To the uninitiated, the challenges facing channel managers seem overwhelming. But to those performing that role day in and day out, the many opportunities the job offers and its fast pace are exactly the appeal. New problems, new solutions and new products are just waiting to be launched. Of course, each of those has its own set of related issues, but they all deal with management, and with the task of getting the very best out of every partner.
Taking Care of Existing Partners
Job one is taking care of loyal and productive partners. To me, that not only felt like the loyal thing to do, but it also made tremendous business sense. The cost to generate one new partner lead is well over $1,000 and that is only the start of on-boarding a new partner.
In addition, look at what the existing partners have invested in your products. Partners that have paid for training and certifications, for example, have demonstrated more than interest. The money they’ve spent represents loyalty, and their willingness to sacrifice lost revenue opportunity due to time out of the office. Shouldn’t they be recognized by their vendors for their investment?
While it made business sense, sometimes it was a lonely stance to take. The business was always questioning the ROI from the partner ecosystem. I remember having to do monthly executive reviews where I’d have to explain what’s happening with the partner business. Preparation was a beast and we could not get all the information across functions and companies.
Rewarding Quality Over Quantity
In the end, I believe it boils down to having motivated, responsible partners rather than many partners that need quite a bit of attention. Channel managers need to ask themselves whether they are provided with the appropriate enablement tools, and if so, are their partners using them and becoming self-reliant? Or are they relying heavily on the vendor for pre- and post-sales support?
Channel managers should examine their most successful partners and identify the characteristics that differentiate them from other partners.
- What certifications do the best partners have?
- What complementary and competitive products they sell?
- What horizontal and vertical segments are they in?
Don’t just look at revenue. Sales are important but having loyal, profitable partners is equally critical. Look at the partners that are making frequent, consistent purchases. They are the ones that are probably the most invested, loyal partners.
Remember, some partners with high sales are also consuming high human and financial resources: That’s an expensive partner. For instance, a partner’s sales may be through the roof, but is that because the partner always requires special pricing? When you dig deeper, using real data, you may find that partner is taking the easy way, not selling the value and you are not making your margins.
Partners want to be profitable and good vendor wants to not only help them earn and maintain profitability, but also reward it. Partners are running a business. Before partners sign on for training, they are doing mental accounting: What is the business payback? A steeper product discount? How much product must be sold before a profit is turned? A channel chief must make sure programs are set up in such a way to entice partners to make such investments, while still maintaining a competitive advantage for the vendor.
Data-Driven Decision Making
When I was a channel chief, I had a weekly channel call just to go through and understand where we were.
- What success were we having with those programs currently in place? What adjustments need to be made?
- What’s coming next?
- What products and or marketing programs are being launched and when?
One of the most important things I learned was how essential it was to analyze factual data rather than rely on anecdotal information.
A great channel manager understands success in the position means solid growth for the partner which means solid growth for the vendor. Using a combination of technology tools and data analytics can help channel managers find the right partners and then hone their programs to help each of their partners realize their potential.
When I retired from corporate life, I wanted to be in a position to help solve the issues that I had to deal with as a Channel Chief. That is why I became an advisor to Q2E. When I saw their solution, I realized how much this would have helped me as Channel Chief. Having the ability to know what the status of our programs and initiative were on a dashboard rather than pulling together dozens of people each week for a 90-minute conference call. Resources that were better utilized in generating business.
Learn how you can get the best out of every partnership by making efficiency shine. Schedule a Q2E demo today.