One of the most important elements of a company’s success is its channel partners. Through these channels, a company sells its technology, products, or services to the customer. Designing an successful channel program allows the company to find the right sales channel partners and provide the needed tools and strategies for those partners to increase B2B sales.
Cindy Kennaugh, writing for Microsoft.com offers a number of steps to help companies navigate the complex waters of sales channels and design and implement effective channel strategies. The first on her list of steps is to have a clear understanding of sales channels, how they work and which ones are best for your particular company.
Next on the list is to determine your company’s purpose and goals for the channel program. As with most companies, sales revenue is a primary factor, but your goals should be more far reaching. Establishing solid and long-lasting partner relationships will encourage partners and foster enhanced productivity, leading to growth now and in the future.
A key element to implementing a successful channel partner program is to establish what your company’s needs are, along with your target market. This information needs to be provided to the partners also. They need a clear understanding of what verticals you’re aiming for and what strategies are effective for which industries.
The third step Kennaugh lists is to create a list of potential resellers, and fourth on the list is to pick and choose the channel partners that are the best candidates for your company. This is a crucial step; the reseller is an extension of your company, a representative. It’s essential for the company to know how the reseller does business. Aim for quality partnerships.
The final step is to maintain your channel program and partners on a regular basis through effective management. Vendors must keep on top of the program and foster a maximum level of partner engagement.
Your channel management should include ongoing communication; it’s an effective tool that vendors need to initiate and keep going. Open lines of communication will help provide partners with the knowledge and tools necessary for their success. This support will help motivate resellers to use effective sales strategies to get buyers to purchase the product.
Writing for BNet, Geoffrey James explains, "Ongoing communication is vitally important to the health of a channel relationship. He goes on to advice that in today’s fast paced business structure, “you’ll need to constantly inform your channels what’s going on with your company, the target markets, your installed base, and so forth. Consider implementing a news-feed that provides your channel partners with key information on a weekly or even daily basis."
Adding to these strategies, James recommends incentives as a key motivator for channel partners. Channel incentive programs, utilizing both cash and non-cash incentives, are effective means to increase reseller productivity.
For cost-effective incentives, a points-system strategy works well; partners are motivated to be productive in order to use their points for trips, gifts, and other rewards.