If you want to run a strong and successful channel sales organisation in cybersecurity industry, there are some common best practices that your channel partners are expecting from you. If do not follow these rules and do not meet these expectations, soon the channel will no longer serving your business.
What is Channel Sales?
Channel sales is when the vendor (you) sells their products and services indirectly through distributers, value added resellers, managed service providers or any other entity.
Now the question is why vendor should set up channel sales from the first place? As a vendor (you) only have limited time and resources available during 24 hours. Plus, if you want to scale your business operations in different countries and regions, it is not sustainable to go and setup everything from the ground: operations, finance, marketing, sales, warehousing, supply and chain and etc. So in these scenarios, vendors are looking at setting up channel business, so they can achieve scale.
How Channel Works?
The way channel works is that you recruit 3rd party companies, such as distributers, resellers, service providers, agents and partners, train and enable them on how to sell your products and services, then agree on some level of incentives and margin structure, and then keep them up to date during the process of sales.
Of course, setting up channel business is not for everyone. As long as you have a mature products and services, mature sales cycle and mature business model, you can consider to have channel partners in place. This is working well of course in cybersecurity space. Majority of vendors have a clear business model (either perpetual or subscription based), very clear sales process from generating leads to closing the deal, very mature products and services (trials, demos and proof of concepts) so that they are fitting well into this area.
Having channel sales in place, does not mean that the vendor (you) are disconnected from end customers. In fact, I have seen many cybersecurity organisations that also have their field commercial team as well which will lead the opportunities directly and engage and hold relationships with their end users. However, all the sales still go through the channel and these guys only hold the relationships and lead the sales process. Since cybersecurity is a sensitive topic, end customers are more comfortable to talk to vendors directly.
1. How and Where to Find Channel Partners?
The process is at the same time simple and hard. It is simple to find channel partners because there is not that many experienced channel partners in cybersecurity space that knowing what the are doing. Especially in Australian market which all the cybersecurity partners are known and the ones that are growing have their mark on the industry.
At the same time, the process is hard because you want to have channel partners who are committed to do business with you, Plus, your products and solutions are filling a gap in their solution portfolio, and you provide an unfair advantage for them when it comes to go-to-market strategy. Indeed, your partners should have enough expertise in particular areas of cybersecurity both from technical and business perspective.
2. Recruit Channel Partners
The key lays in education, education and education. Have killer content in cybersecurity space and hold conferences, seminars, events, webinars and strong online presence to education your targeted personas.
If your solution is targeted for c-level executives, gather them at events and round tables and collaborate on problems that you are solving. Build a massive online presence in social media and web to educate these people with gated and un-gated content and show them what problem you are solving and how they can benefit from your solution.
If you are targeting technical community, set up lunch and learns, Friday events and educate them on how you technically achieve what you are achieving and how exactly your product works under the hood.
This will lead to the fact that many potential partners will come to you and asking on how they can be part of what you are doing.
Of course, there is an element of cold calling and account penetration as well which your channel sales team will reach out to targeted channel partners and see which areas they can collaborate with each other.
3. Enable, Enable and Enable
Now that you find your potential partners, it is time to enable them. This is very important as channel partner enablement is an ongoing continues process and it does not finish. You have to constantly feeding your partners with the latest products updates, battle cards, marketing campaigns, technical workshops, sales training and so on and making sure that your partners deliver the right messaging to your customers as well.
4. Monitor and Measure Success of Channel Partners
There are lot of KPIs that we can use to measure the success of the channel partners. Such as:
- Total number of partners
- Total number of transacting partners
- Partner attrition rate
- Total number of enabled partners
- Number of deals registered by partners
- The average deal size registered by partners
- Average sales cycle time
- Number of certifications that partners have
5. Hire Great Channel Managers
This is no brainer. You need channel champions who are capable of recruiting new partners, enabling them and show them the value of working with your company. People who can come up with strategies to grow a business and execute on those strategies. People who can work with internal stakeholders such as support, marketing and product team to make sure partner has everything they need.
Channel managers proactively help partner to achieve and exceed the sales targets. They are comfortable to give demos and presentations, speaking in public and mentor junior sales and technical people inside the organisation.
Here is my blog on what channel manager should achieve in the first 30 days on job.
6. Channel Partner Program
Invest on a solid partner program. Have the partner portal and equip them with comprehensive marketing and sales collateral, partner performance in terms of sales numbers, certifications achieved and deals status.
Have extra incentives for more committed partners. Invite them to specialised events such as Gala dinner, strategy meetings, marketing campaigns etc.
As a matter of fact, there are more reasons that channel partner may not work. Here is my blog on why your channel sales business may not work as you expecting.
At the end, having a solid partner program is the easy part. The hardest part of channel sales is to influence partners and making sure that they have what they want. As Hans Peter Beck says: “Many software executives consider the independent channel partners as a readily available, flexible and inexpensive sales resource and nothing could be further from the truth.”
Houman Asefi is world authority and visionary and B2B technology channel sales strategist, award finalist blogger, focusing on building and scaling sales strategy and making sure companies achieve their targeted revenue.
Contact Info: Houman Asefi
Phone Number: +61 452 219 022