There’s lots of reasons your channel partners will sell your product—but none of them will matter unless you focus on the one key reason: You make it easy for them to do it!
So then the obvious question is: how do you make it easy?
1. Create the training and collateral they need to communicate value to the end customer.
First, before you even start recruiting channel partners, get a plan in place. It happens too often that tech start-ups launch the channel with high hopes and little else. If your company isn’t crystal clear on processes for selling and implementing your product, your channel partners won’t figure it out on their own. If you haven’t articulated a compelling value proposition, trained the channel on what it is and created the tools necessary to communicate it, your product will fall flat—no matter how great your partners are.
2. Implement tools for tracking that are effective and easily accessible.
Partners should be able to track deals and access critical documents without jumping through hoops. They need to easily receive leads and register deals, and it should be clear how to update information—and simple to do so. Any partner relationship management (PRM) system should also automatically update on a regular basis.
If you engage in co-op marketing, it is critical that you have an easy way to make requests, track progress and distribute reimbursements. Nothing is more de-motivating for a channel partner than waiting for Market Development Funds (MDF) to be reimbursed. So if you are not considering putting a Partner Relationship Management (PRM) in place, you should shut down the channel initiative before it starts.
What you definitely don’t want is to patch together a PRM “system,” using your CRM, content management systems, spread sheets and email. Spreading key information and communications across multiple programs is how balls get dropped and sales get lost.
3. Measure what’s working.
You can’t improve what you can’t measure. When you know which members of your network are selling the most, you can also make some determination of how they’re doing it. Which pieces of collateral do they use? How often do they contact the customer? Collect data around the practices that are most effective in the channel and you’ll have an idea what’s working. Feeding this info back into the process creates a success spiral, making sales easier for the whole network. The key is to know what works and figure out how to do more of it.
The main point: When sales management is easier for the channel, it’s easier for you too. Creating and implementing an effective, streamlined process for leveraging your channel partners is the best way to let them make your company successful.