Making Your Channel “Product-Friendly”

Guest article by Al Morgan, Channels Performance, Aventi Group

A few months back Sridhar discussed the importance of tailoring your product or solution to the channel. It’s a vital step to ensuring that you will maximize the revenue opportunity through channels. An integrated program will ensure initial mindshare AND pave the way for initial success.

Your channel partners have lots of products, and shifting attention to your solution will take focused effort. At Aventi, we have been assisting a major IT vendor roll out a major, worldwide, program to channel partners over the last few quarters and I’d like to share a few lessons learned.

Initial outreach. This can be multi-level. If you are working with a master distributor, start with a multi-partner webinar. At the close, don’t just point them to your partner portal, offer a follow-up deep-dive training for their sales team.

In-depth training. Deliver a one-on-one training to resellers that show interest after the intro. These can be 20 minutes at a sales team meeting, a 45 minute overview, or a 90 minute in-depth. Whichever path you are offered, take it and tune your presentation to fit the time and the audience. Sometimes the key takeaway is simply, “Call us, we can help!” Most sales teams have varying competence with your solution. For the top 20% of performers, you webinar may not add much. But if you can motivate the other 80% to get started, you’ve quadrupled your feet on the street!

Coaching. Sales reps that are new to your solution can often benefit from talking through an opportunity before proceeding. Setting up a “channel sales desk” to support those calls can pay big dividends in revenue, and provide you with early reviews of your solution selling program. While solution sales will never be “paint by number”, coaching can concentrate knowledge and accelerate success. Don’t expect that a portal will be sufficient. In truth, it can seem like just one more burden that stops that rep from acting.

Scorecards. To be explicit when describing your target opportunity, create a scorecard that maps to your ideal prospect. In the early days, it is better to have channel partners qualify out marginal deals quickly, and focus on prospects directly in your sweet spot. By using deal scorecards as part of the coaching process, you can ensure that solid deals get fast-tracked and poor fits are eliminated early. Plus, they are great training aids for getting newer reps on board quickly.

Demand generation. There’s no better training follow-up than solid leads. These get partner management motivated during the critical first few months, when you are building mindshare and selling habits with the reseller sales force. At this stage, consider running the demand gen campaigns directly, as the reseller is unlikely to have the resources or skills in-house, even if you supply the funding.

Resellers are very enthusiastic about this approach. It helps them be efficient and get into new markets quickly. It also helps them bring up the capability level of their sales reps without taking them out of the field for expensive training. Our client has seen tremendous success and a major renewal in interest since the program has been put in place.

Aventi’s Vector Marketing provides a powerful framework for supporting all of these elements. It ensures that consistent messaging and tools are constructed and that these in turn support successful demand gen and rapid, consistent, deal qualification. Keeping to the Vector framework for subsequent programs also lowers the “new learning” on the part of the channel partner.

In summary, giving your channel partners integrated and consistent tools, training, coaching and leads can differentiate your solution and build mindshare. That will increase your value, and make your channel partners more receptive to the follow-up programs in your pipeline.

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