Success in the world of resellers is not such a lofty goal, especially if you have the power of two organizations working in tandem to bolster sales efforts. Using a combination of field and technical engagement, solid marketing planning and executive management relationships -- from both the reseller and manufacturer, of course -- channel partnership success is indeed within reach.
The following tips present some practical advice for ensuring a cohesive channel partnership derives great success.
1.) Create a Marketing Plan Together -- and Stick to It
Like a map used on a road trip, a comprehensive marketing or business plan is key to ensuring you get to where you want to be. When developing your plan, work with your manufacturer to identify the targets you want to hit within a particular period of time, whether it's a quarter, half-year or annual. Then determine what you must do to get there (i.e., hold five lunch-and-learns to generate 20 leads that yield $100,000 in revenue). This marketing plan will hold both the reseller and manufacturer accountable, and will set forth a predictable revenue stream. Of course, it must be reviewed periodically to make sure you're on track. If you're not, adjust accordingly.
2.) Encourage Communication among Field Staff
Communication among the field staff from both sides -- the reseller and manufacturer -- is key. Use account mapping to talk through which accounts each side will penetrate, and then devise a game plan to see it through. For example, figure out if existing contacts will be leveraged or if Salesforce.com, Jigsaw or the like should be used instead. Once the targets have been identified, determine the next steps, whether email, live appointment, conference call, etc. Engage both sides of the field in joint marketing activities like lunch-and-learns, customer hosting events and webinars. Communication is just as important on the sales engineering (implementation) side. Members of these teams can meet in the field at similar points and share in account mapping and marketing activities.
3.) Consistently Update Your Knowledge of the Product
It is absolutely imperative that members of each side are kept as up to date as possible on a product's new features and functionality. Channel sales engineers must, in essence, become product experts, and demand regular training from their manufacturer counterparts. Sales staff, for their part, must likewise keep up with the latest messaging, feature sets and solution updates. Remember: Although separate entities, the reseller and the manufacturer are representatives of the same product, so you both must speak the same language and have the same level of knowledge.
4.) Engage Executives from Both Sides
Although it may not happen very frequently, make an effort to bring together members of executive management from both sides. Depending on the size of each organization, these folks may be senior or mid-level managers. When relationships are established at this level in each organization, it makes for much easier resolution when an issue arises.
5.) Work the Channel Program to Your Advantage
It's been said before, but it bears repeating: Take advantage of all the manufacturer's channel program has to offer. This includes engaging in the registration process and staying involved with resolution processes through the close of the deal. Leveraging these tools will help ensure channel conflict is effectively avoided.
Despite best intentions, when two separate teams from different organizations come together, disorganization and miscommunication can impede an otherwise successful partnership. But armed with careful planning, communication and support -- as well as a laser focus on the objective -- a cohesive and successful channel partnership can emerge.
Chet Menzione is the vice president of channel sales at Quorum.
PUBLISHED FEB. 5, 2013