Your company’s sales team only has so much time, and this is one of the biggest challenges in scaling your business. Today, it takes creativity and resourcefulness to reach targets and take market opportunities with fewer resources.
One of the most cost-efficient tactics embraced by companies today is forging successful partnerships with resellers and distributors — also known as channel partners.
What are channel partners?
Channel partners are companies whose main objective is to sell or distribute products of a manufacturer. They include resellers, distributors, affiliates, value-added providers, independent retailers — in short, any seller who does not work directly with your company.
Selling your products through channel partners can help your business in reaching new markets, launching new products, and servicing customers. When done right, channel partnerships can be a game-changer for your business.
Is channel sales right for your business?
There are a few things to consider before jumping into channel partnerships.
- Company size. For small companies, hiring and training may not be a cost-efficient route. Channel partners can help you grow your business in the early stages. Once you’ve grown as a company, you can hire your own representatives; or if your channel partnerships are working great, then press on.
- Product. If a product is still very new, you may opt to directly sell to your customers in order to have a faster and clearer assessment of what works and what doesn’t.
- Sales Process. Consider the maturity of your sales process. Before welcoming new partners in selling, you must first establish and define your whole sales process. What are your most important buyer triggers? How long do deals usually take to close?
- Revenue Needs. If your company needs to generate revenue as soon as possible, then channel partners may not be your go-to strategy. Channel partnerships can take time before they are up and running.
- Location. If your company embraces the follow-the-sun workflow, meaning your offices are spread out in different locations and time zones, it would make more sense to also use channel partners than multiple sales teams.
Factors to Consider in Establishing a Successful Channel Partner Strategy
Channel partners help make your products become more accessible to buyers. However, you might think that utilizing as many channel partners as possible can only be good for your business. It is actually best to make use of only a few, and be strategic about it. In establishing a successful channel partner strategy and choosing the right channel partners, there are a few factors to consider.
Your channel partner’s market must be aligned with yours. Take due diligence in finding out their specific target market, their current marketing strategies, and their networking practices. Does your product meet the demands of their current customer base? And does their customer base fit your business in terms of geography, size, and application?
It is also important to thoroughly research your prospective partner in order to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. From the get-go, make sure that they are not working with any of your key competitors. It is also wise to find out from the start whether your partnership could potentially reduce your selling territory.
Process and Mentality
You must identify the commitment level you would want from a channel partner, and also gauge the commitment the potential partner can give. How willing are they to dedicate staff to your business? How do they generate leads? What follow-up process do they have? Are they ready to invest in and undergo training?
Determine what level of technical expertise and types of skills you would require. From there, you would know what to look for. A successful channel partnership means good training plans, sufficient experience in presentations and demonstrations, intact customer service mindset, and technical knowledge. So, look for these aspects for starters.
Take into account the prospective partner’s business model, too. Is it stable? Consider their size, management competency, growth, and profitability. Their current financial position is a good gauge of whether they are suitable for a long-term partnership. Request for information on gross margin and profit, cash flow, and balance sheet. Information whether they are a public or a private company is important, too.
Partnerships are necessary in gaining more traction as a business and taking as many market opportunities as possible. When done strategically, they can help your business grow and remain competitive. That is why it is important to be strategic in implementing a channel partner strategy and choosing the companies to work with.