Coverage and attention

partnerGetting noticed and being relevant are both important in order to get onto the buyers long list, never mind the short list, and so having a decent marketing plan and a sales plan are critical for business sales success. Selling with partners (channels) is a key consideration for any vendor and should be considered as part of an overall go to market plan. There are many dissenters to the channel business model as this does involve sharing the “spoils” from the deal – although this is mainly from our financial friends, who perhaps have a different perspective to sales anyway. Channel sales at its best should be truly symbiotic – a true win/win engagement. Consider it like this – as a vendor, you need your offering to be visible to the ultimate end user – the customer, and in order to do this, you need to be in the “shop window” of their chosen supplier partner. Also consider the resources at the disposal of the vendor – sales resources are multiplied via a channel engagement model. This is a huge over simplification of the model, but I think helps with positioning why a channel model is so effective.

This is not always simple of course – a vendor requires, motivated, engaged, well trained and committed sales channels, and there are always competing offers in the market, so the relationships need maintaining and of course the commercial offers need to remain compelling and competitive. The wrap of services ensures that the channel partner is truly enabled to sell and support first line independently, and of course an escalation path should also be clearly defined especially if your proposition has a critical business affecting function. All of this needs to remain current and offers rarely remain static, so a decent process to ensure that the sales and support teams within the channel partner remain as well informed and prepared as the vendors own people is a must.

Partner/channel marketing should be considered as an integral part of a channel go to market strategy and a well integrated proposition enables the sales channels to maximise effectiveness.

Channel partners also have a significant opportunity to bundle services and solutions which can add value above the value of your offering “alone”.

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Channel development

Most of us carry around a label of some description, whether we like it or not. I guess that sometimes this can be helpful, other times less so.

For a long time I was categorised as a “channel guy” – which I think was because I had spent a significant portion of my working life at the vendor end of the value chain. This held all manner of implication and in some part unhelpfully so. You see, once someone has labelled you in a certain manner this means that is what you are and will always be – hmmm not sure that I am aligned with that thinking.

Anyway, back to my line of thinking – I believe it is true to say, that there are certain skills that can take time to hone, and therefore, the value is enhanced through time and experience. Seems logical – right? I also believe that looking at situations (challenges or problems if you will) from different perspectives can be valuable too – especially when it comes to relationships (I’m getting there – bear with me), like channel relationships. So I am surprised to see the poor way in which many vendors and other suppliers, act when it comes to setting up, running and developing (or not) a sales (and support) channel.

Mighty vendors with very deep pockets and large global reach appear to be happy to consider life in a single dimension (how they see it), and other “vendors” seem to flit from one deal to the next without really appearing to consider the value of each partner, or the investment they need to make in order to yield a return on effort and outlay for all concerned.

Why is this I wonder? Does everyone think that their product/solution or offer is so compelling that everyone is going to want to buy it and the channel are so lucky that you appointed them to claim their spoils from the streets that are paved with gold? Who knows! One thing is for sure – it’s probably a good time to be running a reseller business – as the solutions available for the channel appear to be outstanding – All the more reason therefore to ensure that you are doing a better job than the “crowd” in order to be heard above the noise, and earn the right to be called a great vendor to partner with.

So for me – it’s all about the people – You don’t build a business – you build people and then people build the business. Employ people who care, and want to be part of something awesome, and who also understands the requirements of setting up, running and developing a channel business. It’s not rocket science, but it isn’t about just turning up either. Success is waiting for those who move beyond the form filling and forecast gathering, to a co-selling approach with real hands on support and time investment ensuring your offering is well understood and the channel feel valued and invested.

But what do I know?