I see a lot of companies managing their channel partners in a less structured way compared to their direct sales teams. But in most cases, your expectation from the channel is the same as your expectation from inside and field sales. You expect closed business & new customers.
Below are five fundamental suggestions for establishing and managing a channel-based sales program.
1. You need an overall and by-channel sales goal. You need to establish a sales & pipeline growth discipline with each individual partner. It would be great if the partner was aligned with this and also had a sales goal in mind (to drive referral fees back to them as revenue), but at minimum you need to have an internal expectation of sales & revenue yield by channel.
This seems fundamental, but I’ve seen many channel “objectives” talk about partnerships, customer alignment and awareness. Maybe, but those are means to an ends. Be explicit about expected sales & revenue yield from these channel relationships.
2. To get to this, you need an accurate sizing of the channel – how many prospective customers are involved, how big those customers are, and what revenue potential is inherent in each. Do the napkin math on what kind of sales & revenue would result in getting 5% of channel participants to sign up, 10%, etc.
3. You won’t necessarily be driving sales from new partners in month one, but you should have a clear, month-to-month expectation for lead activity, sales & revenue growth. Also, what are the leading-indicator metrics via which you can judge early success in the first couple months? Things like message/offer penetration & impressions in their communication channels, # of inbound leads tracked to that partner, etc. You need a very clear, quantifiable way of measuring progress.
4. Create a common sales toolkit for partners so you’re doing everything possible to enable them to communicate your value proposition and accelerate sales growth. This should include sales collateral, messaging platforms, samples of emails and other ad copy, access to your webinars and white papers, case studies, etc.
5. In addition to having a clear compensation model for the referring channels, consider “juicing” compensated activity in the early days of the partnership to help develop the habit of driving awareness, leads and business your way. For example, you could pay them for inbound leads in the first month. Eventually, you’d only want to pay points on closed deals, but you could essentially let them earn more early by delivering leads, then they’d get paid for that with a higher % on the first couple deals (so you don’t have to pay for anything until you start actually closing channel-generated business).