Congratulations, it’s a Channel Strategy! If you’ve just given birth to your company’s first channel strategy, the fun is just beginning. As my grandmother used to say, “The devil is in the details,” and such is true for your new channel strategy. With so many things to think about, it’s helpful to have a channel ready checklist to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Doing business with the channel requires a cross-functional team to have the resources required for execution. You will have the task of orchestrating activities in sales, services, enablement, operations and marketing to deliver the requirements for product readiness in the channel. Developing and successfully implementing a channel model right the first time is not a sales-only initiative, it’s a company-wide effort!
As you begin your partner relationships, it’s very important that everyone is on the same page with how you will support this relationship. Being “ready” for the channel helps to establish a trusted relationship that can scale and grow with success.
For example, training and enablement is a must have in your initial launch. It is critical for partners to intelligently talk about and demonstrate your product or service in order to sell it for you. If elementary training is not available at launch, it can slow your efforts with partners, resulting in resource-intensive sales cycles for you and a longer time to revenue with partners.
Here’s a checklist to help you gage your readiness. As you read each item, you should be able to reply “yes” or “very close to yes” with each of these:
- You have determined there is enough market demand to support partners.
- You can point to credible third-party validation that the market is ready.
- You have developed compelling business propositions for both the customer and your partners.
- You are ready to support your partners with technical, sales and program management skills.
- You have a ramping methodology to provide knowledge and skills training to your partners for your product technically, but also for sales, marketing and vertical expertise.
- You can clearly and easily demonstrate an ROI to partners who participate in your strategy.
- The timing is right and you have the right product and the right go-to-market channel type for you product/solution.
- All the elements that your product needs to be successful are ready now, even if that means you don’t supply them yourself.
- You have clear product marketing messages that resonate with buyers.
- You have an ideal client profile to help partners target their efforts.
- You have something in the way of sales and support tools to offer to your partners.
- Your product has documentation you can share with partners (technical, logistical and financial)
- You have channel-pricing strategies that allow for a competitive price and competitive margin for your partners.
- You have a channel program defined for partners.
- Your product and service are available now.
- If you are expanding internationally, are your product and support materials localized?
Now, before you wonder how you will ever get all that done, I do not mean to suggest you need to build all of this in a perfect final format before you launch, but you should be able to check each item off in agreement. Partners don’t need polished and slick materials, but they do need basic information, support and structure. As you mature in your channel strategy, these items will naturally evolve and mature, so don’t let that stop you now. A shaky video, a self-recorded training session, an excel spreadsheet of benefit and requirements is better than nothing. Be upfront and honest with your partners about what you have and what you will have for them in the future. Investing in your partner readiness and building trust with your partners now will pay off down the road.
Provided that you are headed in the right direction, and you are committing to “yes” with all of the above, you should enjoy a prosperous relationship with your channel, and will mature together to sustainable channel revenue.