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Channel Matters Blog > June 2015 > The Mid-Year Channel Checkup: Market Coverage

The Mid-Year Channel Checkup: Market Coverage

by Rich Blakeman
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This month, we've been taking a close look at the analysis and actions channel organizations can take to ensure they're on track to meet their end-of-year numbers.

I started off with a post on refocusing your resources on channel partners that can make a difference. Then, my colleague, Jan de Leon, wrote a post on the importance of building channel business acumen. Today, I want to turn the focus to market coverage.

We could easily have started with market coverage. After all, this is where it all begins. At the beginning of the year, most organizations do at least some market coverage analysis to ensure adequate geographic coverage as well as other coverage areas such product lines, industries and whole product. From this analysis, they create their yearly plans for partner recruitment, development and retention.

What could possibly go wrong?
Like all of our "best-laid plans," things can go astray. In the case of market coverage, we generally see two problems:

Poor or inadequate planning — Most often, this is a case of if we only knew then what we know now. It's not that the channel leaders or channel managers who put the plans together were bad planners. They just didn't fully understand key aspects of either their territory or their partners.

For example, perhaps your channel manager planned to target a specific niche market. He thought he had the perfect product, the perfect partner and limited competition. Plus, the niche is booming so the customers can afford to pay a premium price.

Now, after a few months of banging his head against the wall, he's come back with at least one of the following discoveries:
— The product isn't really a great fit for these customers.
— There are more competitors/more-established competitors than initial analysis suggested.
— The partner oversold their capabilities and track record in this market.
— Market dynamics have changed, and the companies in this niche are struggling to adapt or survive.

Do you tell your channel manager to "go out there and execute as planned!" Of course not. You change the market coverage plan to adapt to the new market understanding and focus your resources on where they can do the most good.

Poor execution — Sometimes, execution is the issue. For example, the channel manager may not have recruited the partners she said she would. Or sales enablement didn't redesign their programs to improve channel development as agreed at the beginning of the year. Or marketing had to pull back on market development funding due to some unexpected priorities.

The reasons for poor execution are numerous, and while it's important to understand what happened, it's not helpful to spend a lot of time pointing fingers. With only six months left in the year, you need to focus on what can still be done to get things back on track.

Take the channel-recruiting issue, for example. Let's say our channel manager needed to bring on six new partners in specific geographies in the first half of the year. For reasons outside of her control (or not), she's only been able to recruit two of the six. Does it make sense for her to double down on recruiting and try to find the additional four?

Maybe not. In a complex sales environment, onboarding a channel partner can easily take six months or more. She won't want to stop recruiting as those partners recruited this year will still help build market coverage next year. However, she's going to have to find another route if she wants to impact this year's results.

Most often, that means developing the partners we have. As you think about this, it might be helpful to reference our original post on Achievers, Believers and Deceivers and my earlier post on refocusing your resources.

With a little coaching from her manager or other top performers, the channel manager is in the best position to identify which partners can be developed and how. However, the development is probably not something she'll be able to execute on her own. New development plans need to be made with new commitments from different contributors, e.g., enablement, marketing, training, etc., in order to have an impact before the end of the year. Depending on the extent of the effort, it may take executive-level sponsorship to ensure buy-in.

What's your game plan?
This may not be our last post on the mid-year channel checkup. Some of my best ideas for blog posts come from our own channel organization and partners. It's possible they'll bring up some new angle that helps shed light on the perennial challenges faced by channel organizations. (I love it when that happens, and I won't hesitate to share it!)

However, the overarching takeaway that I want to leave you with is that midyear channel planning can't be an afterthought. Of course, you can't adjust plans every day. Sometimes you need to call an audible on the field. But winning teams make full use of half time to create a winning game plan for the second half.
Last modified on 6/12/2015 4:39:21 PM
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