quick wins are important because they will increase confidence in your leadership and help you get CAMs and partners on board with your vision, which will help you implement your longer-term objectives.
As director of global channels at Flashpoint, Ayesha Prakash leverages her extensive experience driving business development and marketing efforts in the IT sector to build Flashpoint’s global channel program. Follow her on Twitter at @yoursocialnerd.
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