According to the World Trade Organization, a whopping 75% of global trade is conducted through indirect channels. So, if you’re conducting business through a channel system, you’ve already got a spot among the popular crowd. However, with the constant changes in the economy and in how businesses operate, you may need to rethink your current channel management system. First, let’s start with the basics of building out your channel management system, then we’ll throw some ideas around on how you can revamp and optimize your current structure.
Here are some steps and processes you should employ to build out an efficient channel management system:
Start with the strategy.
It is imperative that you start out with a well-thought-out, robust strategy that aligns with your channel ecosystem. Before you do anything, first, you need to put your own company under the microscope. You need to analyze your overall operation to uncover which partners you even need to help you reach your set goals. Do your research on what your competitors are doing, trends in the market, etc. Then when creating your strategy, you need to consider what your channel partner needs to help you reach those set goals. Because different partners have different needs. Once you have defined a plan, you need to clearly communicate it to your channel partners once they’re onboard.
Then the selection process.
Now it is time to choose your partners, which requires more than just asking yourself, “What do I want in channel partner?” But that’s a start. Jot down the characteristics you want in your channel partners so you can visualize your needs. The characteristics can cover a wide range from culture or desired geographical location to level of tech savviness or ability to collaborate. It’s really up to you. You just have to be honest with yourself on what you really want vs. what you really need from your channel partners. Here are a few helpful tips on recruiting channel partners.
Now, sell yourself.
You’re not the only one seeking a reliable partner for a channel management system. Your perspective channel partners are most definitely sizing up your business to see if it’s a good fit for them as well. So put your best foot forward because you are definitely being evaluated.
SaaS it up.
I’m a digital girl, living in a digital world – you know that we’re living in a digital world, right? The material world is long gone, and your channel partners will most definitely appreciate the ease that digital brings. And channel partners turn their noses up at antiquated software. You’d be hard-pressed to join a channel partner ecosystem trying to optimize channels with Lotus 1-2-3, right? Do your research to find the best partner portal where channel partners can quickly access relevant materials and connect with one another 24/7, from any location.
Establish a workflow.
You’ve got your channel partners and software in place. Now let’s get to work! Oh, if it were only that easy. You can’t just flip a switch and expect a workflow to appear out of thin air. You must outline precisely what your various channel partners are going to do and how they’re going to do it. Just to be clear, you are not the only one creating processes – this should be a collaborative effort. It’s very possible that your channel partners already have a process in place for their operations. However, their process is a cog in wheel of many channel partner processes and need to be clearly communicated out. Your focus should be on the big picture – basically the overall process that encompasses and aligns with each channel partner’s process and workflow.
Enable your partners.
You must set your channel partners up for success. Partner enablement means providing channel partners the tools they need to reach success, whether that be a partner portal or properly onboarding and educating on your products, services, processes and operations. There is a strategy to this that includes providing the necessary training, tools and resources for channel partners to successfully market and sell your products. And it doesn’t stop there. Once you onboard and educate, it’s essential to go back and check for understanding to make sure it all stuck. Also include a forum within your partner portal where partners can openly share best practices and provide feedback.
Additional tips on revamping your current channel management system:
- Revisit your overall strategy. Is it working? Are there areas for improvement? Pull your channel partners in to glean feedback on your current strategies. They are in the mix and will be your best critics to develop more efficient, streamlined processes.
- Revisit your partners. You need to evaluate the value that everyone brings to the table, because let’s face it, some of your partners have it, some don’t. If you have an amazing strategy and less than stellar channel partners, you are going to run into problems. The channel partners you chose to initially complete your ecosystem may not be performing to your standards for whatever reason. If that is the case, start to cut your losses, because ridding yourself of a low-performing partner is not as easy or quick as it seems. This is why it is so important to vet your partners on the front end of building out your channel management system. But hey, things happen, and your business may have just outgrown a certain partner. Learn from your mistakes, move on and amp up your search for a replacement.
- Revisit your software. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But with SaaS software rolling out quicker than Black Friday sales during November, there is probably an option out there will more bells and whistles than your current program. Don’t be afraid to shop round, even if your current system is working for you. You could be missing out on loads of new functionality that’s come on board since you initially implemented your software.