Channel sales programs enable tech-driven enterprises to gain market share, increase brand awareness, and remain competitive. However, finding value-added resellers (VARs) to sell your technology services and products can be difficult.
As manager of channel sales, you most likely focus a majority of your time on top-tier enterprise customers but need help reaching second-tier markets and smaller companies; recruiting reliable reps and making sure they’re enabled and ready to sell is the core of your problem.
Treating your reps like individuals and empowering them to sell is the key to building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your partners. Below are three best practices that will revamp your partner relationships and position them for growth.
1. Align business goals.
“While resellers must believe your software will help their clients, they must first believe that you can help them…”—Peter Caputa, Former VP Sales, HubSpot
Let’s start with the obvious. Channel partners are not your employees. Unlike your internal team, they share different strategic goals. Your sales infrastructure must account for different types of partners—VARs, alliance, go-to-market, solutions and services, or training—and how they fit into your overall ecosystem.
To be truly successful, you need to have an overarching business strategy. To ensure mutual success, it’s critical to designate quantifiable goals and objectives that are specific, actionable, and measurable. For any true partnership to work, both parties must be working toward the same end goal.
In the case of partner management, it’s important to first focus on your partner’s business. To ensure mutual, ongoing success, align your channel sales program with your business’s goals. Find out what your partner really needs—and make its success your success.
2. Provide a customized experience.
As the decision-maker for your sales department, it’s up to you to empower your channel partners to sell. According to a Docurated survey, 31 percent of reps' time is spent searching for or creating content.
Your channel partners should be treated much like your customers. Provide them with relevant, timely, and useful information such as sales and marketing materials, effective training, and ongoing support. From customized handouts to personalized landing pages, they need active resources to address their needs and ensure that compliance issues are resolved.
Automating the process and outsourcing your enablement needs ensure that your reps are consistently provided current, customized information—so they represent your brand the way you want.
3. Prioritize incentive programs.
Eighty-one percent of sales reps agree that rewards and incentives strengthen ongoing relationships, according to a Maritz Motivation Solutions study. And 70 percent of best-in-class channel sales performers indicated that they have implemented incentive programs, according to an Aberdeen Group survey.
What does this illustrate? That compelling incentive programs have never been more popular—and that competition has never been higher. Here are some suggested best practices for your partner management program, using the Maritz Motivation Solutions study as a framework:
- Focus on the individual: The study shows that seven out of 10 reps believe incentive opportunities should be based on personal performance, as opposed to team performance.
- Keep communication clear: When asked how to make programs “meaningful, memorable, and motivating,” direct responses included “Clear, concise communications/simple to understand,” “Open and honest communications,” and “Personal/frequent communications, preferably on a daily or weekly basis.”
- Make sure the perceived offer is worth the effort: Reps overwhelmingly believe that if the award they earn for the task isn’t worth it, their level of disengagement is substantial.
Ultimately, incentive programs need to be aligned with your overarching business model. Pushing programs that don’t mesh with your sales and marketing processes may waste precious resources and create inefficient programs.