Generating more revenue always tops the list of challenges facing B2B companies. One tried and true method is sales channel development using third parties like resellers, value-added providers, and distributors. The approach is not without risks, but the rewards can be significant.
Because we’re often asked how to build a partner channel, we want to share our perspective more broadly, including common pitfalls to avoid.
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Phase I. Emerging growth
This phase describes the time when a company is building a sales channel for the first time. In this early stage, companies are usually engaged in putting in place practices and processes like:
- Establish a profile for the ideal partner
- Make sure that economics to excite and motivate the channel are compelling
- Build material related to help the channel to generate leads
- Organize the training materials and deliver training
- Get clear on who is responsible for what in the relationship
- Recruit the first partners and prepare them to sell
- Install systems and tools to support the partnership
Phase II. Scaling
With the basic channel management process in place and a track record of repeat indirect sales, the next phase is scaling. This phase includes the following:
- Grow your channel management team to recruit and onboarding more channel partners
- Increase the use of technology like automation in day-to-day work like PRM
- Shift more of the training online rather than in-person
- Establish a centralized content storage and enhance media libraries for partners’ use
- Create and implement survey and feedback forms for partners to get feedback efficiently
- Provide market development funds to increase the availability of resources for partners
- Work to minimize potential channel conflicts by updating the sales process and eliminate overlapping area
- Put in place guidelines to eliminate underperforming partners
Phase 3. Continuous improvement
Scaling is a journey, not a destination. This phase requires investments in order to keep the sales sustainable. The continuous improvement process includes the following:
- Focus on the rollout and enhancement of the new products in the existing products
- Improve the after-sales support, post-sale upgrade initiatives, and other similar long-termed profit generation methods
- Provide support to help partners improve their productivity
- Increase use of promotions as well as awareness, such as trade show engagement
Avoiding common pitfalls
A company can always improve channel engagement because the application of people, processes, and technology can always get better. Furthermore, the market is changing all the time.
There are several “signs” that will slow, even eliminate your success with channel development, so be attuned to these pitfalls:
- Partners are working with so many other vendors staying top of mind is hard
- Insufficient incentives slow or stall engagement
- Poor communication undermines hard-won trust
- Customer dissatisfaction related to service or product
- Business expansion with the necessary technical and personnel resources
- Customer complaints about the lack of support from the recruited partner
Expert help can improve business outcomes
Getting help from a specialist to navigate the complexities of channel development can accelerate time to market and save costly missteps. That’s where we can assist, from strategy development to partner program management.