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Channel Sales Strategy: 5 Ways to Change your Thinking
A guest blog from Jeff Matan
From the guest blog written by Jeff Matan
If you work for a company that sells through The Channel, you know the importance of Channel sales strategy and you’ve likely heard this phrase before. It was said by one of your executives on an analyst call, at your Partner conference, or in a sales kick-off:
“Our Channel Partners are an extension of our sales force.”
That’s old thinking. Things have changed.
Yes, Partners have the geographic reach you need. Yes, they learn about and sell your products and many describe themselves as a dealer of yours. However, looking at Partners as an extension of your sales force sells your partnership short. It puts a ceiling on your potential to be successful together.
To me, this is a fundamental disconnect between Vendors and Partners.
Why that Channel sales strategy doesn't work:
- You aren’t the only Vendor they work with. You’re one of many. Hopefully, you’re one of two or three core to their business. If not, they can still be successful without you.
- The Partner owns the customer. Unless you sell a pure cloud service on your contract, customers typically sign the Partner’s contract and call them (not you) when something goes wrong or they’re ready to buy.
- Partners are experts on multiple technologies. They have to be in order to integrate, optimize, and manage them, but as Vendors, you’re an expert on one technology - yours.
- Your products or services aren’t the Partners’ main source of revenue and profits. They integrate yours (and other Vendor’s offerings) into their own and/or add services to make money.
- The Partners of yesteryear are gone. They don’t think of themselves as an extension of your sales force. They think and act bigger. That’s why they call themselves Solution Providers - not VARs.
Why is this important? If one side of a partnership views the relationship differently, it won’t work. Worse, the partnership might not ever realize its potential and QBR after QBR will show the same thing—wasted opportunity.
What can Vendors do?
To fix your Channel sales strategy, start by changing how you view your Channel Partners. For starters, embrace the fact that as a Vendor, you are actually an extension of their sales force, not the other way around.
- Use your resources to help develop Partners’ value propositions, help write their business plans, or execute their first “real” marketing campaigns. You’ll gain insights about where you add value to their solutions as well as the challenges they face in the market.
- Focus on profit. How does your solution help sell more services? How does it allow them to sell custom work done by their SEs or Pro Services teams? How does it integrate into their products or services and fit into the business plan you helped them write? If you don’t know, ask - right now!
- View Partners as customers because that’s what they are. How will you change your approach to communicating with them and what can you do to win their business - every day?
- If you agree you’re an overlay to Partners and an extension of their sales force, change your approach and follow through and become the Vendor that’s truly “easy to do business with.”
It’s a mindset shift. Stop thinking of Partners as an extension of your sales force and start thinking of yourself as an extension of theirs. It’s not easy – you’ve got quota to hit and it takes time to talk to every Partner – but when you work to understand and improve their business, they notice. It’s how you stay top of mind and it’s why they’ll find ways to sell more of your solutions. Welcome to the new Channel sales strategy!