Three Things to Consider Before Shopping for a Channel Management Solution

Partner relationship management software can’t build your indirect sales channel by itself. It is, however, a very powerful tool to include in your detailed and thorough plan. So before you go looking for a channel solution, make sure you’re investing your resources wisely. Here are three key questions to ask yourself before you begin shopping:

1. Do I have a program in place?

When I’m working with a new prospect, this is the first question I ask. If they haven’t sat down with all of the stakeholders and built a detailed program, it’s too early for a channel management solution.

Don’t get me wrong—you can definitely get on board with a company that will sell you a solution, but it may or may not fit your channel or company needs once you have fully vetted your plan. Like any major business strategy shift or strategic marketing or sales effort, without a well-conceived channel and partner management program, odds are it’s going to take much longer and cost much more for your channel to produce. In fact, you’re also much more likely to be facing channel failure in a few months.

2. How will I manage my partners?

To take best advantage of market opportunities, you have to understand whom exactly you need as channel partners, where you’ll need them, and how you’ll manage them.

You want the right distribution of channel partners by geography and by vertical. Engage with too many in the same region or industry, and you get unnecessary competition and conflict. Not enough, and you’re not taking full advantage of large opportunities that could make the difference in the success of your channel strategy.

Before recruiting partners, get a partner profile in place that provides the info recruiters need to hire the best possible partners. When the channel manager can track partner results and generate reports, she can make projections that will lead to even better partners in the future.

3. How will I enable my partners?

After you have complete answers to questions one and two, you need to determine how you’ll motivate and empower your partners to sell for you.

You get strong partners by providing a strong program. Before you choose a channel solution, you should know how you’ll train partners, what collateral they’ll need, if you’ll be enacting a co-op or market development fund (MDF). How will you distribute leads—and make sure partners are connecting with those leads? How will you know if the program’s working?

Answering these questions before you start your channel management software solution due diligence is the only way to ensure you’re implementing the best tool for your company.