When creating a sales channel strategy, consider using inbound marketing principles to attract partners, not just outbound techniques. This requires creating content that specifically targets the types of channel partners you want to have.
Not only is this strategy easier to scale than an outbound one, but it also guarantees that your potential partners know about your company from the first conversation.
For more information about a sales channel partnership, download our eBook, The Art and Science of Partnering.
With that in mind, here’s how to create a sales channel program step-by-step.
1. Craft relevant, useful content to attract partners
Use your ideal partner persona to craft relevant, useful content. For example, if you want to work with technology providers to the healthcare industry, you might write an ebook on how to deliver remote patient care, or host a webinar on the topic of changing healthcare delivery.
The partners you attract should be highly relevant to your industry. Once you’ve attracted a few prospective partners, reel them in by focusing on their needs.
2. Focus on the partner’s needs
Once you’ve started talking to a potential partner, make their needs the focus of the conversation. They won’t be interested in working with you unless it’s obviously worth their while. Figure out how you can help them sell additional services, reach new clients, or enhance the value of their product or service.
Once you’ve established a few partnerships, choose a structure for the partnership.
3. Choose a structure for the sales channel partnership
The structure will depend on the type of channel partner you choose to engage. You can learn more about the different types of partners by reading Indirect sales channel: harnessing the power is harder than it looks.
Without going into too much detail, you and your partner can sell together – referrals are a good example. Or you can sell through your partner to get distribution. Or you can work with a partner who can sell for you. These partners may incorporate your product into theirs – in fact, the end user may never know about your company.
4. Motivate your sales channel partners to sell
Channel sales is challenging because you need to motivate people you have no direct control over. If a regular sales rep doesn’t meet quota, you can work with them to improve performance. If a partner isn’t selling, there’s not much you can do, apart from choosing to not work with them.
To get partners to sell, you’ll need to develop excellent resources that they can use to sell your product. You should invest twice as much in content for your channel partners than you do for your direct sales reps. After all, your partners are much less familiar with the product.
Make sure they’re armed with clear, comprehensive, prospect-ready product specs, testimonials, customer examples, competitive comparisons, email templates, call scripts, meeting agendas, and objection-handling cheat sheets. Having this material will make partners feel more confident, which will boost their desire to sell.
5. Communicate often with your partners
If your partners rarely hear from you, they won’t be as invested in the program. They also won’t know the latest news, product updates, and strategic announcements. On your end, you might not discover issues until they’ve festered for a while.
The solution? Maintain regular contact with your partners. Send a periodic email, create a Slack room, hold partner “office hours,” run webinars – whatever you need to do to stay in touch.
6. Offer extra rewards
While earning commission on deals is a compelling incentive, some companies add additional reward systems to their partnership.
This lets you create “superpartners” and drive specific desired behaviors. For example, you might have a tiered system: One tier for basic partners, a higher tier for partners who sell over a specific amount per month or year, and a third tier for partners who sell over an even higher amount per month or year.
Depending on the tier, offer advanced support like market development funds, strategic consulting, meetings with your executives, early access to new releases, and so forth.
7. Use a sales channel partnership platform
For scaling multi-channel businesses, keeping data related to your partnerships organized can be a challenge. Using a tool designed to keep your channel data streamlined can be a helpful option. This will not only allow you to keep track of revenue generated by your sales partners but sustainably grow your channel sales program.
You can find a list of a few options in All you need to know about channel sales.
Need a little help?
Looking for someone to help you build and manage your channel partner relationships? From strategy to program execution, we can add capacity to your team.
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