7 Channel Resolutions for 2017
Vendors shouldn’t let market uncertainties get them down; instead, they should focus their energy on identifying, enabling, and cultivating high-performing channel partners.
By Larry Walsh
We’ve turned the page on another calendar year, securely putting 2016 into the history books and launching headlong into the promises of 2017. While the North American and European economies are relatively healthy, storm clouds are gathering. Political instability, economic uncertainty, and technology disruptions threaten to create turbulence, if not derailment, of the positive performance and trends of the past few years.
For the channel, the potential disruptions are opportunities in disguise. Vendors should avoid reacting to market threats and rely on partners as strategic assets. By taking a more proactive approach to indirect relationships and go-to-market strategies, you’ll uncover new opportunities and address challenges faster than waiting for market forces to compel action.
The 2112 Group recommends the following seven resolutions for successful channels in 2017.
- Double-Down on Performing Partners
If you can identify partners that are performing well (generating revenue, capturing new customers, contributing to profitability), embrace them. Too often, vendors look for growth in the long tail of their channels and invest heavily in that pursuit. Instead, reward strong partners and enable them to continue doing what they do best – deliver results. Yes, as I note below, investing in lower-performing partners is important too, but it’s more critical to protect and incent your great contributors.
- Invest in Strategic Partner Development
The market is changing rapidly. While high-performing partners are paying the bills today, you need new and evolving partners that can deliver the value of emerging technologies and business models. Some of your current high performers and emerging partners (those climbing the ranks) will be able to deliver on the promise of tomorrow, but there will be newcomers as well. Actively identify partners with the capabilities and ambition to meet future market needs, and cultivate them for future performance.
- Influence Behavior
Many vendors reward partners based solely on their sales performance. You should think more deeply about influencing micro-level behaviors. Up to two-thirds of partners don’t have an adequate business plan. More than one-half of partners don’t set sales goals. And 60 percent of partners don’t routinely measure their own performance. It’s high time that vendor channel programs cultivate better partners by expanding partnership requisites to include structural and behavioral attributes.
- Convert CAMs from Sales to Business Development Managers
The changing dynamics of the technology market and the channel are making partner business development an imperative. Partners at all levels need help to navigate the rapidly changing landscape. CAMs, if enabled to do so, are extremely effective in converting partners from points of sale to catalysts of growth and profit contribution.
- Mitigate Partner Risk
If you want partners to engage in your go-to-market strategies and products, you need to reduce their risk. Partners at all levels are extremely sensitive to risk. Going forward, channel success requires you to spell out the economics of your engagement, define what’s in it for the partner beyond simple margins and back-end compensations, and demonstrate how partners can maximize their chances of success while minimizing the possibility of failure.
- Focus on Experience, Not Features
Vendors love their products. Why not? Vendors spend billions of dollars developing their sundry offerings. Unfortunately, customers don’t want products; they want superior experiences and results. Rather than paying lip service to consultative solution selling, you need to embrace outcome-based value propositions, explain to partners and customers why they need your products, and make “how” your products work a secondary focus. Customers will pay more for products that deliver greater outcomes.
- Analyze Yesterday, Act Today, Plan Tomorrow
Channel chiefs and vendor management have a pretty good idea what they did yesterday, and they’re extremely busy executing on their day-to-day operations. What’s often left out of the equation is planning for the future. With enough vigor, short-term success is achievable without planning. However, many channel leaders that 2112 speaks with are struggling to catch up to trends they’d seen in their rear-view mirrors. Long-term success comes from investing time in reading the tea leaves, developing action-plan scenarios, and executing when opportunities present themselves. Failure to do all three will come back to haunt you.
While the market continues to evolve, the channel fundamentals remain unchanged. In 2112’s opinion, though, these seven prescriptions will serve you – the channel leader – well in the new year and beyond. And, of course, 2112 is here to help you realize your channel success. Check back frequently for more insights into these and other channel management trends.