Developing a Channel Strategy
In my first blog in this series, I discussed the importance of asking if your company and products are a good fit for channel distribution—and how you can develop a company mindset for the channel. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to develop a comprehensive strategy around how your product will be marketed and sold via channel partners.
Marketing and selling in the channel are very different from direct sales. That’s because you’re moving from selling straight to the end user to selling your product—and your company’s dedication to channel success—through channel partners.
You must convince them they can make a profit from both the product and your company’s reputation. But it’s not just the sale you need to think about, it’s also the relationship your partner will have with you, your product and customers.
Focus on these areas for channel success
To build a profitable channel partner relationship, your company needs to create a comprehensive channel strategy. This means you must have channel-focused sales and marketing collateral, dedicated managers, a seamless customer onboarding experience and channel-tailored contracts in place. Here’s how to make it happen:
Sales and marketing: Think of this as the same as creating your standard marketing and sales strategy for the product, but with a different buyer in mind. If you’ve already developed effective sales training and marketing material, then it should just be a matter of repurposing that with the channel in mind.
Your channel partners will be your new sales force and the tools you provide will support sales success. Make sure you’ve created specific battle cards around your product as well as social and email content your channel partner can co-brand and use in their marketing campaigns.
Dedicated managers: You also must be certain you have dedicated managers available to liaise with your channel partner. Your channel managers must work successfully with your partner to provide sales guidance and assist in their marketing efforts.
This individual, or team, will be the key link between your company and your partners. Your channel managers can educate your partners as well as hold them accountable to resolve issues that may arise between competing partners (or your direct internal sales teams).
Customer onboarding: It’s critical for you to have a seamless onboarding process that includes all the user documentation and support data your partner needs to understand how your product is installed, how it’s supported and who to contact.
You must also determine whether your partner will provide support for your product, or if your team will directly handle support, and whether you will have live agents your partner can contact to handle customer issues.
Contracts and registrations: In a channel partner relationship, you won’t be working with an internal sales team on payroll, so you must ensure you have contracts in place for your partners. These contracts should be separate from any standard product contracts you have. They must be tailored specifically toward channel sales, outlining the responsibilities of each party around product sales, support, costs and profit-sharing.
Also, you should have a strong deal registration system and policy to ensure any conflicts between competing partners (or your direct sales efforts) can be resolved without damaging partner relationships.
While these are just some of the areas you need to focus on and develop within your channel strategy, they provide a good foundation for working with partners and preparing for distribution. Once you’ve set up your company to work with partners and develop an overall channel strategy, you’ll be ready to start selling in the channel.
But your best-laid plans mean nothing if you don’t effectively implement them. To learn how to do that, be sure to read the next blog in this series, “Setting up for Success.”
Start selling in the channel
Ingram Micro Cloud’s Activate program provides valuable resources and expertise to help you realize the full potential of your cloud business in the channel. Ready to take the first step? Sign up for our free Activate program.