There are three things to consider when building a channel program – guidelines that almost every executive forgets at one point or another. Why the memory lapse? It’s simple: vendors often hire sales and marketing professionals who are experts in that area but don’t know anything about the channel.
More importantly, many don’t understand the model, or the business relationships required to succeed in this segment of the IT services industry. The channel is a close community with certain expectations. Vendor executives must earn their stripes and demonstrate a continued commitment before being accepted as true channel supporters.
Success only comes to the vendors who understand the MSP and IT services community. Let’s start with the three cardinal rules for people charged with building and successfully executing a channel program.
Channel partners are NOT your customers, but an extension of your sales and marketing teams.
If you know what specific actions infuriate your salespeople, use the same guidelines to avoid issues with your channel partners. Successful sales professionals hate bad leads, and so do MSPs and IT services providers. Both groups like to make money and love substantial sales opportunities.
Good salespeople dislike a lack of support and having their accounts handed to others. They really hate making promises on behalf of the organization and finding out later the company went back on those commitments. Channel partners feel the same way. Companies planning to work with the SMB IT channel must think of ways to empower their partners, not leverage them for short-term gains and leave them behind when new opportunities come along. Successful channel organizations make an enduring commitment to their MSP and IT services partners.
When you don’t own the end user relationship, support your channel partner’s brand.
Most marketing professionals feel like it is critically important to build the company brand – and in the direct model – that’s a great philosophy. The SMB channel is different. The distinctions of each IT services firm are what makes them so valuable. With a variety of vertical and technical expertise and a host of solution opportunities, they essentially become sales force multipliers for their vendor partners.
Small business owners (their customers) put an immense amount of trust into their hands and often become quite dependent on their support. Quality channel partners know everything about their business clients, including their future needs, budgets, and procurement processes ‒ in some cases, even their sales inclinations and moods.
They forge incredibly sticky relationships that extend well beyond branding. No direct sales force can match the service and support that MSPs provide to their clients. Vendors that center their branding efforts on the partners who own these relationships, not on their end-user customers, will enjoy greater success.
A proper channel focus includes imprinting your message on the solution provider audience, not on their end-user customers. That distinction is crucial.
Let people who understand the channel build and manage your programs.
Some will never understand what it takes to work effectively with IT services providers. The channel is a unique space, a concept that many spend years figuring out. Vendors that stake their business on this community, and invest the resources to do it right, enjoy amazing growth, strong customer loyalty, and an insanely low cost of customer acquisition. Of course, that doesn’t happen if they don’t identify and recruit insiders who understand the model, the intricate relationships, and how to succeed in this space.
The first steps include figuring out the characteristics that make good channel managers and then hiring people who fit that profile. One professional tip – IT services professionals like to help others, and they enjoy working with (and buying from) those with a similar mindset.
Some vendors hire “outside experts” with no channel experience to build their partner programs. Those experiments can be costly in terms of lost time and resources. Worse yet, those companies often end up damaging their reputation in the channel, making it harder to regain the trust of prospective partners in the future. In the rare occasion those hires do work, expect the cost of building and managing the programs to be significantly higher than bringing in experienced channel professionals.
Knowledge Drives Success
The guidelines above are quite simple. Treat your partners like members of your own, valued sales team. Focus branding on their needs, not on their customers (SMB organizations and end users).
Work with experienced and knowledgeable channel experts who will build it right the first time. Your chances of success will go up while associated costs and the timelines for hitting specific benchmarks will go down.
The channel acclimation process can take years for new vendor unless they bring in seasoned professionals who understand the needs, actions, and value of the IT services community. That’s where the GetChanneled team shines.
With decades of experience building and executing successful channel programs, we will quickly find and engage the perfect partners to sell your valued offerings. Just call or send us an email and find out what GetChanneled can do for you.