An effective Channel Management strategy reduces channel uncertainty, improves reseller sales productivity, and maximizes your own margins. Software companies rightly spend much more time and energy on CRM systems for customers than they do for partner relationship management systems. However, channel management is essential to scaling your business. In this article, I’ll outline the key components of channel management systems and recommend how you can quickly roll out these capabilities yourself.
Elements of a Channel Management System
In the Partner Strategy Framework, I present a maturity model of reaching, enabling, activating and selling through partners. Selling approaches include
Direct selling (providing maximum control),
Leveraging a bigger partner (facilitated by alliance management), and
Scaling through resellers (where channel management systems are essential).
If you’ve developed channel partners to take your product to market, you’ll want – and need – to manage those relationships.
Channel Management starts by defining the partner capacity that will support company growth goals, and tracking progress toward those goals. This includes
Recruiting – start with market segmentation to define your key markets and geographies and then conduct capacity planning to determine where you need more reseller coverage.
Sales forecasting – analyze partner activity to inform changes to product messaging, channel communications, and incentives.
Joint business planning – set common expectations and hold partners accountable for their commitments through actively-managed business plans.
Leads Management includes capturing leads, distributing them to channel partners, allowing partners to manage lead status, and converting into deal registrations. Ideally the system integrates with marketing automation systems (e.g., Hubspot, Marketo) so there is no data loss or delay as with manual procedures. On top of these enabling processes, you want reporting that reveals the effectiveness of your leads generation campaigns.
Deal Registration is necessary to minimize channel conflict and help partners be confident in their go-to-market relationship with you. The channel management system must support rules of engagement (particularly where multiple partners pursue the same customer), facilitate deal approvals (by you), support collaboration on customer opportunities, as well as sales forecasting.
Joint Marketing can be a source of frustration for partners if the criteria and application process for market development funds is difficult. Your system should support marketing requests including requisite criteria, communication of approvals, and reporting of results.
Partner Community features should include access to product messaging & collateral, training, and peer support. The system should provide customization so partners view content intended for their corresponding commitment level in your partner program, as well as personalized for their geography or role. Providing community forums allow partners to help each other to get answers quickly, reduces your support burden, and yields insights you may not get through other partner interactions.
In sum, you want to incent the right channel partner behavior with an efficient process that frees you and your partners up for direct revenue-generating activities. In addition, having such a channel management system tells prospective partners you are serious about achieving mutual success.
Channel Management Solution
All too often, software companies struggle with a patchwork of home-grown tools for managing their reseller channels (or lack the infrastructure to deliver such capabilities at all). Channeltivity is a compelling SaaS-based partner portal solution that embodies the channel management system elements outlined in this article.
To learn more about Channeltivity channel management yourself, register for an online demo.