Channel partner programmes are about more than sales

The channel landscape continually changes as products and services in the ICT sector evolve from legacy systems to cloud-based platforms.  Channel partner programmes have changed how organisations engage and collaborate with customers and tech giants like Google, Cisco and VMWare have shifted their channel programmes to drive channel-specific sales strategies only.

They understand that channel programmes act not only as a strategic enabler for partners to create a compelling value proposition for customers but can increase sales revenue tenfold.

The creation of channel programmes doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes strategic planning, continued refinement and alignment with the company’s vision, values and goals.  Successful channel programmes need to deliver on four key elements – wallet share; market share; technology and service share.

How does a company establish and develop a well-designed Channel Partner Programme?

In our experience, many channel programmes don’t think like partners.  They don’t wear their shoes, or drink their coffee.  So when it came to building our channel programme and onboarding partners, we asked:

  • What will the investment be in terms of time,
  • How quickly can a partner go from onboarding to Revenue generating
  • How easy is the product and service sellability
  • What is the value proposition of the product and service to the end customer
  • What is the longevity of the partnership in terms of time, technology roadmap and revenue stream
  • Does this partnership build value for the partner?

We believe that characteristics of a successful channel partner programme include:

  • A channel management business plan
  • A partner roadmap and ecosystem
  • Facilitating business proposition assessments
  • Programme architecture  to model and drive the correct behaviours
  • A defined channel sales operations model

Key deliverables and strategic values to consider when defining a channel partnership programme:

  • Make sure you understand the value you are offering the partner, based on your company’s products, services, revenues generation, margins, partner support and collaboration.
  • Have a clear and precise understanding of the type of partners you want to engage and form a long-standing partnership with.
  • Sell together: you share the customers, you share the responsibilities, we share the revenues.
  • Defining the partners and providers area of responsibility, how we can leverage one another’s core competencies and capabilities.
  • Understanding the benefits of the programme, not just the features, how will our products and services solve customer challenges, pain points and problems.
  • Understanding the partner-centric sales ecosystem, developing internal capabilities, easy to use tools, systems, guides, collateral, processes, seamless channels of communication i.e. channel portals, reference sites.
  • Understanding how to capitalise on new and existing revenue streams, buy means of sales techniques, first to market initiatives, the ability to upsell and cross-sell.
  • Understanding the current competitor landscape, a detrimental factor to the success of the partnership and profitability.
  • Create incentives plans, bonus structures, motivational elements to assist the partner’s sales and marketing strategies.
  • Make sure you continuously measure the channel’s success, there should always be a fair split of sales across the program and not the dysfunctional 90 % of sales from 10% of your partners.
  • Initiate critical success factors for your partners, customer centricity, sell the value, not the price, client deliverables.
  • Always look for reciprocation with a partner-provider relationship.

At the end of the day, with the right partnerships, these questions and answers should marry your partners’ performance to the company objectives and create strategic value.

A well-defined and architected channel programme will provide a foundation for a collaborative partner-centric relationship and when executed methodically, a channel partner programme becomes an asset both its provider and partners.  It creates trust – for one another to perform, engage and collaborate.

David Cooke, sales and marketing director at Saicom