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featureed image Published 2015-09-21, by Seth Jacobsen

Beyond the Quick Fix: First Steps for Building a Channel Program

In today’s competitive market, many companies are looking to boost sales, expand their customer bases, and launch new products. For successful corporations, this means taking the next step to keep up with the competition. For organizations that are just starting out, this means choosing the right sales strategy for rapid growth and quick success.

In these emerging growth companies, one of the most viable solutions is the development of an indirect sales channel. Indirect sales partners are independent dealers and resellers who market your products. Channel partners provide additional “reach” without the overhead of an internal sales force and, with the right approach, they can be recruited and onboarded expeditiously.

Convinced by the benefits of an indirect sales strategy, many young and growing companies attempt to address their new channel management challenges using “point solutions.” For example, common decisions here include:

  • Signing up for Salesforce.com to track leads.
  • Using Excel to tracking training sessions.
  • Using SharePoint, Dropbox, Google Docs, or other similar systems to manage documentation and content between the small number of partners.

Most business people are familiar with the use of these point solutions, so they are a relatively quick and easy fix for a new channel program. But as the channel grows, using disconnected point solutions rather than a unified system for channel management will become increasingly complex—and eventually impossible.

Implementing a partner relationship management (PRM) system for managing an indirect sales strategy from the beginning will pay off in the long run, especially when it’s time to scale the channel.

SEE ALSO: Promoting Partner Collaboration via PRM

PRM is Ideal for Channel Programs

Partner relationship management (PRM) software is a business solution designed to meet the challenges of supervising an indirect sales channel. PRM software is not a one-size-fits all system; it is scalable, adaptable, and flexible, depending on the needs of the company.

The first step is to develop a sound business strategy for building the channel, then incorporate all the necessary tools to implement the plan. Partner relationship management software systems provide efficient protocols for recruiting and on-boarding new partners as well as providing them with the information and tools they need to be successful.

Another key component of PRM is lead management, a process by which sales leads are registered, protected and monitored. Lead management prevents channel conflict, a highly unproductive situation in which channel partners are competing against each other—or with your own internal sales staff.

In building a channel program, you’ll need to select PRM components and tools that are suited to your specific business. These can include methods for distributing sales materials, management of market development funds (MDFs), and the structuring of partner agreements as well as training and certification procedures.

Channel Management

Just as critical as the choice of channel management tools is the selection of a channel manager. Depending on the size and scope of the company, this may or may not be a full-time position, but it’s critical that the channel manager sees the indirect sales force as a top priority.

The channel manager needs to put in the time and effort to learn the intricacies of the PRM system and keep tabs on all the partners. Ongoing two-way communication and performance monitoring is a must for channel success.

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