Aug 22 2017 | Manufacturing, Financial Services, Insurance
Channel Surfing
By: Al Wild

Not the kind that you had to do at Grandma’s house.  You know, the kind like in the olden days when you had to get up out of your chair and actually walk across the room to change the TV channel.  Today changing channels is just a click of your finger away.  Well, unless you have to dig in the couch to find the remote first.

My point?  Your Channel Partners can be just as fickle.  Treat them shabbily and with a click of the finger they are Surfing the internet for a competitor that will make their life easier.  When Channel Surfing affects your business, you simply cannot let it happen.

I spend a lot of time speaking with senior Sales and Channel executives, and they all have one goal in common – ensure that their partners view them as “Easy to deal with”.  Sadly, very few confess that this is the prevailing sentiment within their partner community.  All while a main KPI for virtually all of them is to increase revenue through The Channel.

Application providers often speak of stickiness – keeping the customer so committed that to go in another direction would have serious consequences for their business.  How do you make your partners stick with you?

Many companies focus first on compensation, which can come in a number of forms:  increased margins, coop dollars, spiffs – all of which provide both an incentive and a natural sorting of partners that drive the most business vs. those who are merely on the list. 

Logic suggests that you should work more closely with those that are bringing in the most business.  They will carry your message and represent your brand to the broadest possible audience and bring significantly more prospects to events that they sponsor, or that you are happy to co-sponsor with coop dollars.  But, let’s not forget the little guy who just may be hungry enough, aggressive enough, and hardworking enough to soon be on track to be one of the big guys. 

Equal opportunity is the key to every partner’s success.  If you have a partner program/system that is structured to provide the same repeatable experience to all partners, then you are setting up the conditions for everyone, anyone, to be successful.  A structured application will tell your partners that you want to make their lives easier, that they can configure and price a quote without endless hoops to jump through, that no matter whether they are the largest or smallest in your partner community, the terms of their agreement, complex pricing and discount rules, preferred product availability, delivery priority, etc. are all baked into the system.  A system by the way, that proves that you care about being easy to deal with, that you value them as partners, that you will remain head and shoulders above any of your competitors, so that there is never an attraction for them to go Channel Surfing.  And, as importantly, it will free up your time to support them in their efforts to win business rather than having to spend time figuring out what discounts to approve, what special terms each of them has negotiated, applying spiff rules, etc.

Multiple divisions?  Multiple product lines?  Recent acquisition?   Partner onboarding can be a significant challenge in the face of complex product lines, complex pricing rules, a constantly evolving product suite, and multiple acquisitions.  The same is true about trying to drive additional revenue across business units without cross-selling and upselling tools.  Structure your partner application as simply to use as Step 1, Step 2, etc. …  and onboarding that can take weeks will be distilled into days, compressing the partner productivity cycle dramatically.

A well configured CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) application will do all of the above, and more.  But for many, it doesn’t end there.

Think Customer Experience = Partner Experience. 

Partners are your brand ambassadors, and you must to ensure that they are telling your story the way that you would.  Access to the latest marketing materials, collaboration tools, prioritized support, knowledge base, the formal onboarding process, deal registration – all of the same tools that you have at your disposal must be available to this invaluable team. 

A PRM (Partner Relationship Management) application layered on to your CPQ application will attract new partners like bees to honey, accelerate the onboarding process, equip them to tell your story, and most importantly, compress the Quote-to-Cash cycle, all while providing some serious stickiness for your current partners. 

Come to think of it, honey is kind of sticky, isn’t it?

About the author: 

Al is a software solutions industry leader focused on Cloud-based application sales.  

Follow Al on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alwild01salesnashville