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Methods for building a strong channel sales program.

Channel partnerships are in many ways the lifeblood of a company. Revenue derived from the channel can have far-reaching implications for a company's overall success. Yet, not every channel is built or operates the same way. Nevertheless, there are a number of helpful tips that can get a program off the ground and headed in a positive direction.

Cindy Kennaugh of Microsoft writes that the first step is to clarify the priorities and objective of the channel. While revenue is part of the mission, it shouldn't be the entire mission. She states that it is just as important to foster strong relationships with every partner because it will be those resellers that spur much of the company's future growth.

Next, companies should formulate what verticals they want to reach. A product that can transfer across numerous industries has the opportunity to be even more successful, but salespeople should understand what appeals to certain verticals and how those relationships can be maximized.

The quality of the partner is also imperative. In many ways, the reseller is representing the vendor through its product. Therefore, vendors should gain a clear picture as to who their partners are, so they can avoid business dealings with unreliable businesses.

Once all that is in place and the channel partners have signed up, it is important to ensure a high level of engagement. Communication is vital to not only relationship building, but business as well. If vendors are not communicating with their clients, resellers are will be less motivated to purchase product and endorse the product as the right solution to their buyers.

"Ongoing communication is vitally important to the health of a channel relationship. Today, every business moves quickly, so you’ll need to constantly inform your channels what’s going on with your company, the target markets, your installed base, and so forth," writes Geoffrey James for BNet. "Consider implementing a news-feed that provides your channel partners with key information on a weekly or even daily basis."

Then there are incentives. These motivators are a great way to boost channel activity and they don't need to be about cash. Vendors can create points systems that allow partners to sell their way to gifts, trips or other prizes. Discounts are all well and good, but James writes that non-cash incentives can "transform" a channel.