Deadheads browsing this post will immediately place the song. “The Wheel” is a singalong anthem celebrating life on the road and the need for persistence in one’s quest for discovery. The Garcia/Hunter classic poses the question. “Won’t you try just a little bit harder, Couldn’t you try just a little bit more?”
Trying harder and trying more is a constant in our competitive personal and professional lives. It is also a plea we ask of our channel partners and lead generation allies who help us take our products and services to market, but as we all know, achieving success is much more than just an exercise tied to their raw effort.
Having been a channel sales and partner development executive for most of the past 20 years in both the financial services and healthcare technology industry, I can say unequivocally that the Channel Sales Model is a complex one to do right and there are multiple traps that can sidetrack results. Here are my top 5.
1. Determine the right channel sales or marketing model — complex disruptive solutions in an emerging market or category are not good ones for channel sales efforts. Sell direct here; however, in this instance, using partners to generate leads and provide access is a much better path than expecting the channel to fully drive the win. Channel sales work best in a market that is more mature and/or experiencing exponential growth where there is market share grab, where the partner does not need to explain the category or service as awareness has been established and where the partner is useful because of their reach and/or the relevance of your product to their ancillary solution.
2. If you decide to use a channel sales model, it requires complete focus. That often times will mean that servicing the market opportunity directly becomes a mutually exclusive decision. If the channel partner sees you competing against them, it lessens their commitment to your products as they will feel disadvantaged over your internal direct sales teams.
3. Channel sales usually take a long time to get off the ground. The reason for this is that a reseller has a different set of priorities than yours. You bring a great sense of startup urgency, have strong focus only on your product/service, and are willing to work long hours. However, they are focused on other products and deals that are paying the bills and driving immediate commission volume for their reps. It will usually require a lot of work to convince them that they will get a return on time invested in your product.
4. Value-added resellers (VARs) and distributors don’t want to do the work to create demand for a new product. They usually prefer to sell products where the demand already exists. So in addition to your own demand creation, marketing efforts, you are likely to want your channel marketing staff to create materials and programs that can be used by the channel to market to their own customers. They will then need to push the resellers into committing to running events, webinars, etc., using those materials.
5. Resellers need education on how to sell, handle objections, differentiate your product from the competition, etc. This requires work by your channel sales team. But they will need backup from channel marketing people whose job it will be to create the appropriate training materials, programs, tests, etc.
Now that I am advising several great, early and mid-stage healthcare technology service firms, I remain more convinced than ever that the Channel Sales Model is a winner. If the thunder don’t get you than the lightning will.