Channel Management Software Guide for High Tech 2023
Channel management software is an essential component of running a successful partner program. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about the specialized solutions that high tech companies use to manage their reseller channels, and top considerations for evaluating different channel management platforms.
What is Channel Management Software?
Channel management software is designed to help businesses manage their relationships with their indirect sales channels, such as resellers, distributors, and agents. Similar to partner relationship management, channel management software provides companies with a centralized platform to communicate and collaborate with their partners, manage partner information, track partner performance, and automate various channel-related tasks.
Often integrated and used in conjunction with other software systems like CRMs, ERP and inventory management solutions, and other marketing tools, channel management software provides both the partner-facing and vendor-internal interface. It often includes specialized functionality to allow for better partner enablement, sales management and channel marketing automation.
Automating your channel management efforts can offer several benefits, including:
- Increased Efficiency: Automation streamlines workflows and increases the efficiency of your channel operations, saving time and resources for both vendor and partners.
- Improved Accuracy: Automating processes reduces errors and inconsistencies, ensuring that data is accurate and up-to-date.
- Enhanced Collaboration: The automation afforded by a central channel management platform can improve communication and collaboration between vendors and channel partners, resulting in increased productivity and stronger relationships.
- Greater Visibility: Real-time reporting and analytics provide vendors with greater visibility into their channel operations and partner pipelines, making it easier to identify trends and make data-driven decisions.
- Better Partner Performance: By providing partners with the tools and resources they need to succeed, automated channel management can shorten sales cycles, improve performance, and drive revenue growth for both parties.
Channel Management Software in the High Tech Industry
In the information technology industry, channel management software typically includes features such as partner portals, deal registration, lead distribution, sales enablement, training and certification, and analytics and reporting. Hardware and software vendors make heavy use of channel automation tools to manage and optimize their different types of partnerships, including VARs (value-added resellers), VADs (value-added distis), ISVs (independent software vendors), affiliate partners, referral partners, service partners and technology partners. Overall, the goal of channel management software is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s channel sales and marketing efforts, resulting in increased revenue and stronger relationships.
Channel Management in Other Industries
While this article focuses on channel management in the technology industry, channel management software is used in a variety of other industries where companies sell their products through channels. Different industries have their own needs that come with specialized solutions. Some common industries that use channel management software include:
- Consumer goods
- Financial services
Here are some current market trends in channel management software:
Use of AI and Automation
Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are becoming more prevalent in channel management software. These technologies can help businesses automate repetitive tasks, improve partner targeting, and simplify workflows.
Self-Service Instead of Professional Services
Change is constant in growing channel organizations. Being able to reconfigure your cloud-based channel management system in minutes without having to raise a ticket with your channel management vendor (or your IT team) keeps you nimble and scalable. For more details, check out this Forbes article and our separate guide on self-service PRM software.
Data Security, Privacy & Compliance
With breaches and data leaks frequently in the headlines, companies are placing much more emphasis on robust GRC (governance, risk, and compliance) practices at their vendors. Third-party audits like a SOC 2 Type 2 report have become table stakes.
Leveraging the data we have about our channel allows us to custom-tailor partner communications and online experiences. This creates higher engagement and stronger partner relationships.
Channel Management Solution Buying Guide
In the early 2000s channel management software was in its infancy and it was difficult to find a solution that was both feature-rich and affordable. Today, you have a wider range of choices when it comes to managing your partner program. For technology companies, there’s a mature offering of channel management tools that handle everything from deal registration to MDF management, to training & certification, to business planning, email marketing and co-branded collateral. Keep reading to help identify the best channel management options for your business.
Key Features to Look for in Software to Manage Channels
Your desired feature list should be driven by your current and future channel program needs. If your channel strategy is purely focused on referral partners, you’ll have have very different software needs than than a colleague whose company primarily uses deal registration through VARs (value added resellers) and distributors.
In general, you’ll want your solution to cover several key areas. Channel enablement gets your partners signed up, ramped up and ready to sell your products. Partner marketing functionality provides tools to manage marketing campaigns and effectively promote your products. Partner sales management features helps the flow of prospect and opportunity data and helps with pipeline forecasting. Integrating with existing systems like your CRM are also important for many enterprises.
Take a close look at your partner program components and figure out which of these features your channel management solution needs to include (use this checklist for more details):
- Onboarding & Enablement
- Partner Recruitment & Management
- Training & Certification
- Business Planning
- Channel Marketing
- Partner Content Portal
- Resource Library
- Market Development Funds
- Email Marketing
- Co-Branded Collateral
- Channel Sales
- Deal Registration
- Referrals & Commissions
- Lead Distribution
- Distributor Management
- CRM Integration
- Single Sign-On
- Security & Compliance
- Third Party Audit (e.g. SOC 2 Type 2 Report, ISO 27001, etc.)
Make sure to also take a look at our handy partner portal checklist for additional functionality.
Pricing & Costs
The costs of purchasing and maintaining a channel management tool can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. Some providers publish their pricing, while others offering custom pricing based on the prospect’s company and needs.
While evaluating different platforms, make sure to compare your total cost both of money and time across all areas, including:
- Licenses & add-ons
- Implementation costs
- Training costs
- Maintenance & ongoing changes
- Integrations to CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot and other B2B SaaS platforms
- Security & compliance
Our helpful article walks you through all the details of channel management costs and how to manage it.
Which is the Best Channel Management Tool?
We think Channeltivity is pretty great, but then we’re biased. The honest answer is “it depends”. There are many options and each have their own strengths and weaknesses, industry niches, customer sizes and so on. Your best bet is to read reviews on software comparison sites and then get demos of the different products to see how well they meet your needs.
If you’re a technology company looking for a channel management software solution to streamline channel operations, we hope you consider Channeltivity. Our feature-rich partner relationship management solution includes everything you need to run a successful partner program. Suitable for all but the largest partner programs, Channeltivity is designed for high tech programs around the world. Plus, it’s fully cloud-based, quick to launch, easy to use, includes unlimited users and support for a fixed monthly price (no professional services!). And we have a super helpful implementation and support team — just read our reviews on G2.
More Channel Management Resources
Learn more about channel management with these curated resources:
- Aligning Channel Strategy with Corporate Strategy
- Partner Relationship Management Budget
- Three Things to Consider Before Shopping for a Channel Management Solution
- Podcast: Channel Management ROI
- Channel Manager Software Can’t Take the Place of Human Interaction
- How to Minimize Indirect Sales Channel Conflict