It’s a myth. We see it happen regular where new vendors look to increase their footprint via the channel and expect an instant result. It’s very rarely going to happen.
These things take time to implement and execute.
We come across this very often. Vendors embark on a journey of starting up their channel operations and expect it to be the magic bullet that transforms them into international organisations.
They expect to onboard partners and have the transactions flowing from the very start of the relationship.
The reality is, this takes time. Many things need to happen in the background before it’s feasible to run a channel.
How the journey looks for vendors setting up the channel for the first time
1. Start planning the types of partners you want to work with
This is easier said than done when you are new to the channel because you don’t know the differences between what each type of partner can bring to add value.
You can check out our article on partner types here.
2. Create a plan for how your channel structure will look
Will it be 1-tier, 2-tier, hybrid, MSP driven?
Having a clear plan in your mind of how your channel structure will look will prevent conflicts happening later down the line. To understand more about the typical channel structures, see our article here
3. Organising the channel tiers
How will you incentivise the partners? An easy way to do this is with the tier structures. You can start by giving them a lower off of list price and rise to whatever percentage you want based on criteria hit by the partner.
The word is that tiers are going to disappear and vendors are going to move away from the Bronze, Silver, Gold tiering in exchange for something else.
This isn’t necessarily true. For the true channel partner that is generating business, transacting deals and managing customers, it will be around for a long time yet.
You need to set the threshold for when a partner is promoted. Is is based on revenues? Is it based on certification? Is it based on partner recruitment levels in the case of distributors? Number of seats under management in the case of MSPs?
Having that structure in place allows for the partner to have something to work towards and maintain.
4. Developing partner assets
Having assets in place for your channel is a sure way to ensure that your partners are able to learn, position and maintain your products from the very start. Having price lists finalised, training videos, battle cards, one pagers and assets for co-branding is a good idea before onboarding that first partner. It becomes a scramble to do it once you have your first partner onboarded and they start asking for things. For more on channel marketing, see our article on it here.
5. Setting up contracts
A partnership is not official unless it is legally binding. Having contracts generated and ready for sending to partners and distributors is paramount. The partners and distributors are likely to ask for this before they work with you so having it ready before those initial conversation is a good plan!
6. Having a reliable infrastructure in place
When first starting to develop a channel, many vendors rely on spreadsheets to track their partners and this works perfectly fine up until around 25 partners. Having those spreadsheets setup and ready to go is paramount to staying organised. You need to have separate tracking for business plans, channel deals, channel renewals, partner margins, partner tiers, leads/opportunities etc.
Having this setup before you start will help you to stay organised and on track. As soon as you start to exceed the 25 range, you are going to need something more robust to be able to maintain the channel.
We can supply those spreadsheet templates for completely free by requesting them from firstname.lastname@example.org or better still, we can provide a free licence for Channelyze for those 25 partners that includes everything you need to run a successful channel by registering here
7. Finding suitable partners
Finding suitable partners is one of the most difficult tasks for vendors just moving into a channel based organisation.
How do you know if they can work with your products?
How can you position the products to those partners?
What does the onboarding process look like?
We have written extensively about this subject previously and you can find our article on onboarding your first distributor here. A very similar process applies to onboarding your first direct partners.
8. Readiness for selling through the channel
You have conducted every step on the list above, onboarded your first partners and they are actively pushing your products and/or working on deals in conjunction with you. Now it’s time to make sure that they transact within the first 3 months of partnership or there is a possibility that it will stagnate.
You need to be able to maintain those relationships and when you get past the 25 partner mark, it’s really difficult to do this with a single person on the channel team.
You need to consider how you are going to build out the team to support the channel.
When we have done surveys of partners before, they have all come back with support being the number 1 reason why they like to work with certain vendors.
To think about how the channel team can be structured within your company, check out our article on the perfect channel structure here
9. Supporting the channel through marketing
Support can come in many forms but a big factor on the relationship is marketing support to enable those partners to be able to generate interest and awareness in your products. One way you can do this is by having a channel marketing manager in place to support the partners in campaigns, events, collateral creation and such. Another way to support that partner is to put in place marketing funds that allows both parties to grow. You can read more on MDF in our article here
10. It’s not over – It’s never over!
The list above is not exhaustive in any way shape or form. The journey is a journey like no other with no set final destination. It’s like a round the world trip that never ends.
You need to continue building, continue maintaining, continue supporting.
Don’t be like those other vendors that think that partnering ends at the signing of a contract.
It’s a relationship. A marriage. Some last a lifetime some end in divorce but you need to keep working hard to maintain it and grow it.