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Channel Matters Blog > October 2013 > Channel Trends to Watch for in 2014

Channel Trends to Watch for in 2014

by Rich Blakeman
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In the technology industry, change is a constant companion. If you aren’t innovating, you’re on the fast track toward obsolescence. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone in this industry who would dispute that.

But I have met several executives who seem to think the channel strategies they adopted three years ago should still work today. While they may increase quotas or tweak their channel program in one market or another, their overall approach to strategy is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I met a VP of Sales once who concluded that after he “finished” recruiting his channel, he could stop “wasting” so much of his time on channel strategy. It wouldn’t surprise you to learn that the channel strategy he thought was such a waste of time wasn’t very effective.
Regardless of your perspective, here are a few channel trends to watch for in 2014 and some thoughts on how you can prepare to take advantage of them.

Channel sales will continue to increase

The number of technology organizations selling only through direct sales has dwindled to less than 30 percent. We expect that trend to continue as technology companies look for more efficient and cost-effective routes to market.

  • For organizations that are direct only, now is the time to consider a multi-channel strategy.
  • Those with channel partners must understand that strengthening programs and developing deeper partner relationships is vital as your best partners will be prime targets for other organizations looking to build their channel.

New types of channels will emerge

The internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for the buyer to self-educate long before they engage with sales. Cloud-based applications also give the buyer an opportunity to “audition” a product for an extended period of time with limited commitment. For example, a sales organization can try the online version of many CRM applications for around $50 – $100 per seat per month. The risk of buying is significantly reduced, and it virtually cuts out the traditional reseller.

Is there a place for a partner channel in this model? Maybe. But it probably won’t be the same type of partner.

The wall between direct and channel sales will continue to crumble

I admit, I’ve been pushing for this for some time, but I’m starting to see some significant movement in this direction. Perhaps much of it is due to channel partner organizations shifting from sales-centric to service-centric. As these partners add value in new ways, direct salespeople are starting to see them more as a resource than as competition.

Beyond that, the direct force is under increasing pressure to achieve more of its objectives by collaborating directly in the territory (and inside strategic accounts as well) with partners – not just pretending to collaborate and then taking credit for the success that partners create. Customers are choosing how they want to buy faster than sales teams are adjusting to how they sell.

These changes won’t be easy, and the execution of channel sales integrated with direct sales has never been more important. Whether it’s a full-time role or simply one of their many responsibilities, channel strategists will need to push themselves to think in new ways and question old assumptions. They need to be innovators every bit as much as the folks in Research and Development.

Last modified on 11/18/2013 9:12:57 AM
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