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Channel management

  • Do you want to maximise your market coverage and penetration?

  • Do you want to exploit the most profitable routes to new business?

  • Do you want to get the most out of your business partners?

  • Do you want to build strategic partnerships that deliver?

There are many ways to reach your market: direct sales, agents and resellers, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEMs), distributors, and the internet, to name just a few. Choosing the appropriate channel strategy for your product or service is as critical a decision as any you will take in the marketing process, and you can waste a great deal of money or squander a golden opportunity if you get it wrong. 

The right strategy alone, however, is not enough. You will need to win over your target partners and set up an effective infrastructure for jointly marketing, selling and delivering your solutions. And you will want to ensure that your partnerships are performing to their maximum, with the right skilled people, the right incentives and the right business measures in place to assure success. 

In this ExecKIT® module ChangeBEAT works with you to determine your most effective channel strategy and then to deliver effectively against it. 

Strategy

  • Do you want to improve your channel mix?

  • Do you want a strategy that maximises your market coverage?

  • Do you want to avoid channel conflict?

If a company has not set the right channel strategy, execution effort will be in vain. You must ensure that your chosen partners are viable in the target markets, not just today but into the future. 

Your strategy must be forward looking. Many companies lost market share and some went out of business for failing to anticipate the impact of the internet as a low cost channel. But it must also be focused on the needs of today: you must cover your target markets, protect against competition, define a “win-win” partner proposition, develop a profile for the partners you need and set the best financial and management policies to enable the channel to be a success. 

This ExecKIT® module helps you to answer the following questions.

  • What are the characteristics of the markets you are trying to address?

  • Who are your competitors and how will you compete?

  • What is your optimum channel mix and what revenues should be delivered by each channel?

  • What will be the relationship with your partners? Subcontractors or Primes? OEMs or Integrators?

  • What value will you bring to them?

  • How will your channel strategy affect the direct sales team?

  • What should be the rules of engagement with partners?

  • What partner accreditation do you need?

  • How will you jointly develop the market?

Selection and acquisition

  • Do you want to ensure you partner only with companies that will make you successful?

  • Do you want potential partners competing to partner with you?

  • Do you want to build compelling joint value propositions?

  • Do you want to ensure that your partners complement each other?

Once you have developed a channel strategy and profiles for the partners you need to support it, you must identify potential partners, assess their suitability in more detail and then persuade them to work with you. 

Care is needed in partner selection. By adding partners who do not have the right skills or motivation to work with you, you may end up draining your resources or giving business away. By adding partners in an unstructured or ad hoc fashion you may unwittingly instigate damaging conflicts between your channels. 

This ExecKIT® module helps you to answer the following questions.

  • What are the strengths of each potential partner?

  • Which vertical and geographic market segments do they cover?

  • How compatible are the partner businesses with your own?

  • Are there possible conflicts of interest?

  • What “due diligence” is required?

  • What are the risks to establishing a partner agreement?

  • How will you persuade this partner to work with you?

  • What is the joint value proposition that you and the partner will bring to the market?

  • How can you best approach the potential partner?

Preparation

  • Do you want incentives and compensation that maximise sales through all channels?

  • Do you want a partner training capability that is a source of competitive advantage?

  • Do you want to establish an effective “low-touch” channel process?

If you wish to make your channel partnerships a success, hard work must go into the detailed planning and preparation of the channel infrastructure, to get your partnerships up and running and bringing in sales. 

You must define a channel sales organisation with roles, responsibilities and reporting structures to maximise sales and minimise harmful conflicts. You will need to define how you will support your partners with products, people, systems and information. Websites alone can be a powerful differentiator. 

You must set up internal processes that will support the sales effort. Without a sound infrastructure it doesn’t much matter if you sell your product successfully. If you cannot deliver it on time or bill the customer correctly, you won’t get paid. 

You must consider how your own organisation will be brought to understand the value of channel sales and to work with the channel effectively. 

You must decide who needs to be trained and define how this will happen, specifying, designing and enabling effective training courses. You will also need to provide a certification process and a mechanism to track it. 

This ExecKIT® module helps you to answer the following questions.

  • What job roles and reporting lines need to be established in channel sales?

  • How will you measure revenues and commission?

  • What business processes are needed to support the channel?

  • What contractual agreements will be needed?

  • What marketing collateral is needed?

  • How will you maintain accurate customer records?

  • What changes in IT systems are needed to support the channel business?

  • How will you help the field to see the benefits of the new value proposition?

  • What training is required and who will provide it?

  • How will you track training and certification?

Joint partner planning

  • Do you want joint business plans that spur your partners on to sell for you?

  • Do you want your partners to add to the value of your brand?

  • Do you want your partners to help develop and deliver your solutions?

Each partnership will have its own special requirements and objectives. The well-managed partnership is governed by a joint business plan, which sets out the course that both partners will steer to. The process of developing the plan is invaluable for helping each side to understand the other’s needs and establishing a common purpose. When it is complete, you have a tool to define activities, commitments and targets. 

Each of your partners will have different training needs, different marketing capabilities and different needs for communication. You must define in detail how your generic capabilities for working with partners apply to each one. The flexibility to respond to the business needs of each partner individually can be a key competitive differentiator. 

This ExecKIT® module helps you to answer the following questions.

  • What are you jointly trying to achieve and how will both parties benefit?

  • What are the goals, milestones and financial targets?

  • What actions will each side commit to?

  • How will you review progress?

  • What branding will the partnership use?

  • What marketing collateral and what marketing events are required?

  • Will partners resell your services, or deliver them as well?

  • How will you protect licences and copyrights?

  • How will you assure the delivery process and the projects?

  • How will your partners participate in product planning and launch?

  • What is the plan to ensure that partners are trained and up to speed as soon as possible?

Execution

  • Do you want to generate more and better leads for your partners?

  • Do you want to improve the quality of forecasting channel sales?

  • Do you want to deliver projects seamlessly with your partner?

  • Do you want to make your partners feel a valued part of your business?

The best laid channel strategy can be undone with poor execution. You must execute effectively to ensure that your partnerships deliver to their full potential. 

The partnership must make sure that it is projecting a seamless image and generating good quality sales opportunities. This may entail branding, trade shows, joint events, promotions, mail-shots, sponsorship and demonstrations. 

You must do the work to track and forecast opportunities and the two companies must work well together to close the sale and deliver the project. 

The partnership will have to develop appropriate new offerings and solutions, work together to deliver them effectively and efficiently and maintain the right skills internally and in the partner organisation. 

There must be a regular exchange of information between both sides of the partnership. The successful company makes use of the right combination of electronic information, regular meetings, opportunity and project based communications, partner councils and recognition events. 

This ExecKIT® module helps you to answer the following questions.

  • Are you exploiting the impact of the partnership brand at shows and events?

  • Are you running the right campaigns for lead generation?

  • Are the partners working well together in closing the sale?

  • Are your forecasting and tracking activities adding value to the partner sales process?

  • Are you developing robust joint account plans?

  • Are partners delivering timely and effective projects?

  • Are you able to track the quality of work delivered by the partner?

  • Do your channels sales team have the right skills?

  • Do your partner conferences and partner councils add value to the partnership?

  • Are your partner recognition programmes encouraging the right partner behaviours?

  • Are you effectively monitoring partner accreditation?

  • How should you track the shipment and billing processes?

Management review

  • Do you want to continue driving up channel revenues?

  • Do you want simple Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure channel performance?

  • Do you want to understand the reasons for poorly performing channels and take the right corrective actions?

The successful channels business continually monitors its operation and identifies drivers for change. It tracks achievement against the channel business plan, proactively identifies trends and acts accordingly. 

Periodically it examines its channel strategy and policy – the partners that provide the right market coverage today may not be appropriate as the market changes. 

It assesses the processes that have been set up to support the channel and what can be done to improve them. It sets, tracks and analyses Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the channels and assesses whether they are pulling their weight. 

This ExecKIT® module helps you to answer the following questions.

  • Is your channel strategy delivering the results you wanted?

  • How often should you review your channel strategy?

  • Are your channel policies restricting growth?

  • Are there any partners that you should drop or new prospects that you should approach?

  • How can you identify market trends and what impact will they have on your channel strategy?

  • How can you define a simple set of Key Performance Indicators to show channel performance at a glance?

  • Is a specific market, territory or partner outperforming others and what can you learn from this?

  • How is each partner performing against its plan?

  • What elements of policy are working and what should you change?

This ExecKIT® module helps you to ensure you deliver what you promise

The right strategy for the right Channel
A successful strategy for today and tomorrow
Choose the right partner and reap the rewards
Take time to prepare 
Each partner has a different set of needs
Identify areas that need improvement