Fundamentals to Boost Channel Revenue: Strategic Planning, Innovation, Communication & Trust

Many vendors and manufacturers, regardless of industry, fall victim to their annual channel partner plans. The process starts in the middle of Q4 when excited vendor channel teams close out the year and prepare for the next. CAMs and PAMs with the best intentions rally stakeholders, crunch a few numbers, build an agenda, and schedule the all-familiar offsite. But before packing the polos, shorts, and flip flops – Channel Chiefs should hit pause and contemplate a few questions:

  • How will the plan be innovative and different from last year?  
  • Will the proposed approach focus on business drivers and sales data?  
  • Will channel partners participate in the planning?   

Before sandals hit the warm sand, challenge CAM and PAM projections, strategies, and thinking. Do not simply blow the dust off last year’s PowerPoint and swap out the fiscal year leading to the same outcomes. Fatigued strategies and worn-out themes will rue the day.  

Channel Partner Plan 

Fiscal year – 2020-something 

Slide 2 – Partner Training and Certification 

(truth: only 25% effective

Slide 3 – Dedicate Headcount to Partner 

(truthapproximate cost of a sales call x 2

Slide 4 – Partner Marketing Distribution Funds (MDF) 

(truth: mostly untracked

Slide 5 – Affordable lunch & learn pizza delivery service 

(truth: it’s Domino’s)     

Expecting Different Results? 

There is tremendous need and value in vendor care and support. Without question – channel partners sincerely appreciate product training, subject matter experts, marketing funds, and free pepperoni pizza. Still, vendors often make a critical mistake by smothering, overcomplicating, and overwhelming channel partners – supposing earned mindshare through more is better.  

The weekly weight on channel partners is stifling and predictable. Every Monday, a different vendor schedules a lunch & learn, takes a temperature check on sales activity, and leaves behind a deluge of collateral, spec-sheets, and customer case studies – alongside the semi-warm pizza boxes (never forget the pizza). Vendors and channel partners realize the typical annual plans will usually work. However, typical lacks passion, creativity, motivation, and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, it’s typical, so consider changing course and head toward something new.

Build Trust and Add Business Value 

“Not Adding Value is the Same as Taking it Away.” 

– Seth Godin –

Channel partner leadership teams and their sales managers are looking for additional value. They seek to trust in the form of a strategic and tactical go-to-market sales relationship based on business objectives. In addition, Channel partners desire a genuine business relationship centered on creative sales-readiness conversations, opportunity escalation, real-time deal support, meaningful pipeline growth, and conversion-focused top-line revenue.  

Take a macro perspective. Vendors and channel partners have the same priority – running a business. On the surface, goals appear aligned, and both organizations pursue the same objectives. However, it’s a rare practice to think critically, creatively, and collaborate on a joint business plan. MOUs and MDFs support business planning but lack necessary insights, judgment, action, and regular data-driven discernment.   

For vendors and channel partners, there must be day-to-day business interaction and analysis of material sales activities:      

  • Hearty discussions on the number of incoming leads today and this week
    • Are the number of leads up or down, and why?
    • Co-develop a short and long-term data-driven improvement plan.
  • Examine lead qualification rates
    • Is the lead qualification percentage up or down, and why?
    • Co-develop a short and long-term data-driven improvement plan.
  • Analyze opportunities stuck in a particular sales phase
    • Do sales managers and salespeople know the current situation and next steps?
    • Co-develop a short and long-term next-step opportunity plan.
  • Spirited deal review conversations around expected close dates for the month and quarter
    • What is the sales team’s forecast accuracy and is it good or bad, and why?
    • Co-develop a short and long-term data-driven improvement plan.

Invest in Each Other 

Vendor and channel partner conversations must also follow the same business logic as a direct sales team—every question servicing the sales process, opportunity velocity, accurate forecasting, client success, and exceeding revenue expectations. Vendors should liaise with channel partners and build a sales-focused business plan around pipeline growth, shrinking the sales cycle, increase deal size, improving forecast accuracy, and accelerating close dates. Always remembering, vendor-partner victory hinges on successful performance tied to both organization’s financials.  

Push for a daily or weekly business communication cadence, knowing that better conversations will result in improved outcomes. Co-invest in each other’s success. 

Consider tools and software that support sales visibility, lead activity, deal momentum, and pipeline development.  

  • Intelligent Infrastructure:  Agree on a platform that consumes and feeds back real-time client engagement information that matters. Discuss how current sales opportunity data, client meeting outcomes, and up-to-date sales statistics will encourage more timely client strategy discussions.  
  • Lead Management:  Nothing bonds the vendor-channel partner relationship like solid leads. But even the good, warm, and hot leads get mishandled.  Determine the most efficient and effective lead flow management process, execution procedures, and follow-up. 
  • Learning in the Flow of Work:  Support salespeople when it’s needed and when it matters. Most salespeople struggle with the first client conversation.  Even seasoned sales pros wrangle with unearthing concerns, extracting customer problems, describing possible solutions, and defining the next steps. A channel salesperson might have six-morning calls about six different vendors, including all their products and services.  If the salesperson is perplexed, unprepared, and lacks confidence, the opportunity will perish.  Improve a channel salesperson’s success and arm them with relevant just-in-time information moments before the client call – when they need it. 
  • Campaigns and Gamification:  Salespeople love to compete, earn rewards, and receive recognition. Get creative and have some fun! Collaborate on campaigns and gamification experiences to stimulate your market, motivate salespeople, and build a solid pipeline.

Vendors should carefully select a business-driven channel partner with the right insights, acumen, and qualities. Vendor and Partner success is co-dependent, and victory happens when both co-invest in the business strategy. If the business relationship is 30%, 50%, or 80% percent of annual revenue, then common sense would embolden either to make the first move, start anew, and call for a business strategy session.