"Stay organized, communicate often, and always understand the needs of the market so you can best adjust your benefits or offer."
Suzanne Parent, Manager of Partner Programs and Sales at Veriato, has been named a Channeltivity Channel Champion. Channel Champions are selected because they have built thriving relationships with their partners and are growing their channel in exciting ways.
Suzanne spoke with Channeltivity to share how her passion for the channel and constant attention to her customers has shaped the way she continues to build strong, successful channel programs.
Channel Champion conversation:
Channeltivity: You’ve had a wide range of experiences across industries and in the channel. How has that affected your perspective for this role?
SP: One of the things that really gives me perspective is that the world of channel is very unique. It’s a unique piece in the business. Not many people understand all its dimensions, but I really like it. So, I was generally left to create and put together what I thought was the best thing to do. You can try a lot of things. Sometimes you fail, but you end up really getting to know what works and what doesn’t work when you have that latitude.
Channeltivity: In your experience, what are the biggest challenges facing a growing channel program.
SP: Historically, like 10 years ago, you could be focused and fixed and have a strong partner program because you didn’t need to be adaptable. Very little changed, or you didn’t need to modify your program quarterly. You could put a program together and it would be good for two or three years and then change it again. Well, now you must be adaptable. You must change your deliverables, you must be an on-demand type channel-focused company. Be consistent on your message and be responsive. For any company, those are difficult things to do all at once and all the time. Then you throw in the competition. You’re vying for time from all these channel vendors because each reseller might have 20, 30, sometimes 100 different vendors that are trying to get their attention. So how do you compete with the sales rep’s time, especially when other vendors give more money or bigger gifts? Being available and responsive. I think that’s one of the biggest things that I have found helps support that goal.
Channeltivity: With that challenge, what has the greatest impact on the success of a channel? Do you see it as being that access and that availability?
SP: That is definitely a big piece. Even before you impact the success of your company, when you define a channel program and you want it to grow you must look at what you are offering. You must define what kind of channel—I want to call them funnel or channel method—you’re going to focus on. And that could be a reseller, a VAR, an MSP, or a distributor. You need to understand what these channels are to you and define what you’re going to do for the partners because you can’t just say I have a channel program. You must breathe and live the channel and understand why you have one.
Channeltivity: How do you focus on staying top of mind with your partners?
SP: Constant communication. And for years I didn’t have tools. And when I talk about a tool I mean a PRM system. Everybody has a CRM. Everybody gathers their customers in a database. But it’s the PRM that gives me the flexibility to manage all these things that I want to do with the partner.
Training is a huge one. You know training, training, training. You can’t repeat it often enough.
When I found the Channeltivity platform, their ways and their approach really lined up with me. It just lined up with what I needed to be able to deliver. All those things that I was mentioning.
Channeltivity: We love hearing that of course. Can you tell me a little bit about in what way it has connected with you?
SP: So, the way my mind works, is that it always see the end of my goal, the whole picture, and I always look at what I need to do to have the best and to be the best. Having the ability to quickly find what my partner has been doing, the training that they’ve had, or that they need to take but they haven’t taken. If they fail the quiz, how do I realign the content or find the right way to deliver new content. Perhaps I may need to be a little bit more streamlined. I rebalance resources as dynamically as possible based on need.
Also, sales and marketing communication. I’ve created a list of branded emails I can use. We write the emails for the partners and we tell them to use it to reach their own customers. So, the message is consistent. And then they can use that across all their clients. So, our message becomes their message. And having that feature available within the Channeltivity platform for me was one of my key needs.
The ability to get started right away. I didn’t need like four months to prepare. It was there. I could load my data and get it going within a month.
Not that there is anything wrong with any marketing department, but I don’t have to wait for them to build my forums, and build my emails, and build all these things. I get to pick, choose, build and deploy my messages immediately and in the moment. We’re not living in a month from now. We’re living in the moment and I must reach the partners in the moment as well.
Channeltivity: It sounds like it’s really about the fundamentals.
SP: Absolutely. Relationships. Let them know you’re there. Let them know you will work with them and you are flexible. Those are the biggest, biggest things.
Because in the end, we’re both in the business of giving clients what they’re looking for. And you don’t want to wait. We don’t want to wait for them either. Right, that’s the biggest thing. I can’t keep waiting for the partner to get back to me in a week and two weeks and three weeks. But if I have that communication I can move the sales cycle much faster.
Channeltivity: If we flip that a little bit and we look inward to your organization, how do you ensure that your leadership continues to stay on board with your channel program?
SP: Management looks at the bottom line.
So, getting them to understand that the quality of your partners increases because you get reciprocity in commitment. It’s always going to be difficult— you might have to restate it— but don’t ever give up. One of the things is you know management will always keep saying, well show me that the channel is working well. I say I need the tool. So, give me the tools and then I can show you the measurement that my channel is working. You must establish yourself as knowledgeable as well and get their buy-in and show how they will see a return from it. If you’re organized, you’re going to see a return from it. And that’s important.
Channeltivity: You’ve given us so much valuable information. What words of advice would you give someone that’s building an emerging, or growing, channel program? And what would you believe their priorities to be today?
SP: Well, I would restate the importance of defining how you want to get to your market and how you want to address it. Because every time an organization introduces a channel it affects the bottom line. You include discounts to the partner and then if you introduce distributors, more discounts. But you can expand your market very fast. You must be ready to address multiple tiers or tier types. You must be clear on what your program is or isn’t for your partners, and how it benefits them and how they can make money. You must also include your direct sales team and put in place a channel-neutral program. Include Deal Reg to track the net new deals the partner brings you. Do all those things, because if the partner sees that they can make money and work with you and you’re reliable, they’ll be with you for a long time.
Next, stay organized. Communicate often, and always understand the needs of the market so you can adjust your offer. If you solve a problem within an industry, focus on how you can help. Develop situational scenarios. Set up pricing or promos, things like that. It does require some attention to detail, and you must be aware that those details can be resolved using the right PRM system to keep track of what’s important. Do some training. Organize your training, and make sure that your partners understand what you’re doing.
Oh, and the last thing would be to track the progress and success of each one of those partners, so you can measure their value to them as well.
And then finally, honestly, just don’t give up. Just don’t give up. It’s not easy. If you don’t understand how to reach your channel you tend to shy away and do without the channel. But if you’re passionate like I am with the channel, and make sure that everybody understands what’s going on, it’ll happen.