• New to the Channel? Five Steps to Building a Strategy

    At some point most companies decide to engage a channel or third party sales strategy. There are a myriad of reasons to engage. It could be an early stage company looking to for a route to market or a hot product that just needs to get the products on the shelf and in front of the customer. Another is a maturing company or product line looking to reduce the cost of sales. These are all great reasons, but each requires a thoughtful strategy and process to maximize the success. Otherwise it turns into a corporate experiment wandering around in the market wilderness.

    Too often I have seen the “Let’s try this and see if it works. If it does, we will invest more.” It seems like a logical approach, but is it? Think about what you are asking of your channel partner: introductions to their clients, endorsement of your product, training of sales and technical personnel, potential distraction from their core business, marketing efforts. That’s a bit more than just signing on and trying it out.

    Do you need to do a full blown program to succeed? No, this can be overcome by planning for the difference between full scale or nascent program. But is must be done with thoughtful strategy and clear communication with your selected channel.

    So what makes a strategy?

    1. Layout what you expect to achieve from the channel in the next 12 to 18 months. Most companies’ revenue plans are way too aggressive. So cut it in half, and you will be about right.
    2. Get really clear on your target end user customer is for the product. Be specific. Size, industry, business problem, environment, how you solve their problem. You are about to be two or three steps removed from the ability to influence how a customer is approached.
    3. Define on your value proposition as compared to your competition in succinct terms. Give them 3 to 5 bullets, max! If it doesn’t stand out and scream at you, partners will have a hard time articulating.
    4. Define how your end user customer buys, implements and expects the product to be supported. Next, describe how the partner fits into the cycle. This will enable you to define the extended value your partners can bring. Extended value is not only the work they off load from your sales cycle, but also how they can enhance the customer’s ultimate experience. This may mean they add product you don’t have; services you haven’t invested in; support for a geography or solution; or industry expertise. There are lots of possibilities. But start with the customer and what the customer is buying.
    5. Now you can define your value to the partner. Remember, it is all about their business, revenue and their customer satisfaction. The most valuable asset a channel partner has is their reputation. By taking on your product, they are using their reputation and relationships to promote the product. If you have a product that is established, the risk is lowered. But if you are relatively new or the product is new then what you bring needs to be stepped up.

    You have the beginnings of your value proposition and strategy.

    Camberley Bates is Managing Director at Evaluator Group.

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    New to the Channel? Five Steps to Building a Strategy, 4.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings
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