Focus on recruiting high-quality partners
Just like recruiting a new employee, recruiting a high-quality partner is the foundation for channel sales success. If you cast a wide net in terms of potential partners, you’re setting yourself up for mediocrity.
Think about how you can laser-focus on the channel partnership opportunities that have the most synergy and require the least amount of effort. For example, if you’re a computer hardware company you have a lot of options on who you could potentially partner with (wholesalers, resellers, VARs, etc.).
Rather than trying to take on an opportunity presented to the organization, find the partner that has the highest common denominator as your company. In this case, it could be a value-added reseller who can pair your hardware up with their software and services!
If the company is successful, chances are you’ll have other companies vying for a chance to be a part of it. While focusing on the easiest deals to close can help in the short-term, they often create headaches and hiccups later.
Set clear expectations with your channel partners
If you don’t have clear expectations, how can the partner know if they’re meeting expectations? The basis of setting expectations is establishing quotas or targets to hit — and while many companies start and stop there, setting clear expectations with partners should go well beyond this. Keep in mind that your partner’s success is also your organization’s success.
Your organization should have clear expectations about:
- Yearly, quarterly, and monthly sales quotes
- What both organizations will do if a dispute arises
- The lengths to which the channel partner can remediate a bad customer experience
- What to do if an employee at the channel partner organization isn’t meeting or exceeding goals
- How the channel partner will be evaluated beyond hitting sales quotes
- Provide ample and updated marketing and sales material and collateral
Just like how start-ups often focus more on closing deals than servicing customers, organizations that fail at channel sales often focus more on getting as many partners signed up to the program than on enabling them to be successful.
Provide updated sales and marketing information to your channel partners
If you don’t arm your channel sales partners with the information they need to succeed, you’re setting both parties up for failure. And you can’t just one-and-done sending over sales and marketing materials to your partners.
First, you must make sure they’re consuming the content and being good brand ambassadors by knowing your products inside and out. You can ensure partners are reading the materials by encouraging them to quiz their employees and by making the sales and marketing materials and collateral cohesive, comprehensive, and (maybe most importantly) engaging.
No one wants to read a hundred-page manual on how your product works. But creating five-minute interactive videos with feedback loops not only creates a more engaging experience, but it also ensures the channel partner gets consistent feedback directly from the organization.
While enterprises traditionally move slowly, the ones that are finding success in today’s ever-changing world are the ones that move both quickly and deliberately. If you don’t send your channel partners updated information as soon as it is approved internally, you’re potentially relaying the wrong information and delaying brand cohesion and consistency.
Eliminate tedious administrative and manual tasks
In today’s digital world, workers look forward to spending less time on manual tasks. Getting rid of repetitive tasks such as data entry will allow you to focus on more exciting assignments. That means less time doing administrative work and more time focused on obtaining new leads. Companies that use sales automation tools into their sales process will increase their leads by around 16%.
Gone are the days where you must spend hours carrying out repetitive tasks. Imagine not having to update a lead’s contact information manually. Or spending a full hour typing information into your system when it could be done with a few clicks. Imagine only focusing on your main job: closing partner sales and selling more products.
Having to sort through each lead and manually assign a lead to every salesperson can consume so much time. Instead of spending time manually checking whether there is a new lead or making sure someone hasn’t contacted a lead twice, using an automation software can save the day.
Eliminate individual and manual lead progress updates
Monitoring the status of a lead is usually time-consuming and without a proper system that contains all relevant data it will be tricky to figure out the effectiveness of marketing programs you are using.
How often you decide to send lead progress updates is up to your company. Maybe there is a specific timeline you have created and stand by. Being able to have all the information you need in one place will make it easy for you to send progress updates to your team with just the click of a button.
Understand your channel partners’ needs and expectations
Like every business, every channel sales partner is different. While you may have an overall reseller, wholesaler, or value-added reseller strategy, the chances that every potential partner operates the same and can fit into the same processes and procedures is slim.
That’s why before you ever bring on a channel sales partner you should align on what success looks like for both of you and how both parties can help each other achieve this goal.
Once you establish what success looks like, take a step back and ask yourself how you’re going to help them achieve this vision. A smaller partner might need more collateral or one-on-one time initially. A more established partner might be able to take what little sales collateral you have and implement their own robust and on-brand trainings.
Understanding another organization’s needs will also help you set realistic goals. If this is the first time your channel partner is working with a large enterprise, they might need more help than an established partner — meaning they’ll likely need more time to onboard, train, and start selling your products. You can’t hold both organizations to the same goals on the same timelines.
If you don’t know what their needs are initially, it’s kind of hard to blame them for failure in the future. Like any relationship, it all boils down to communication. If you allow them space to communicate their needs, you empower both organizations to be more aligned moving forward.
Make sure your channel partners stay motivated
Like internal sales teams, external channel partners should be rewarded for staying motivated and exceeding clearly established goals. Oftentimes when organizations think of rewards, they think financial compensation — like quarterly or yearly bonuses.
But that’s not what everyone is looking for or motivated by. Instead of assuming the channel partners you’re working with only desire financial-based incentives, ask them! And if they’re not sure, they should ask their employees!
Because, at the end of the day, the executives sign the partnership deal, but the employees deliver the results. Tailoring the incentives and motivations to what the actual employees at the channel partner want helps everyone in the end.
Offer extra incentives for higher performing partners
In an ideal world, every channel partner is hitting their goals because you’ve made them achievable yet ambitious. They’re motivated to succeed and you’re both aligned on brand positioning, product features, and incentives.
The only way to continue leveling up and hitting loftier goals is to really reward those who are going above and beyond. What if an employee at a channel partner hits 300% of their quota? Maybe you had planned to give a bonus for hitting 100%, but this exceptional achievement deserves exceptional reward.
If an individual or organization is going well beyond your expectations, don’t be shy about celebrating their success. If you don’t, they could become unmotivated because there is a lack of incentives beyond doing what they see as the bare minimum.
If you work in channel sales, you know how difficult it can be to manage all the moving pieces. From finding and training partners to managing distribution, it can be hard to keep track of it all.
Elevating your channel sales so that your channel partners can close successfully is no easy task.