Submitted by: Bill Ribble, VP Business Development, Incentive Solutions

Oftentimes, a company’s success is based on the strength of its relationship with its channel partners. These partners are who companies rely on to deliver their products, tech or services to their customers. Creating the right Channel Program allows companies to not only find the right sales channel partners, but also provides the tools and strategies needed for your partners to generate sales.

Cindy Kennaugh of Microsoft.com offers a number of tips to help companies navigate the complex waters of sales channels and assist in designing and implementing effective channel strategies.

  • Have a clear understanding of what sales channels are, how they work and which ones are best for your particular company.
  • Determine what your company’s goals for having a channel program are. Sales revenue is a primary factor, obviously, but your goals should be longer-term and further reaching. Establishing a solid partnership will foster enhanced productivity, leading to growth both now and in the future.
  • Creating a successful channel partner program starts with informing your partners of what your company’s needs are and who your target market is. They also need information detailing what verticals you’re aiming for, and which strategies work best in specific markets.
  • Create a list of potential resellers
  • Select the channel partners that are the best fit for your company. Your resellers are an extension of your company, so it’s important that how they do business aligns with the goals and image your company wants to portray. This is crucial.
  • Maintain your channel program on a regular basis through effective management. Vendors must stay on top of the program in order to foster a maximum level of partner engagement.
  • Your channel management should include ongoing communications that vendors initiate and keep going. Open lines of communication provide you and your partners with the knowledge and tools necessary for your success. Support like this will motivate your resellers to use their most effective sales strategies to motivate buyers.

Geoffrey James of BNet writes, “Ongoing communication is vitally important to the health of a channel relationship.” He advises that in today’s fast paced business structure, “you’ll need to constantly inform your channels of what’s going on with your company, the target markets, your installed base, and so forth. Consider implementing a news-feed that provides your channel partners with key information on a weekly or even daily basis.”

He also recommends incentives as a key motivator for channel partners, as channel incentive programs, utilizing both cash and non-cash incentives, are an effective means of increasing reseller productivity.

For cost-effective incentives, points-system strategies often work well. Partners are easily motivated to be productive so that they can use their points for trips, gifts, and other rewards.