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Channel Matters Blog > October 2013 > Rethinking Your Channel Strategy

Rethinking Your Channel Strategy

by Scott P Leeper
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As anyone who has sold through a partner channel knows, it’s not for the faint of heart. Selling through a partner channel can dramatically increase your coverage. On the other hand, if your channel strategy isn’t aligned to your business goals, it can dramatically increase your headaches, too.
 
The end of 2013 is the perfect time for business leaders to ask the tough questions. Try bringing a few of these up at your next 2014 strategy session.
 
Does the makeup of our current channel reflect changes in our business strategy made over the last 12 months? For example, if you’ve introduced a new product or entered a new market, what changes have you made to the channel strategy to support these new initiatives?
 
What are the top 5 activities we need partners to execute? Examples might include phone support, implementations, demand generation, selling, etc. Are at least 20 percent of your partners able to fulfill these expectations? This is one area where you might want to push a bit. When executives take a random list of their “top” partners and start evaluating them objectively against these criteria, the picture can be dramatically different from the generally accepted understanding of the channel’s overall performance.
 
How have our expectations of the channel changed? Have you communicated that to the channel? For example, if your 2014 business strategy calls for partners to provide a service such as first level phone support that used to be optional, are your partners aware of this new expectation? Is this new expectation a win/win opportunity, or is the benefit all one-sided? What assistance have you provided to help them gear up for this new responsibility?
 
How happy are our customers with our partners? If your partners are your customers’ primary contact with your organization, their reputation becomes your own. Channel organizations should conduct annual and even semi-annual surveys to ensure customer satisfaction isn’t slipping.
 
How happy are our partners with our organization? Just as employee morale is important, happy partners outperform disgruntled ones. An annual survey can shed some light on a number of “easy fixes” that will improve performance. Taking care of the small things also makes it easier for channel partners to deal with the big issues, like margin levels or MDF funding, that aren’t so easy to change.
 
It’s easy to ask these questions. It’s harder to get to the truth. Too often, the politic thing for the executive to do is to assure everyone that everything is running smoothly. Unfortunately, sweeping channel problems under the rug is one of the best ways to turn small problem into big ones.
 
It’s also critical to do something with the information gathered. Partners and customers get tired of answering surveys when they don’t see any indication that the organization cares about their responses. Effectively selling through a channel calls for continuous improvement and for changes to strategy as the business evolves and customer needs change.
 
 
Last modified on 11/18/2013 9:13:16 AM
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