Steps to achieving channel program success

Technology research provider OneStopClick recently released two executive summary reports regarding channel partner recruitment practices and channel program strategies.

Information technology vendors looking to recruit channel partners are advised to research candidates carefully in order to determine which are the most optimal based on market alignment. While tactical partners that can help meet first-year targets should be sought out, it is important to also secure strategic partners with the market reach to sustain long-term growth.

When choosing distribution partners, the differences between value-added distributors and distributors oriented toward order fulfillment should be clarified. VADs are thought to be better equipped to provide technical support for more complex procedures during the sales process.

In order to effectively market the program, OneStopClick recommends companies hire a team of experienced channel professionals with insight and connections into the target market. They will be able to widen the pool of potential candidates by bringing their own contact lists to the table, and will also have existing knowledge of the field.

Another benefit to hiring and consulting with local channel experts is the fact that they are familiar with local market cultures. This is likely to result in a smoother transition of the company's product into the target market, and will also help to establish and maintain credibility with program members.

A channel incentive plan should be drawn up in order to entice the right partners after they have been selected. Potential members will not add a product to their sales offerings unless they are enthusiastic about an incentive.

Although IT vendors may be tempted to sign up a large number of partners at a channel program's outset, this may have a negative effect on program efficiency. Integrating several carefully selected members that are willing to invest time into the partnership and can easily be sustained with marketing, training and sales is a safer approach that is better from a long-term standpoint.

OneStopClick advises that companies keep partner programs simple – particularly when launching in new countries – and allow members plenty of options to give feedback by holding periodic reviews and consultations.

After hiring two consulting organizations and analyzing partner feedback, Dell made enhancements to its global PartnerDirect program last month. The company now offers channel members two new tiers – premier and preferred – based on their commitment, training and certifications.