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Channel Matters Blog > March 2014 > Achieving Channel Leverage Starts at the Top

Achieving Channel Leverage Starts at the Top

by Rich Blakeman
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The business landscape is littered with failed channel strategies – sophisticated programs that never lived up to their promise in the eyes of the organization or their channel partners. So why do so many programs fail? The answer lies in one of the most common reasons any large initiative fails – lack of executive buy-in.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but not everyone is crazy about change. While many executives hide it well, a good number of them will subtly resist change when they don’t see the benefit. They’ll resist it even more when they believe the change will impact them negatively.
Short of business restructuring, adding channel partners to the go-to-market model is about the biggest change any executive will experience in their career. As a channel leader, your job is to sell them on the channel strategy. Looking at the situation from the executive’s point of view can help you build the business case.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of executive roles and the strategies you might take with each:
VP of Sales
Concern: Sales leaders who have no experience selling through the channel will understandably be concerned about the conflict between the partner channel and their direct sales force. To them, the channel represents one more competitor who can take the sale away.
Strategy: Channel leaders need to help sales executives see the benefits of a collaborative strategy. Developing solid rules of engagement will help both the channel organization and direct sales understand each other’s role in the opportunity and how collaboration can increase the opportunity for everyone. The concept of improving collaboration between channel partners and a direct sales force is quite extensive. For more, take a look at Beyond the Numbers: Transitioning Your Go-To-Market Model Part 1 and Part 2. Channel Enablers offers a number of training programs designed to help improve collaboration.
VP of Services
Concern: Service leaders may have a number of concerns based on past experiences: Will the channel take away some of my service opportunities? Will my team be expected to provide support to the channel as well as direct customers, and how will that impact staffing requirements and customer satisfaction levels? Will an inexperienced channel cause customer satisfaction issues that my team has to deal with?
Strategy: It can be difficult to predict which concerns are most pressing for individual service leaders. The channel leader’s challenge is to uncover these concerns and help the service leader put together a business plan.
Chief Financial Officer
Concern: The CFO’s biggest concern is how the channel organization will impact the bottom line. On the one hand, they see investments being made in areas such as marketing programs, enablement and account management – all necessary to support the channel. On the other hand, they realize that the organization’s revenues from each sale will also be less once partner margins are subtracted. With all this money going out, how does that add up to a win for the organization?
Strategy: Channel leaders need to help CFOs calculate the true costs of selling through a channel vs. a direct sales organization. While there are investments, larger initially but gradually leveling off, the actual cost of selling through a channel is lower than a direct sales force.
These are just three of the most common examples. You’re very likely to have additional executives with a wide variety of concerns in your organization. At Channel Enablers, we often encounter channel leaders that think they have executive buy-in yet, after a few quick conversations with their leadership team, it becomes obvious there are a few skeptics.
It takes time for any channel strategy to get off the ground and start producing results. It’s a vulnerable time for both the channel initiative and the channel leader’s career. The last thing you need is for questions to be raised about the investment in channel while your channel efforts are still in a developmental stage. To ensure success, you need to take the time to make sure you have gained more than just lip service from the executive team.
As you undertake the task of selling your peers on your channel strategy, reach out to me at I’d be happy to discuss how Channel Enablers can help.
Last modified on 3/20/2014 6:09:09 PM
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