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    October 28, 2022

    How to Develop a Successful Channel Partner Strategy

    As technology startups and other emerging businesses grow, they typically start by developing revenue through direct sales, either via product-led initiatives, inside sales, or a combination of several direct-to-buyer strategies. However, there’s almost always a transition point when these organizations must identify and pursue additional routes to the market to achieve their strategic goals. 

    These businesses often turn to channel partner sales to accelerate growth, break into new geographies, or reach new market segments. In fact, Forrester found that 76% of companies believe channel partnerships are key to achieving their revenue goals.

    However, the success of these partnerships lies in an organization’s ability to recruit the right mix of partners, then nurture and develop those relationships over time. 

    A channel partner strategy enables your company to achieve its goals through indirect sales by helping you connect with new partners, measure the success of your existing partnerships, and improve penetration through resellers. 

    In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of partner-led sales and walk you through the process of developing your first channel partner strategy.

    What is a Channel Partner Strategy? 

    A channel partner strategy is a sales plan that ensures your organization has the right mix of channels, partners, and capabilities to sell your products. Your partner strategy should align with your broader business goals, helping you accelerate growth and support your customers via partners and resellers. 

    Each organization’s strategy will differ based on its sales goals, customers, and target markets. Even so, there are several ways to ensure your partner program is effective and profitable. 

    Before you start recruiting partners or activating resellers, collaborate with internal stakeholders to: 

    • Identify your customers’ needs depending on size, location, the products they buy, and the type of service they expect to receive.  
    • Determine which types of partners you need to serve your customers and sell your products or solutions. 
    • Outline key objectives for your partner program that relate to your organization’s overall revenue goals.

    Why are Channel Partners Valuable During Times of Market Volatility?

    Market volatility can significantly stunt growth by increasing customer attrition, investor uncertainty, and pricing competition. To combat these trends, businesses must accelerate revenue through every available avenue — including indirect channel sales. 

    Channel partners can be extremely valuable, especially in challenging economic environments. A well-designed partner program is a highly efficient way to increase revenue through resellers. However, these programs do more than simply boost topline sales. 

    An effective channel partner strategy boosts revenue, increases brand awareness, and strengthens your presence in new markets or verticals. But to bring your strategy to life, you need the right mix of partners by your side, and the ability to nurture those partners over time. 

    How to Create Your Channel Partner Strategy 

    Your channel partner strategy should be efficient, scalable, and mutually beneficial. Developing that strategy starts with recruiting the right partners. 

    You’ll want to curate an ecosystem of partners that bring diverse capabilities and selling power to your program, so you can strategically target key accounts or reach specific customer segments. 

    Unfortunately, many businesses struggle to identify which new partners to recruit and how to maximize the value of their existing channel partners. 

    Sales leaders often rely on a combination of historical performance data, feedback from field teams, and third-party sources to inform partnership decisions. 

    While all of these insights are important, they’re also somewhat insular. Subjective internal input and low-quality data don’t provide enough context for sales leaders. Plus, it's nearly impossible for organizations that operate this way to accurately identify partners that will add significant value to their business.

    Instead of relying on several limited data sources, inform your channel partner strategy with high-quality data that enables long-term planning. It takes time to develop profitable partnerships — successful partner programs are built on multi-quarter and multi-year horizons. 

    Beyond taking this multi-year approach to partner development and planning, here are several ways to activate a successful channel partner strategy:

    Define the Goals of Your Channel Partner Strategy 

    The ROI of your channel sales strategies hinges on the partners that bring them to market. As you identify new partners, consider not just their independent success but also how well they align with your larger sales strategy. 

    Before you create a list of potential partners, identify the top priorities of your channel program. You’ll need to determine your partners' role in the value chain and how they’ll support your business objectives. 

    Here are some example questions you might use to determine the primary objectives of your strategy: 

    • Do you want to penetrate a specific market alongside established local partners? 
    • Do you want to generate new sales across territories and product lines? 
    • Do you want to find partners that support specialized capabilities or services? 
    • Do you want to optimize your solution stack to increase customer success

    While most partner programs include traditional resellers, those aren’t the only types of organizations you can work with to accelerate growth. You’ll likely rely on a combination of partners, depending on the areas of opportunity in your current markets, growth plans, and preferences for white labeling. 

    As you define the goals of your channel partner strategy, think about the types of partners you want to recruit, such as:

    • Value-Added Resellers
    • System Integrators
    • Independent Software Vendors
    • Original Equipment Manufacturers 

    Check out the glossary below to explore more types of partners and how they support channel sales strategies.

     

    Carefully Curate Your Partner List 

    Now, it’s time to start identifying new channel partners by type, capability, region, and other differentiating factors. But with hundreds of thousands of potential partners available, finding the perfect match can feel impossible. 

    Rather than choosing partners based on rudimentary research or your field teams’ best guesses, tap into meaningful, high-quality data to identify the best partners for your business

    Advanced data analytics tools like Coro’s Partner Sonar  analyze real-time data to help you source channel partners across multiple industries and geographies that can support your sales needs as they evolve. Use Partner Sonar to narrow down thousands of options to a short list of your best-fit partners based on custom criteria that align with your business goals.

    Nurture and Grow Channel Relationships

    Effective recruiting is integral to a successful partner program, but your strategy shouldn’t end when new partners come on board. Channel partnerships are long-term, two-way initiatives. 

    Just as your channel partners invest their skill sets and time in learning to sell your products, they want a partner that will support them over the years, both financially and strategically. 

    Lead generation is one of the most impactful ways to support your channel partners. Along with sourcing these leads, you should bring your partners in on open deals and involve them in relevant sales opportunities whenever possible. 

    As you grow your partner program, track performance and profitability at the partner level. Then, prioritize your time and marketing spend around the partners with the highest revenue potential

    If you’ve already established some opportunistic channel partnerships, now is the time to integrate those existing relationships into a scalable partner strategy. Review your experiences with existing partners to identify which tactics worked well and which fell flat. 

    These insights can inform your future recruiting and partnership management efforts. Rather than starting from scratch, you can iinvest in partners similar to those you've found success with in the past. 

    Provide Support and Account Management 

    Along with strengthening partnerships at a high level, provide your partners with tactical, day-to-day support so they can sell your products effectively and progress toward your shared goals. 

    Here are several ways to enable your partners and keep them aligned: 

    • Establish routine communication and be clear about your priorities and expectations from the start. 
    • Be consistent and coherent in partnership goals, aligning partner incentives with your sales principles. 
    • Invest in sales training for partners so you can pre-identify and solve roadblocks to selling. 
    • Take an active role in each partnership; don’t wait for problems to arise to get involved in your partners’ business operations.
    • Make it easy for customers to find your partners by promoting their services and sharing their contact information directly on your website. 

    As your partner program scales, you might be tempted to roll out multiple incentive programs or introduce a flurry of new ideas to your partners. However, added complexity often slows down growth — and creates friction between you and your partners. 

    Instead, take a programmatic approach to your channel partner strategy, and prioritize alignment from day one. Take it one step at a time, and make it easy for your partners to see the value proposition of working with your organization.

    Inform Your Channel Partner Strategy With Partner Sonar’s Powerful Data 

    Channel partners can be an invaluable resource for revenue growth and expansion, but only if you have the right partners by your side. 

    Partner Sonar, Coro’s proprietary channel management and optimization solution, gives you access to a global partner database and consulting-grade analyses that update regularly as the market evolves. Organizations can leverage the insights within Partner Sonar to: 

    • Find new channel partners
    • Develop profitable growth strategies
    • Plan or execute new product launches
    • Assign territories efficiently and effectively

    Partner Sonar’s user-friendly interface allows you to find partners across multiple capabilities, plus curated searches that align with your specific needs — whether you want to reach new territories, increase sales, or add new capabilities to your partner ecosystem. 

    See how one tech vendor used Partner Sonar to maximize the value of its current partners and identify new partners to sell next-gen products, resulting in a 43% increase in global channel sales. 

    Read the Case Study

    Types of Channel Partners

    Reseller

    A reseller purchases products from a technology partner, then markets and resells them to end customers.

    Value-Added Reseller 

    A value-added reseller (VAR) adds a set of curated features or services to its technology partner's core product before reselling it to end customers, increasing the core product's value with relevant add-ons.  

    Independent Software Vendor

    An independent software vendor (ISV) integrates its own software features with an existing software platform to create a comprehensive solution for end customers without disrupting their experience on their preferred software platform. 

    Managed Service Provider (MSP)

    Managed service providers (MSPs) offer ongoing management and technical support for a tech partner’s products or solutions. 

    System Integrator

    System integrators (SI) build integrated computing systems for their end customers by combining hardware and software components from multiple technology vendors. 

    Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) develops software that lives inside its tech partner’s software to provide specific functionality to end users. OEMs often fill a gap in a tech company’s software by providing custom functionality with white-labeled branding. 

    Consulting Partner 

    Consulting partners advise customers on IT purchases by sharing their technical expertise in a particular focus area, such as cloud services or system architecture. 


     

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