Effective channel partner management is essential for any business using an indirect sales force. Channel partners are not your employees and thus have varying degrees of commitment to sell your products. The partner management component becomes even more critical for a startup, which typically doesn’t have an overabundance of capital and therefore has a smaller margin of error.
With or without an indirect sales channel, software startups have their own unique requirements for success. If you run a software startup and are contemplating the development of an indirect sales force, here are some general guidelines to consider.
Hire an Experienced Manager
There’s no substitute for experience, especially when it comes to channel partner management. Years of experience as a direct sales manager doesn’t count because, as we all know, indirect sales is a very different animal. The strategies, protocols, training and incentives for an indirect sales channel can vary greatly from those associated with traditional internal sales.
Ideally, the channel manager would also be a full-time position because managing a large group of partners takes time and energy. You want someone whose job is devoted to building and maintaining a successful channel. A dedicated manager can provide big dividends down the road so make sure he or she has the time and resources to do the job properly. This includes targeted training, certification and ongoing support.
Choose the Appropriate Technology
In many ways, channel partner management is only as good as the technology used to track, monitor and supervise your indirect sales force. Partner relationship management (PRM) systems frequently provide the best options for channel managers of a startup or a company developing an indirect channel for the first time.
When properly applied to your current business software, PRM systems can assist with partner recruitment, onboarding and ramp-up because they offer an easy-to-access, cloud-based portal for distributing sales and product information. This is particularly critical in the software industry, where products, details, applications and features can change quickly.
Choose Your Partners Carefully
Selling software is a highly specialized job. Resellers need to know the products inside and out, and they should be well-versed in service and support as well. General sales experience or limited exposure to this market isn’t enough. You need partners who have experience selling your specific type of software and targeting suitable customer groups.
Train Your Partners Well
Even if your channel partners have experience with software sales, make sure they receive training about the intricacies of your specific products. Since the software market is changing constantly, this training should be ongoing.
A robust, cloud-based PRM system enables channel managers to train partners at any time and in any part of the word.