6 Resolutions for Better-Performing Channels

The beginning of a new year draws two kinds of people: those seeking better-performing channels and those promising faster results. Rather than falling for the hype of acceleration, consider these six tried-and-true resolutions for getting better channel results.

By Larry Walsh

Somewhere out there, a couple of channel guys or gals are traipsing through the maze of office cubicles doing their best impressions of Goose and Maverick from “Top Gun.” Yeah, you can hear them too, shouting with glee, “I feel the need…the need for speed!” High five!

You know whom I’m talking about. You’ve see these two around this time every year. They might as well be doing an interpretation of Ricky Bobby saying, “I want to go fast!” followed by some awkward reference to “Shake and Bake.”

These are the channel people who want to accelerate their channel partners’ sales, make promises about being able to deliver faster channel performance, or sell the idea that they have the formula to unlock untold speed in channel activity.

For several weeks last year, I kept getting the same message in my inbox: “Attend our one-day seminar and learn how to transform your business into a thriving managed security service provider … IN JUST SIX WEEKS.”

Already, messages are flying around the channel about services, methodologies, training, and workshops that will produce nothing short of channel programs generating revenue and profits at the speed of sound. You can hear the rush of cash in the vortex behind the flurry of beginning-of-the-year-activity.

Yes, it’s January.

Yes, we’re all full of ambition.

Yes, we’ve all recharged our batteries over the holidays.

Yes, we’ve either set new goals or had some lofty goals handed to us.

And, yes, we’re all programmed through decades of social convention to think of a new calendar year as a start line from which we only climb higher through resolutions and goal-setting.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get honest: It never works that way. Carnival barkers will always overpromise and underdeliver. I’m not saying they won’t put on a good show. A good snake oil salesman is well-practiced in telling his audience the things they want to hear. After all, who doesn’t want a magic elixir to cure all that ails them?

What makes channels go? You can start the year by making these six tried-and-true channel resolutions.

  1. Demand: Demand or need is where it all starts. No matter how much you push a product or incent a partner, activity won’t happen unless there’s a need or a demand for the product or service in the market. If you want to help partners sell product and generate more sales faster, work on either driving demand for your products and services or enabling partners to educate customers on why your particular product is an imperative.
  2. Enablement: Whether you call it training, knowledge transfer, or conditioning, enablement is how vendors ensure partners understand their products, can sell and support them, and can act as effective evangelists to their customers. Enablement is more than teaching partners about technical specifications and setup procedures; it’s about helping them recognize opportunities and make recommendations to customers. Enablement has a direct line to sales results.
  3. Accessibility: Accessibility – or availability – is a big deal to partners and customers. We’re living in an Amazon (or Alibaba, depending on where you live) world. Commercial customers and partners not only want products faster; they expect and demand it. More than one-half of commercial customers expect products within five days of purchase. Ensuring that partners have quick and easy access to products and services is essential for accelerating sales.
  4. Consistency: Consistency – or staying true to a channel charter – provides partners with the ability to build around and with you. Vendors that suffer the most disruptions and inconsistency in channel performance are typically the same that make constant changes to their programs and processes. Partners are more likely to work with flawed channel programs that are consistent than they are to work with beautifully designed and fluid channel programs that are in perpetual motion.
  5. Simplicity: As Steve Jobs said, simplicity is hard. And simplicity is the thing every channel chief should strive to achieve. Complicated requirements, policies, and processes add time to the partnership equation. The more time it takes to do things, the more partner productivity and sales are dampened.
  6. Persistency: Partnership is a hands-on endeavor. Persistency – or persistent engagement – is essential to achieving channel results. Vendors that persistently engage with their partners on business development, training, communications, and sales opportunities typically generate consistent and better channel results. Vendors that treat their channels opportunistically or from a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” perspective tend to have sluggish and inconsistent channel performance.

If none of this sounds like a Pulp Fiction-size syringe full of adrenaline, you’re right. It’s not. Channel performance is often a reflection of the level of effort that backs these six attributes. If you want to accelerate channel performance, start by resolving to generate demand with and through partners, enable partners to succeed, ensure product and resource availability, be consistent in policies and execution, simplify wherever possible, and engage persistently. You’ll get the channel results. It may start slow, but like all things – change is slow until it isn’t.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 GroupLarry Walsh is the CEO of The 2112 Group, a business strategy and research firm servicing the IT channel community. He’s also the publisher of Channelnomics, the leading source of channel news and trend analysis. Follow Larry on Twitter at @lmwalsh2112 and subscribe to his podcast, Pod2112, on iTunes, Google Play, and other leading podcast sources. You can always e-mail Larry directly at lmwalsh@the2112group.com.