Change or risk obsolescence. That is the message from channel partner sales leaders. Fueled by new expectations from customers, shifts in purchasing patterns and technological advances that are commoditizing past offerings, channel sales leaders are overhauling their partner strategies.
In a recent survey of high tech channel sales leaders who are moving to XaaS offerings and re-evaluating their channel programs, the following strategies rose to the top:
Re-evaluate channel partner mix
Many channel leaders expressed a specific lack of confidence that their current channel partners will be able to evolve and succeed in a XaaS environment. With this in mind, leading companies are re-assessing their current partners and recruiting partners based upon a new set of criteria.
Some of the top criteria include:
Given the aforementioned criteria, many companies are recruiting new partners to replace VARs (Value Added Resellers) who are not able to evolve beyond legacy fulfillment services. New partner targets include a host of service provider types who can support the shift to services-led models and broader customer solutions. To highlight the shift in partner mix, many companies expressed that up to one-third of their current active partners were new within the last 18 months.
Concentrate on a smaller set of partners
Channel partner leaders who are driving higher relative growth from the partner (vs. direct) channels are focusing their investments on a smaller list of partners. Individual partner focus shows up when measuring active partners per internal channel headcount (HC). In companies where channel growth is paramount to overall growth, the ratio of active partners per channel HC is 12 versus an overall ratio of 30 partners per channel HC in other companies.
Increase investment in new types of channel partner enablement programs
The partner mix of the future will consist of an eco-system with strengths across the customer value chain. To ensure this happens, many companies are investing in their partners with new types of development funds that go way beyond the traditional MDF (marketing development funds). Specifically, companies are identifying new ways to invest in helping partners focus on new service attach opportunities, co-developing and co-selling new solutions, enhancing ability to sell cloud offerings and gaining access to new customers.
Top of the list is channel partner sales enablement which includes investments in building partner sales and technical skills. Often this includes re-evaluation and upgrade of existing channel sales training to include soft-selling skills, developing business acumen and business value propositions surrounding Cloud and XaaS.
Adjust partner programs
With current market shifts toward XaaS fundamentally changing customer expectations for both vendor and partner, the partner program must adapt as well. Companies that focus on partner channel growth are making significant changes to their current programs. Organizations are currently evaluating and implementing the following key changes:
Embracing changes to the partner mix, the partner focus and the investments in enablement and programs is key to growth. At Alexander Group we agree with channel leaders who are taking a more aggressive approach to evolving their channels; we have developed many time-proven frameworks and practices to support this effort.
To find out how Alexander Group can help your company improve its channel growth strategy, email Michelle Rittenberg.
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