The indirect sales channel has specific nuances and challenges.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

November 11, 2019

5 Min Read
Giving Advice

Vendors spend billions of dollars on programs that partners can’t figure out, and partners waste significant opportunities that vendors create for them. Surely there has to be a better way.

Well, some people believe there is.

In their keynote, titled “The Future of Programs, Alliances and More,” at Channel Evolution Europe, Dec. 2-3 in London, one partner practitioner and one vendor program exec will talk about what the future looks like for programs and alliances.

Panelists include Craig Patterson, CenturyLink’s vice president of sales – indirect channel for the West division, and Jamie Claret, Amazing Support‘s director of IT support. The moderator is Dave Sobel, host of the “The Business of Tech,” podcast and co-host of the “Killing IT” podcast.


CenturyLink’s Craig Patterson

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Patterson and Claret provide a sneak peek of the information they plan to share with attendees.

Channel Partners: What are some of the missteps vendors make when building partner programs and alliances?

Craig Patterson: Building an indirect channel program offers tremendous opportunities for businesses looking to expand their sales reach, grow revenue and extend their presence in specific regions or markets. However, even companies that have experienced substantial sales success through direct channels are not immune to missteps when it comes to establishing an indirect channel partner program. The indirect sales channel has nuances and challenges that are quite different from and arguably more complicated than a direct sales model. It is critical to set specific policies for how indirect partners can engage with potential customers (commonly known as rules of engagement). This helps minimize any possible confusion and conflict that could arise between direct and indirect channels. Also, it is essential to understand that the voice and needs of indirect partners differ from the direct channel, and tactics that work for the direct channel don’t always translate to partner success. Ultimately, when building partner programs and alliances, you are looking to give customers a choice of how they prefer to work with your business. It is critical to ensure that all channel program activities support the goal of delivering the best possible partner and customer experience.

Hear from top industry speakers and talk with key vendors, distributors and master agents by attending Channel Evolution Europe, Dec. 2-3, in London. Register now!


Amazing Support’s Jamie Claret

Jamie Claret: Too much information which looks like it will be helpful, but in reality is simply too much to digest. Sometimes the idea of setting up and selling these products/services compared to the very small margin just puts you off. Minimum monthly spend always puts us off straight away. Enrolling in incentives is a pain. Registering a deal should be banned — too much of a pain in the backside. [There’s also a] question about loyalty … they get too big for their boots and now we just get emails, no proper account management.

CP: What are the components of a successful program that make it easy for partners to make the most of opportunities?

Craig Patterson: Successful indirect channel programs provide their partners with comprehensive, simple support that starts with full onboarding and moves through the entire sales life cycle. Offer partner benefits like training, pre- and post-sales support, and marketing programs and tools that make it easy for partners to understand and sell your services. Make resources digital, allow for co-branding and focus on mobility so that partners can self-service when needed. Provide sales, engineering and back-office support to assist partners through the full sales process. Equally as important, make sure the right compensation and incentives structure is in place to make selling your solutions more attractive and lucrative than the competition. The most successful partner programs are those where …

… indirect partners feel like an extension of the company — and have easy access to the knowledge, resources and tools they need to sell your full portfolio. Partners have a choice of what providers and products they sell, and you want all elements of your program to make selling your portfolio the natural and first/best option.

Jamie Claret: Nice and simple, not too complicated, great communication, good margins, great products (and) not selling direct and undercutting. Stop plastering prices direct and undercutting.

CP: What should you do before you even begin building a program?

Craig Patterson: Businesses looking to build indirect channel programs need to ensure leadership fully supports the initiative and is fully committed from a financial and resource perspective. Additionally, executives need to buy into the strategy, knowing it takes years to build a successful indirect program. As with launching any new program, there will need to be a realignment of internal resources and priorities, as well as an investment in tools, support staff, etc. When developing your channel strategy, you need to do your due diligence and fully understand the market landscape and opportunity. By knowing what the opportunities are, you will know where to invest and put resources. By fine-tuning your channel strategy first, you will be more focused and can ensure you are dedicating your time and resources in the right areas.

CP: What do you hope attendees learn and can make use of from your keynote?

Craig Patterson: An indirect partner strategy is a relatively new concept in EMEA; however, businesses and partners have a historic opportunity now to get out ahead of competitors by taking advantage of this emerging channel. This session is designed to educate attendees on how indirect programs and distribution channels can help drive revenue and growth, and how businesses can best prepare to take advantage of this opportunity.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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