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A well-thought-out channel partner strategy can generate leads, offer resales and improve services delivery, which help drive revenue growth. However, weak objectives, poor planning and misaligned priorities can limit overall success and lead to missed opportunities.

Learn how to create a winning channel partner strategy and avoid common pitfalls , including how to:

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Channel Sales Business Plan and Proposal – Guidelines and Tips

by Ali Spiric | Feb 1, 2022 | Blog

Essential Elements of a Channel Partner Business Plan

You’ve likely heard of, and maybe even developed, a business plan in the past. Similar to a standard business plan, a channel sales business plan explores the goals, intended strategies, associated costs, and other essential elements of a new project. Channel professionals can use this plan to communicate intentions for your partner program and get buy-in from leadership.

This article will explore the key components of a channel sales business plan and proposal, digging into tips and best practices for each element.

When Should You Create a Channel Sales Business Plan?

A channel sales business plan is essential for gaining buy-in from your leadership team and the rest of your organization. Therefore, it’s essential to develop one prior to first starting your partnership program. This helps leadership understand your goals and the resources you’ll need to achieve them.

Similarly, a channel partner business plan can also be effective for getting buy-in when you’re considering implementing a new strategy. This could involve first involving integration partners, beginning a new co-marketing campaign, or engaging ISVs.

Finally, once you have a program up and running, it makes sense to revisit your channel partner business plan every few years to ensure your goals and initiatives are up-to-date. 

What Are the Essential Elements of a Channel Partner Business Plan?

As you develop your channel partner business plan or proposal, there are the key sections you’ll want to include. Depending on your reasoning for developing this plan, you may leave out a few of these sections or focus on one area more. The below descriptions are designed to serve as a guide for what to include when building out your channel partner business plan.

Essential Elements of a Channel Partner Business Plan

Initial Market Analysis

Your initial market analysis section should set the tone for your business plan by painting a picture for whoever is reading. Describe the relevant business landscape right now that makes your partner program make sense.

Explore recent business activities and industry trends that support your efforts. This is an important place to include statistics and studies as well as anticipated upcoming trends . In addition, this section of your channel business plan should briefly discuss the profile of your ideal partners as well as the customers you’ll serve through these partnerships.

Operational and Management Strategies 

In this section, you’ll dig into your team and resource needs for accomplishing the plan. It’s essential to include this early on as it’s a vital part of the “ask” involved in a channel partner business proposal. Highlight any new hires, such as a designated CAM to grow the channel . 

Specify what involvement you will need from other teams, such as new resource development from Marketing or prospecting calls from Sales. This section should also detail different resources you anticipate using, such as PRM software to streamline and scale management demands as the channel grows. 

Goals & Objectives

This portion of your channel sales business plan is all about what you hope to achieve. First, describe the KPIs and OKRs associated with your program. These should be specific and realistic enough to attain. Don’t include stretch goals just to impress your leadership team — focus on achievable milestones that future efforts will build upon.

Ladder the program’s goals to broader sales initiatives to demonstrate how partners can effectively help the company enter new markets, promote new products, and more. This is an important strategy for ensuring cross-functional buy-in and improving collaboration as each team will know exactly how they’re contributing to broader company objectives.

For example, let’s say your company aims to expand into international markets . Your channel sales business plan can highlight how you would nurture strategic partnerships within priority regions, helping them generate traction on an expedited timeline while building brand equity the Direct Sales team can leverage for their own goals. 

In another scenario, if your company will soon release a new product, key integrations with channel partners can swiftly generate real-life use cases that can help audiences further understand the technology’s value.

5-year Projections

Explore what the next five years of the program will look like. The early stages of the channel sales plan should be more specific, with the latter stages having broader goals. Your projections should include potential team growth, resource requirements, needs from other functional areas, and anticipated ecosystem growth.

Creating a channel sales business plan

Competitive Analysis

Building on your initial market analysis, conduct a competitive analysis to explore what others in the industry are doing now. Additionally, look to example partner programs to see what specific tactics helped them achieve success. Use a SWOT analysis to dissect others’ strategies and highlight your opportunities and any threats you may face. 

Anticipate Hurdles and Create Strategies to Overcome Them

Your leadership team will not positively respond to a channel partner business plan seemingly written with rose-colored glasses. Acknowledge potential barriers and build the readers’ confidence by outlining solutions with as much specificity as possible. For instance, if a goal is to reach Indian audiences but there is little consumer hunger for the types of products you sell, specify how you plan to collaborate with channel partners to educate audiences about why they need the technology you offer. 

Highlight in your business plan any known scenarios in which competitors confronted similar hurdles and found success, underscoring your own likelihood to achieve similar results. 

Financial Projections

What will it cost to get your program up and running? What resources will your organization need to invest in? How will you structure commissions for partners and sales reps ? Your business plan should e xplore all the financial aspects of your channel program, including how you anticipate it will make money for your organization and the costs associated with doing so.

When Should You Revisit Your Channel Partner Plan?

It’s a good idea to revisit your channel partner business plan annually. This is a great time to review your actual progress compared to your projections and update your goals, financial forecasts, and 5-year plans accordingly. Take this opportunity to also audit your own operations and partner ecosystem strategy to better understand what is and isn’t delivering results as expected.  

Don’t be afraid to make modifications to your initial business plan. The market and competitive landscape will likely shift over time, and your approach to your channel partner program should remain fluid in response. 

Craft a Channel Sales Business Plan That Gets Your Team’s Buy-in

Whether you’re looking to start a channel sales program, expand your ecosystem, or shift your channel’s focus, creating a channel sales business plan is a strong way to communicate your objectives and gain team buy-in. By including your goals, financial projections, and industry research, you’ll demonstrate the benefit of a channel program and communicate what you need from other departments.

Compiling a channel sales business proposal is also a great way to ensure you’ve done all the necessary research to begin a successful program once you gain approval.

Want more helpful resources for growing your channel sales program effectively? Subscribe to the Allbound newsletter for guides on topics like managing channel partners remotely, developing a partner scorecard, and expanding your ecosystem globally. 

For additional tips about business planning, check out our Channel Partner Marketing Plan Checklist and Write Your Partner Business Plan in Four Steps .

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A Boost to Channel Programs: Allbound’s $43 Million Growth Equity Investment from Invictus Growth Partners

When building technology stacks, Sales and Marketing actively avoid tools with capabilities that heavily overlap in order to limit spending. This leads to a very common question: can I use my existing CRM platform to manage channel partners? 

The short answer? It’s not recommended to rely upon your CRM for partner relationship management (PRM). This is because it’s not equipped with specialized features that speak directly to channel partners’ needs, such as content co-branding, onboarding, and automated content curation based on group types. The lack of comprehensive yet targeted PRM functionality will force you to rely upon multiple tools in addition to your CRM, complicating processes and erecting barriers to scalable operations.

Contrastingly, a PRM is a centralized hub intended solely to help companies enable partners through a variety of features and automations triggered by user actions and customizable settings. What’s more, PRMs are increasingly essential to staying ahead of the curve, as Forrester predicts the PRM market will grow to $679M by 2023 across all industries. 

Still on the fence? Consider that PRM technology is relatively new and specifically designed to address CRMs’ insufficient abilities to service partners. 

 In this article, we’ll help you understand key differences between CRMs vs. PRMs and how to best integrate the two platforms. 

What is PRM? 

Partner relationship management software provides businesses with tools to track reseller and referral sales while also giving partners support, resources, and a portal to communicate with your business. The power of PRM comes from a personalized portal for partners where they can access documents, marketing content, market development funds (MDF) , opportunities, and track deals. 

PRM is considered the 3rd evolution of SaaS tools, the first being CRM and then marketing automation. When the market started changing, PRM stepped up to fill in the gaps. 

What do PRMs offer in comparison to CRMs?

PRM software provides businesses with tools to track reseller and referral sales while also giving partners support, resources, and a portal in which to communicate with your business. When comparing it against CRM, PRM technology’s power can best be summarized by three points: 

Another advantage of utilizing a specialized PRM is that it shows your partners that you invest in their success. You’re willing to spend to accommodate their needs rather than asking them to fit their square bodies into your CRM’s round hole. 

Case in point, Serko, a technology solutions provider in the travel and expenses industry, uses Allbound to support their partners who manage over 6,000 customers globally. Channel sales managers at Serko were able to showcase a world-class partner program and portal in which each partner was provided with the right sales and marketing content for their needs. Serko now has 100% partner adoption, which you can read about here .

It’s not “PRM vs. CRM”, as you will need both

Your company’s CRM is not intended for managing your partner ecosystem. However, there are CRM capabilities that are indispensable to Sales and Customer Service that a PRM simply cannot provide. 

The Value Your CRM Brings to Your Partner Program

Remember, CRM is an acronym for customer relationship management , meaning that it helps businesses track prospective and existing customers within a single system of record, regardless of whether they came from Direct or Indirect. Advantages of a CRM (in conjunction with a PRM) include:

In short, your CRM is essential to keeping all the won leads your PRM helped generate. Additionally, it grants long-term insights into the quality of partners’ leads. For example, if a particular partner group consistently generates customers with high abandonment rates, this could indicate that they’re pursuing the wrong audiences or are setting false expectations, both which modified training practices can fix.

How and Why to Integrate Your PRM and CRM 

Your PRM and CRM should share real-time data with one another through integration. This will grant you:

Allbound’s PRM technology has standard integrations with a number of CRM solutions, such as Salesforce, Pipedrive, SugarCRM, and Hubspot. We also can do custom integrations in order to accommodate new customers’ existing technology stacks. In order to have the process go as smoothly as possible, designated integration specialists will sync up our PRM with your choice of CRM (as well as with other technologies). The end result is seamless interactions between the two software with minimal maintenance required. 

What About CRMs That Say They Offer PRM Capabilities? 

Because of the rapidly accelerating interest in channel partners, the Sales world is abuzz about PRM technology. It’s only natural that some related software companies would want to capitalize on this interest by laying claim to the PRM title, even if their products don’t quite meet the definitions. 

Remember, a true PRM acts as a centralized hub for partner management and sales prospect interactions. Read Automate, Scale, Integrate – PRM System Criteria for a fuller understanding of what features to expect, and remember that a tool that offers only a fraction cannot call itself a real PRM solution.

The Bottom Line About CRM vs. PRM 

The market has already started moving to a comprehensive partner management approach. In fact, 65% of high-tech companies have already adopted PRM tools that deliver a significant amount of company revenue. Companies that continue to manage partners in traditional ways via CRM or spreadsheets are not only missing out on new end customer sales, but also valuable insight from the data provided by channel partners. Consider creating a great partner experience to see big returns on your bottom line.

To learn more about choosing a PRM that fulfills your program’s needs, we recommend reading Partner Portal Best Practices and Design Checklist .

How does PRM work within a complex partner ecosystem? 

Channel partners are your company’s selling allies, an extension of your sales team. PRM tools give you the functionality to support a variety of partners and their end customers. 

PRM tools automatically gather and analyze performance data and metrics, with a clear focus on revenue and activity metrics. Rewarding your most profitable partners with MDFs for hitting revenue targets, or training completions, ensures that you see ROI from your investment.

PRM and tracking revenue

The revenue metrics for partner programs are unique to the indirect sales model, which is why PRM tools have extensive features to track leads and revenue including:

•  Partner portal software for easy communication and data exchange

•  Access to relevant parts of the customer database

•  Dashboards for tracking leads, deal progression, deal registration, and sales KPIs

•  Data about which partners perform well and which individuals fail to generate or convert leads

•  Integrations with contract, scheduling, expense, and content tools 

What are the benefits of PRM? 

Overseeing a partner program has traditionally involved complex spreadsheets and manual correspondence for every deal, which required switching between a CRM and other tools to fill in the gaps. This is a huge competitive disadvantage and makes it almost impossible to correlate partner activity and training to closed business. That’s why PRMs provide partner management specific features like: 

•  Business intelligence, automation, and template-based workflows

•  Visibility on the impact of 3rd parties on reaching new buyers

•  Partner segmentation for targeted experiences

•  Partner channel avoidance through clear registration processes and pipeline integrations

•  Planning, recruitment, onboarding, enablement, co-selling and co-marketing, and incentives

•  Overview that channel managers can use to track how well training and content is performing in relation to deal registrations 

Integrating your partner tool with your CRM

For a complete view of your entire revenue org, both indirect and direct, integrate your PRM with your CRM tool. Look for a PRM vendor that helps you get your integrations in order. 

Allbound let’s users bring their existing sales tools with them into the partner management process. You can pass information between your PRM and CRM to create a consolidated pipeline that is your single source of truth and stays relevant with real time updates on deal registrations. Syncing your data also avoids duplicate deal registrations, making partner conflict resolution much simpler. 

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The Ultimate Guide to Channel Sales

Aja Frost

Updated: March 24, 2022

Published: December 01, 2021

One of the biggest challenges to scaling revenue? Your salespeople only have so much time. Even if you hire the most focused people, invest in tools that boost their efficiency, and remove all distractions, there’s a limited number of selling hours in the day.

Businessperson distributing products through a channel sales program

Some companies choose to hire more reps, and while that might work — it's not the only solution. Plus, recruiting, hiring, and employing salespeople is expensive and cuts away at your margins.

Free Download: Sales Plan Template

So what else can you do? Well, something called a channel sales model presents a viable, potentially game changing opportunity — instead of hiring more reps, you distribute your products via a channel partner that will market and sell the product for you.

In this post, we’ll cover:

Sales Channel Strategy

Sales Channel Examples

Types of channel partners, sales channel partnership platforms, how to measure your channel sales program, channel sales manager job description, what is channel sales.

In a channel sales model, a company sells through third-party partners — affiliate partners (who get commission on each purchase), resellers, value-added providers (who typically bundle your product with their own), or another entity that doesn't work for you directly.

Channel sales offers many benefits, but it might not be right for your company. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of adopting this sales model over direct sales .

Channel Sales Pros

Adopting a channel sales model has significant benefits to consider. Apart from the fact that you could downsize your sales team, you’ll also enjoy built-in trust, increased efficiency, rapid testing and experimentation, and increased customer success. Let’s go over these one by one.

Built-in Trust

If your channel partner is already well-known within a market or vertical, you don’t have to do the work of establishing a brand presence. Your product will automatically seem more credible because of their endorsement.

Increased Efficiency

One channel manager paired with several channel partners can bring in the same amount of revenue as five or six salespeople at a fraction of the cost. It’s also typically easier to bring on new partners than hire a new salesperson – especially once you’ve created the program and worked out the kinks.

Rapid Testing and Experimentation

Channel partners let you experiment with new customer bases, products, packages, promotions, and/or marketing campaigns in a low-stakes environment.

Customer Success

If your customers need training, onboarding, implementation support, and service, partnering with vendors who offer these services lets you focus on closing new business without sacrificing your existing users.

That all sounds great, right? But channel sales does have some cons — let’s take a look at them below.

Channel Sales Cons

While adopting channel sales has tangible benefits, there are a few drawbacks that make it less than ideal for some businesses.

Less Control Over Sales

You’re not directly managing the sales process. Your reps might not be able to jump in and take control if a partner is mismanaging a deal. They also might have zero say over the timeline of the deal — which can be frustrating and lead to unpredictable revenue.

If you partner with someone who has a poor reputation or treats customers badly, you’ll look worse by association. That’s why it’s important to choose a channel partner who’s known for a good reputation and excellent customer service.

Reduced Profits

In exchange for bringing in and/or closing deals, your partners will get a piece of the pie. You’ll make less on individual sales (but keep in mind, it’s probably cheaper to acquire each one).

Harder to Manage

It can be difficult to update your sales strategy, change your messaging, add a new product, or make any kind of major shift. You’re not simply rolling out a change to one group — you’re asking multiple external groups to adapt.

Slower Feedback Cycle

Because your partners are talking to some or all of your customers, feedback will take longer to get to you. And that feedback might not be 100% accurate — even if your partners are trustworthy, they may ask bad questions, use unreliable methods of gathering and/or analyzing the results, or unintentionally give you a biased interpretation.

Potential Competition

Things can get very messy, very quickly when your direct salespeople compete with your partners for the same business. Suppose a rep decides to cut their partner out of the deal because they don't want to give up the commission. If the partner finds out, they're unlikely to ever pass the rep leads again. This leads to a case of channel partner conflict that could result in the relationship being severed.

Let's take a closer look at what channel partners are and what makes a good one.

What are channel partners?

A channel partner is a company that sells and distributes a manufacturer’s product. Channel partners include resellers, affiliate partners, distributors, value-added providers, independent retailers — basically, anyone who doesn’t work directly for your organization.

Aside from making your product accessible to a greater number of people, channel partners serve a similar target buyer and have existing collateral or content that appeals to that buyer.

It might be tempting to partner with as many channel partners as possible, but it’s best to choose only a few, and to do so carefully.

Just like trying to sell to everyone reduces your focus and actually harms your overall results, trying to partner with everyone is a bad idea. Being choosy will pay off — not only because it will increase your revenue but because it will result in a much longer and profitable partnership.

What makes a good channel partner?

The process of finding partners is almost identical to finding prospects: First, you need to define what an "ideal partner" looks like. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects that you should look for.

Complementary to Your Product

The partner’s product or service should fill a gap in your offering or help your customers use your offering more effectively. For example, HubSpot’s marketing agency partners help small businesses take full advantage of HubSpot’s marketing software .

Aligned With Your Market

You should also consider whether your partner’s customers would benefit from your product. Are they demanding additional support, features, or solutions that your partner can’t currently provide? Are their customers the right fit in terms of geography, use case, and size?

High Technical Expertise

Identify how much technical knowledge your partner would need to sell (and potentially service) your products. You might have to do very little education and support — or you might have to do a great deal. Although training a partner requires more time and resources, it also gives them an additional incentive to work with you.

Tip : If your average selling price (ASP) is low, and your partners resell your product relatively infrequently, investing so much into training them isn’t wise. Make sure you’re tracking how much revenue the partner is bringing in compared to the average return.

Similar Sales Process

Your partner’s sales process should be compatible with yours. Ideally, there’s a natural point in their sales or services process for introducing or upselling your product.

Manageable Commitment Level

Ask yourself how much commitment would be required for success. For example, maybe your partner would need to spend one full day per quarter at your office getting training. On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps all they need is a basic understanding of your product, which they can learn from one 30-minute video.

Once you’ve crafted your ideal partner persona, rank the characteristics by importance. This exercise will give you a framework for evaluating specific partners.

Now, let's take a look at how one of these programs can come together.

Which channel partner types can you choose from? Here are some examples of sales channels through which you can sell your product or service.

A channel sales strategy works much better for some businesses than it does for others — so before you jump into putting one of these programs together, you need to take some time and determine whether it suits your organization.

Should my business use a channel sales strategy?

Embracing a channel sales strategy can be a tough call for a lot of businesses — especially ones reluctant to trust third parties with their reputation and brand authority. But as we've established, these kinds of strategies come with their share of benefits.

Not every business is fit for a channel sales strategy, and whether you should leverage one rests on a few factors. You need to ask yourself some key questions to determine whether pursuing channel sales suits your interests — those include the following.

Does my business have the resources to handle increased demand?

A channel sales strategy is, at its core, an expansion method. You're diversifying your sales channels, getting more eyes on your brand, and ultimately setting yourself up to move more of your product or service. So if you want to pursue channel sales, you need to be equipped to handle all of that.

If you don't think you have the means or necessary production infrastructure in place to accommodate increased demand, you might want to wait on leveraging a channel sales strategy.

Is my sales process effective, repeatable, and accessible enough to suit channel partners?

How you sell your product or service might be the key sticking point when establishing an effective channel sales strategy. So if you want your strategy to work, you need to have a provenly effective sales process, a firm understanding of your target market, and an accessible way of conveying those elements to channel partners.

If you're still refining your sales process or getting a feel for who you're trying to appeal to, you might wind up leaving channel partners high and dry — leading to an ineffective strategy that doesn't do much for anyone involved. So if you're still "getting there" sales process-wise, a channel sales strategy isn't for you (yet).

Am I willing to trust potential partners with my brand reputation?

A channel sales strategy is, in large part, about trust. You're letting people outside your organization sell your product on your behalf — that means you're forfeiting a fair amount of control without losing too much accountability.

If your channel partner does something wrong, the prospect or customer on the wrong side of that mistake is going to associate it with your product or service. If the thought of that is too stressful for you, you might not want to leverage channel sales.

When HubSpot was building a sales channel strategy, our team used inbound marketing principles to attract partners. We created content that specifically targeted the types of channel partners we wanted to have.

Not only is this strategy easier to scale than an outbound one, but it also guarantees that your potential partners know about your company from the first conversation.

With that in mind, here’s how to create a sales channel program step-by-step.

How to Create a Sales Channel Program

1. craft relevant, useful content to attract partners..

Use your ideal partner persona to craft relevant, useful content. For example, if you want to work with staffing firms, you might write an ebook on how to place consultants, or host a virtual networking event for staffing firms to meet job candidates.

The partners you attract should be highly relevant to your industry. Once you’ve attracted a few prospective partners, reel them in by focusing on their needs.

2. Focus on the partner’s needs.

Once you’ve started talking to a potential partner, make their needs the focus of the conversation. They won’t be interested in working with you unless they’re also benefiting. Figure out how you’d be able to help — by enabling them to sell additional services, reach new clients, or enhance the value of their product or service.

Once you’ve established a few partnerships, choose a structure for the partnership.

3. Choose a structure for the channel sales partnership.

There are three main ways to structure channel sales. First, you and your partner can sell together. Your products improve each other. For instance, if you offer catering services, you might partner with a company that provides event clean-up. This type of partnership helps companies add more value to their customers.

Second, you can sell through your partner. Department stores are a classic example — they curate items from a range of third-party brands. Variety is typically the key. If you can find a partner who’s already selling several similar products to yours, they may be a good fit for this type of partnership.

Third, your partner can sell for you. These partners incorporate your product into theirs — in fact, the end user may never know about your company. When you go to the supermarket and buy the store brand, you’re actually buying an independent brand that’s been packaged with the grocery store’s label. You don’t have to use one method exclusively. Many companies use two or even three of these simultaneously, along with a direct sales model. It all depends on your needs.

4. Motivate your channel sales partners to sell.

Channel sales is extremely challenging because you’re trying to motivate people you have no direct influence over. If a regular salesperson doesn’t meet quota, you can work with them and/or put them on a performance plan. If a partner isn’t selling — well, there’s not much you can do, apart from “fire” them from the program. That’s usually not the most desirable option.

To get partners to sell, you’ll need to develop excellent resources that they can use to confidently sell your product. You should invest twice as much in content for your channel partners than you do for your direct sales reps. After all, your partners are much less familiar with the product.

Make sure they’re armed with clear, comprehensive, prospect-ready product specs, testimonials, customer examples, competitive comparisons, email templates, call scripts, meeting agendas, and objection-handling cheat sheets. Having this material will make partners feel more confident, which will boost their desire to sell.

5. Communicate often with your partners.

If your partners rarely hear from you, they won’t be as invested in the program. They also won’t know the latest news, product updates, and strategic announcements. On your end, you might not discover issues until they’ve festered for a while.

The solution? Maintain regular contact with your partners. Send a periodic email, create a Slack room, make a Facebook group, hold partner “office hours,” run webinars, host meetings at your office — whatever you need to do to stay in touch.

6. Offer extra rewards.

While earning commission on deals is a compelling incentive, some companies (like HubSpot) add additional reward systems to their partnership.

This lets you create “superpartners” and drive specific desired behaviors. For example, you might have a tiered system: One tier for basic partners, a higher tier for partners who sell over a specific amount per month or year, and a third tier for partners who sell over an even higher amount per month or year.

Depending on their tier, offer advanced marketing support, tickets to exclusive events, strategic consulting, meetings with your executives, access to beta features, premium listing in your directory, opportunities to interact directly with your audience, features in your email newsletter, and so forth.

7. Use a sales channel partnership platform.

For scaling multi-channel businesses, keeping data related to your partnerships organized can be a challenge. Using a tool designed to keep your channel data streamlined can be a helpful option, such as PartnerPortal . This will not only allow you to keep track of revenue generated by your sales partners, but sustainably grow your channel sales program. 

It takes a lot of time and energy to get a partner channel system up and running. If you need money sooner rather than later, focus on direct sales for now. Firas Raouf , an expert in early-stage B2B tech companies, recommends building at least $20 million in revenue before launching a partner sales program.

To build a program, you’ll need to recruit third-parties to sell and distribute your product. These third-parties are called channel partners, and they typically take care of the sales process from beginning to end.

Because of the stress of that creation process and the drawbacks I mentioned earlier, some businesses are more drawn to direct sales . Let’s compare these two models.

Channel Sales vs Direct Sales

In channel sales, a company sells and distributes its products and services via a third party. In direct sales, a company sells its products and services directly to a consumer. Companies that use a channel sales model don’t need an in-house sales team, though they might use a mixture of direct and channel sales to increase revenue.

Your sales team is responsible for increasing revenue in a direct sales model. They might use a mixture of inbound sales and outbound methods, prospecting and qualifying leads to turn opportunities into closed-won deals.

In channel sales, you rely on third parties to sell your product or service. When considering adopting a channel sales model, you should take a few factors into account.

How to Know Whether Channel Sales is Right For You

If you’re planning to adopt a channel sales model over a direct sales model, it’s important to consider the state of your company, product, sales process, and more.

Company Size and Maturity

Small companies can use partners to grow their business without needing to invest in hiring and training a sales team. Once they’re larger, they can bring their own reps on board (or if channel sales is working, continue with what they’re doing!).

Product Maturity

If your product is still in the early stages, you might want to take advantage of a direct relationship with your customers so you can quickly and efficiently assess what’s working, what’s not, and what to build next.

Sales Process Maturity

Before you can teach other people how to sell your product, you need to understand how to sell it yourself. If you haven’t defined the various stages of your sales process, the most important buying triggers, which customer stakeholders are typically involved, how long the average deal takes to close, and so on, you may want to postpone a channel sales initiative.

In this case, consider taking an inbound sales course to brush up on your skills, and build the confidence needed to refine your sales process. You should also consider your process’ complexity. The lengthier and more complex your sales cycle, the harder it will be for your partners to resell. A simple, straightforward, relatively short process is ideal.

If your offices are spread out, it might make sense to use a channel sales model. That makes creating multiple sales teams unnecessary. Of course, you can also use an inside sales model where appropriate.

Revenue Needs

To build a program, you’ll need to recruit third parties to sell and distribute your product. These third parties are called channel partners, and they typically take care of the sales process from beginning to end.

1. Resellers

A reseller purchases a product from the company that produces it, and resells it to the intended end-user for profit. Essentially, a reseller serves as an intermediary between the company that makes a product, and the final customer.

In this scenario, the customer will typically go straight to the reseller to initiate the purchase and the reseller will work with their sourcing companies to fulfill the order.

2. Affiliate Partners

In an affiliate partnership, a retailer will pay commission to website owners, businesses, and individuals who promote their products. Affiliate partners are typically paid a percentage of each sale they are responsible for bringing in.

The Amazon affiliate program is a popular affiliate partnership platform.

3. Distributors

Distribution channels provide products directly to the consumer. Some distribution channels are agents, websites, or businesses that serve as intermediaries between the companies that produce the products and the final buyer.

4. Wholesalers

A wholesaler is a type of distributor who specializes in getting physical products on store shelves to be purchased by consumers. Wholesalers typically have sales reps who work to sell their products to retailers.

Common examples of wholesalers include suppliers who sell food and other goods to restaurants, and stores such as Costco who buy their goods directly from manufacturers and sell them to their customers.

5. Value Added Reseller (VAR)

Value added resellers are companies that specialize in purchasing and reselling technology products with additional software or features that are above and beyond the standalone features of the product.

An example of a value added reseller would be a computer company that sells hardware with another company’s software pre-installed.

6. Independent Retailers

An independent retailer is a business owner who runs a retail company that is not tied to any major brand or franchise. For example, if an entrepreneur founded and operates a clothing boutique without the support of a parent company, they would be considered an independent retailer.

Dealers sell products directly to end consumers, but operate differently than retailers who sell several variations of a wide variety of products. The most common type of dealer is an automobile dealer, who sells and leases cars directly to the end-user.

In this channel, agents serve as an intermediary who does not have any ownership over the products or services they are selling. Agents facilitate deals between buyers and sellers, assisting with the negotiation process.

A common example is real estate. A real estate agent or broker is not the owner selling the property to a buyer; however, they do oversee the process until an agreement is reached and the deal is closed.

9. Consultants

Channel consultants support the creation and efficiency of sales channels. Individuals in this role often connect retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and vendors to ensure the smooth delivery of a product to its customer. Though channel consultants do not directly sell, they play an integral part in making sure sales channels are running smoothly.

types of channel partners

Here are a few sales channel tools that can support your business as your channels and partnerships become more complex.

1. PartnerTap Ecosystem Sales Platform


PartnerTap’s partner ecosystem platform helps companies drive more revenue with and through partners. Customers use PartnerTap to automate account mapping , automate pipeline sharing, and auto-connect sales reps to co-sell with partners on their mutual accounts. Data from PartnerTap helps companies identify new logo deals and source more pipeline with each partner.

PartnerTap is also part of the HubSpot Ecosystem , and their tools integrate flawlessly with your CRM.

Pricing: Free Channel Edition ; and enterprise pricing available upon request.

2. Crossbeam

channel sales crossbeam

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Crossbeam provides powerful software to manage channel partnerships. A major upgrade from spreadsheets, notable features of Crossbeam’s tool include real-time forecasting, instant account mapping, and cross-partner lead generation.

Crossbeam can also connect directly

Pricing : Free; Pricing available upon request

3. Channeltivity

business plan for channel partner

Channeltivity’s partner relationship management software provides an all-in-one channel management solution. This cloud-based tool has an extensive set of features including a channel partner portal, partner training materials, distributor management, a commission management platform, and more.

Channeltivity also offers a HubSpot edition of their software that provides real-time pipeline visibility for businesses and partners.

Pricing : $1,399/month (Standard Edition); $1,699/month (HubSpot Edition)

4. Allbound PRM

business plan for channel partner

Allbound designs its partner portal technology to strike a strategic balance between customization and automation. Channel managers can tag partners based on region, industry, company size, and other descriptors so the platform only displays content relevant to individual users. Multi-tiered learning tracks and accompanying quizzes automatically award new portal permissions as partners advance their learnings. Plus, Allbound’s Channel Insights grants full visibility into engagement and partner sales performance.

As a HubSpot certified app , Allbound integrates with your CRM for comprehensive pipeline visibility and consistent practices across your sales ecosystem.

Pricing: Available upon request

Wondering what success looks like? Here’s what to measure for every aspect of your channel sales program.

1. Total Number of Partners

This metric can help you gauge how effective you are in establishing partnerships — how well you can conduct outreach and how solid your relationship-building skills are.

2. Recruitment Quota Attainment

This metric is sort of an extension of the one above. It can tell you how solid your recruitment efforts are relative to the goals you set for establishing partnerships.

3. Partner Attrition Rate

Attrition rate typically refers to employee or staff turnover. In this context, it's a measure of how many of your partnerships fail over a given period.

4. Percentage of Partners Recruited by Channel

This metric gauges where your partnerships are coming from. For example, 50% might come from networking groups, 20% from proactive outreach, and 10% from referrals.

5. Average Cost of Recruiting and Onboarding a New Partner

This measure helps you tell how cost-efficient your channel partnership-building process is.

6. Average Length of Time to Recruit and Onboard a New Partner

This metric helps you determine whether your recruitment and onboarding processes need to be reevaluated or streamlined.

7. Total Number of Partner Deals Registered

This metric gives you a picture of the volume of deals your channel partners are able to make.

8. Average Value of Partner Deal

This shows you how effective your partners are in selling your product or service.

9. Percentage of Accepted Partner-Submitted Deals

This is another metric that helps you gauge the success of your channel partners' sales efforts.

10. Percentage of Closed Partner-Submitted Deals

This point is a natural extension of the one above.

11. Average Sales Cycle Length

This metric can help you gauge how effective your partner training is and which partners are particularly effective.

12. Percentage of Partners Who Registered Leads in Past Month or Quarter

This is another key channel sales success metric.

13. Percentage of Partners Using Provided Sales and Marketing Collateral

This metric helps you gauge whether the materials you're providing partners are accessible and effective.

14. Percentage of Partners Who Attend Optional Events and/or Ongoing Training

This metric can help you gauge partner enthusiasm and the effectiveness of your training methods.

15. Average Partner Satisfaction Score

This measure can let you know if you need to tailor your training and support to better suit partner needs.

16. Percentage of Partners Who Attempted Certification

This can tell you whether your partners find your certifications useful and unimposing.

17. Percentage of Partners Who Completed Certification

This metric can tell you whether your certifications are accessible enough.

18. CAC for Each Partner Sale Versus Direct Sale

This helps show you how profitable your channel partner strategy is.

19. Retention Rates for Partner Sales Versus Direct Sales

This shows you whether the relationships developed during your partner sales have staying power.

20. Cross-Sell and Upsell Rates for Partner Sales Versus Direct Sales

This metric shows how effective your channel partners are at generating extra revenue.

Looking for someone to manage your channel partner relationships? You’ll need a channel sales manager. Below, you’ll find a general definition of a channel sales manager, plus a sample job description you can use in a job posting.

A channel sales manager works with potential and existing channel partners to drive sales. They typically establish a strategy, help their partners implement it, and work toward a sales quota. The national average salary in the U.S. is $94,358.

Our company is looking for a channel sales manager in [location]. This is an exciting opportunity to [grow a new channel, take a high-growth channel to the next stage]. As our channel sales manager, you’ll identify potential new partners, show them the value of working with us, and enable existing customers to sell our products.

In this role, you will:

We’re looking for someone who has:

Tailor this job description to your company’s employer branding. If you’re relatively formal, you may need to tweak the language so it’s less casual. If your messaging is typically relaxed and friendly, you might want to turn up the playfulness.

Grow Your Business with Channel Sales

While building a channel sales program is a major investment, it can make a huge difference to your company. Not only will you reach new customers, but you’ll develop mutually beneficial relationships in your industry and grow your revenue as a result.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Partner Program – The 14 Steps to Build Your Reseller Channel Program [Updated 2022]

Partner Program - 14 steps to build one by Daniel Nilsson

How can a reseller channel partner program help you?

Katrina Razavi, a business development professional, helped a B2B startup increase annual revenue by 1,983% and increase user base by 1,000% within six months…without any upfront costs.

Personally, I have helped a small startup in Sweden acquire 100 of the world’s biggest telecom operators as its customers.

How did we do this?

Yes, you guessed right. We attained success by developing a well-designed Channel Partner Reseller Program.

Channel Partner programs are so powerful that even multi-billion tech companies including Microsoft , VMWare , Oracle , eBay , Mailchimp , Shopify, Citrix and thousands of others use it.

Despite its huge success, creating successful partner programs isn’t a piece of cake. It takes time, effort, and most importantly, strategic planning. I have tried to make it simpler for you by introducing this 14-step process.

A well-designed partner program, is the formula to power your sales to Legendary levels.

Like my other blog posts and presentations, this article is also based on my personal experiences and reviews from industry experts. I am sharing my conclusions here so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

What is a Channel Partner Program? 

The definition of a channel partner program is: “A Channel Partner Program is a strategy to motivate and engage channel partners to create more value for customers.”

If you want to understand the definition in detail read my article by clicking here.

The defintion of a channel partner program

Before you start…

Business goals, vision, and executive support.

Before you start developing your own Channel Partner Program, there are a few important factors you need to keep in mind: business goals, vision, and executive support.

Creating a professional reseller channel partner program is a big investment of time, effort, and resources. This is why it is essential that the partner program you want to create is aligned with the company strategy and business goals. This is also why it is essential to have executive support before you kick-off the process.

Business planning partner channel program

Now that you know what you need to take care of before you start, let’s go on to learn how to create your very own professional partner program.

The Creation is Not a Straight Line

The creation of a Partner Program and Channel Sales is not a straight line . It’s a lovely mess that gets more clear and straight the more you study and develop it. If the world or your business changes suddenly, you may have to start over.

creating a partner reseller channel program is not a straight line

Step 1: Define a value proposition

A solid value proposition automatically gives you an edge. It’s the number one thing to define because it will determine whether people will bother learning more about your solution, services, or product.

Defining a value proposition is about letting people know clearly what they will get out of using your product or service. You can use some tools to define customer gains, pain points, and rank what is more important for them. The next step is always to compare your value proposition with that of your competitors, what the market wants, and available alternatives. Once you have this data, you can define a solid base value proposition.

Personally I use Strategyzer's Value Proposition Canvas. It is a great tool to think deeply about customer jobs, gains they want and pains they have. When we understand the customer in detail we can better describe the value we provide in a way that the customer finds interesting.

If you want to learn more about value proposition design, check out my article titled How to Create a Strong Value Proposition for B2B . I also recommend that you read How to create customer profiles / buyer personas for B2B Sales and How I Broke the Code for Advanced Value Proposition Creation Design .

When you and your prospect customers understand the value proposition clearly, it will be much easier for your channel partners to pitch your product or service to people.

Create a Value proposition for your reseller channel partner program

Step 2: Create a customer-centric sales process

Customers now know about your solution. So now what? There’s still so much to do.

You need to understand the entire buyer journey for the customer and design a sales process. What steps are involved in the sales process? How many steps are there? What needs to be done at each stage of the sales process? All these questions need to be answered in detail.

But when you create the sales process, it is important that it is from the customer's perspective. It should be customer-centric.

Read my article How to Design a Sales Process for B2B Sales that explains how you can create a better sales process and improve your sales result.

customer-centric sales process reseller partner channel programs

Step 3: Benchmark competitors

Ever heard of the phrase, “Keep your friends close, and enemies closer.” You must apply it to yourself. Essentially, you need to understand what your competitors are doing.

Try to get a deeper understanding of your competitors' partner programs. What is their target audience? How have they organized it? What benefits are they offering customers? What kind of relationships are they developing with their channel partners? How well is their channel program turning out? What is their structure for channel sales and channel partners?

This data will give you a lot of insights before you even begin offering your partner program and developing your channel sales. You will know what is working and what is not.

Understand your competitors when you create a channel partner program

Download 'Build a Partner Reseller Program' as a beautiful presentation

I have created a beautiful presentation you can use at meetings and share with colleagues. It is free to download.

Step 4: Define the type of partners

The success of a partnership and channel sales lies in the value each party gets out of it. So your channel partnership largely depends on what value you are building for your customers.

define type of channel partners and how channel sales should be done

For that, you need to identify and define the type of partners that may be relevant to your business and choose the best among them.

Do remember that a partner is any company or organization that can help you deliver more value to your customers.

Here are a few examples of channel partner types who might be relevant for your business:

Step 5: Success factors

You now understand the kind of sales process you must design and what type of channel partners will be the most suitable for your business. It is now important for you to understand what are the critical success factors that will enable your channel partners to close deals.

What are these critical factors? Is it a proof of concept? Good support? Pricing structure? Or efficient project management?

Make sure to list all success factors and then rank them in order of importance. Create a plan for each success factor. For example: If proof of concept is important, you must create a plan for how you will provide this to your channel partners. You will need to create instructions and processes and will also have to educate and train your partners on the subject.

In short, you need to create a framework that will ensure your channel partners understand what you have defined as critical success factors and are equipped to achieve them.

Step 6: Define motivational drivers

Everything looks good. You have the right value proposition, sales process, channel partners and have defined critical success factors. But what will drive your channel partners to act on these success factors?

This is probably one of the most creative parts of all the 14 steps. Here, you need to think out of the box. Define what elements can motivate your channel partners and determine what actions you will need to take to help your channel partners become better at delivering key success factors.

Let’s say you have determined that 'proof of concept' is your key success factor. You will then need to educate and motivate your channel partners to convincingly demonstrate the proof of concept to customers. You could also show them how they can reap huge benefits if they do so.

From my experience, there are several motivators for channel partners. Below I list the six most important ones. For my complete list of motivators, do read my story: Channel Partner Programs & Channel Sales: 4 critical elements of success.

There can be other secondary drivers as well. For example, pushed sales process focusing on extensive follow-up, lead nurturing, and closing deals. Or inspiration by delivering consistent marketing content focusing on inspiring partners.

Step 7: Define the Motivation & Engagement programmatic elements

Motivation & Engagement elements refer to the effort and values you will deliver to channel partners to help them become successful. It also encompasses how you choose to deliver it.

The purpose of constructing Motivation & Engagement elements is also to create a culture of partnership and understanding. It signals that you care about your channel partners and their success.

Define programmatic elements reseller channel partner program

Here are a few examples of Motivation & Engagement elements.

1) Education platform

If you’re into inbound marketing, you are likely to have heard of HubSpot , a developer and marketer of software products for inbound marketing, sales and customer service. HubSpot has implemented this strategy perfectly.

You can create an education platform that delivers education and knowledge to your channel partners in the form of text, video, papers, and certifications. Some businesses require their channel partners to complete partner certification to certify their knowledge level. Such certifications may also be important for partners to reach the next level in partnership hierarchy.

Having an education platform for channel partners is great for business because it ensures that your partners are as good as you are in selling your product or solution. When your partners reach out to leads, they will project a good image of your brand and your customers will experience a professionally-delivered sales process.

2) Development forum

For integration partners, it is important to have full access to a technology platform to create new solutions, improve, and manage current solutions. The development forum consists of manuals, APIs, technical documentation, support, and a forum where issues can be discussed in the open. Shopify is an example of a company that does this well. It has great resources for its tech partners.

3) Lead generation platform

The idea here is to distribute the leads generated among the channel partners.

Sometimes, small deals are better handled by channel partners that have efficient sales processes to handle small deals. At other times, some other channel partners may be better placed to deliver value to certain potential customers, increasing the likelihood of them closing the deal.

A lead generation platform allows you to manage all this without you having to put in much effort.

4) Support platforms for channel partners

Channel partners need to have full access to support manuals, instructions, videos, forums, etc. Customer support is identified as a key factor for success. It is important that the customer experiences excellent support during the proof of concept phase and after-sales phase to make sure that deals are not lost.

Up Strategy Lab & Daniel Nilsson

Step 8: Define responsibilities and expectations

You and your partners are a team. Now it is time to decide who is responsible for what. Focus on customer experience and define all activities and categorize them. The idea is to define roles clearly so everyone is on the same page and understands what part they will be playing in the sales process.

Define responsibilities between channel partner and you

The first step is to define activities that need to be done. Try to make all these activities granular enough so they can all be assigned to either you or the partner.  Also, make sure that you define expectations. What do you expect from channel partners and what can they expect from you?

Now when everything is clear, you can assign responsibilities to your channel partners as well as your own team.

Here are a few things that your partners can expect from you.

And here are a few things that you may expect from your partners.

Step 9: Define a framework

Imagine how you categorize your friends – some are close, some are casual, then there are those whom you meet occasionally. Defining a framework is like that. It is about organizing your partner relationships.

Partner framework for SMB

If you are small organization and are  about to create your first partner program, I strongly suggest you do not create official levels such as "bronze", "silver" and "gold" channel partners. This is because: 1. It's complicated to create and manage. 2. It costs time, money and resources. 3. It is complicated to explain. 4. For some SMBs, I have seen it creates sales issues.

Even if you have the capacity and resources to create such a complex framework, sometimes your channel partners may not have the internal resources to handle the various differentiations that being a "bronze", "silver" or "gold" partner entails. So just don't.

What you should do instead is to have an internal understanding about: 1. Who is your ideal partner 2. How do you understand and measure if your partner is performing.

This will help you to determine what channel partners you should focus on.

Partner framework for large organizations

Larger organizations have the resources and time to create a more complex partner framework. They can organise the framework in many different ways. It all depends on what works for them.

A good way to start is by defining partner program levels such as “bronze”, “silver” and “gold”. This framework helps organisations identify which partners are more involved in the partner program. These partners can then be given incentives. Some software companies, for instance, give their “gold”partners a lot of free software as a return on their investment in the partner program.

The different partner levels also work as motivation. By joining the education program and getting certified, the channel partner can achieve higher partner status and consequently, get more benefits.

Here are a few examples of channel partner programs from Evolve, Accelerys, HP, and Cryptzone.

Example channel partner program 1

Step 10: Build internal capacities and systems

Now that you have everything strategized and planned for your reseller channel partner program, it is time to make it a reality. Start by creating a list of all those tasks and infrastructure you need in order to build and start executing your partner program.

Create all marketing materials ready including sales presentations, brochures, videos, and educational material. Also, implement IT systems that will give technical support to your partner program. This step is essential because it will help you in the long run when your partner list grows.

Here is a list of needs you might have in each aspect of your partner program.

1) About the program–general documentation

2) Marketing

3) Education platform

4) Development forum

really good solutions partner channel programs

Apart from this, as mentioned earlier, you may need IT-systems to manage your channel partners. The best way, however, to do this is to integrate it into your current CRM system. And the best solution for this would be Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM .

For IT-systems to enable education management, I would recommend that you use Citrix GoToTraining , Webex , or Netexam . There are other good solutions as well such as Mindflash , Articulate , and Coursio . For support systems, you could explore Zendesk , Intercom , Salesforce and Satisfaction .

Motivation in partner program

Step 11: Define how to measure success

Whenever you have objectives, it is important to define the parameters that will decide whether you have achieved your objectives or not. Define the parameters of KPI (Key Performance Indicators) to measure your success.

Make sure what you define as KPIs are from the perspective of the success factors you had defined for your channel partners. Once you have decided what they are, make sure your IT support system calculates KPIs automatically.

Step 12: Develop a marketing strategy

This marketing strategy is for your partners. Use the SOSTAC model for this. You can find its template here . It is clear and easy to follow.

SOSTAC model Partner Program Daniel Nilsson

Create a clear target audience because that’s one of the most important things your channel partners need to understand. Use frameworks like RACE (Reach, Act, Convert, and Engage), 5S (Sell, Speak, Serve, Save, and Sizzle), and 7P (Product, People, Place, Price, and Promotion).

Step 13: Create a partner selection strategy

You should have a clear idea about who your target audience is for partners, just as you are clear about who you want as your customers. If you are not clear about this, you will waste time, money and effort on partners who cannot bring value to you or to your customers.

Each new relationship is an investment and it is important that you define characteristics or attributes of the ideal channel partner required to address a particular market segment. This will help you to decide what channel partners you would like to invest in and build a deeper relationship with. Define how many partners you should recruit and set a target.

You can do this easily by downloading my free channel partner selection matrix .

Partner channel program organization

Step 14: Build a focused channel partner organization

Beyond systems, there is the human element to building a successful partner program. It is important that the structure of any partner organization is rooted in the philosophy that members of the partner team remain connected to many different internal organizations in order to deliver desired results.

Building, maintaining and growing a healthy channel ecosystem requires input from all parts of an organization.

Up Strategy Lab & Daniel Nilsson

9 success factors for your reseller channel partner program

6 potential failure points

Example of how I built a hugely successful channel partner program

Read my article - How I built a hugely successful channel partner program and you can too (In-depth) . It's a concrete example of how I built a partner program from scratch in 2015. The partner program was so successful that over three-and-a-half years, we recruited over 30 partners from all over the world who were instrumental in signing on over 100 of the world's biggest mobile operators as customers.

Here are some free tools on my website that will make the process of creating a partner program easier.

Creating a partner program is not a journey from A to Z. It is a continuous process. You must update your program from time-to-time so that it is in tune with market trends. The essence, however, lies in all the 14 steps that we have discussed. Keep coming back to each of them periodically and I am sure you will never be lost.

More reading

I constantly add articles and new insights. You have all my articles about channel partner programs collected here, and below you have some recommended reading.

So, there you have it…14 steps to create a professional channel partner program. Please remember, an amazing partner program doesn't stop after these 14 steps. You need to continue to improve and innovate your channel program every quarter. The market, your competitors, your offering, and partners continuously innovate, and you need to make sure you keep up.

Presentation Reseller Channel Partner Program

I have created a presentation that you can use for your internal discussions about partner programs. Add your email in the box below and I will send it to you.

business plan for channel partner

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Please check out my company Up Strategy Lab where we deliver real strategies to scale companies. Located in Gothenburg, Sweden. If you pass by, send an email and we meet up for coffee. I hope to hear from you soon. All the best Daniel

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How To Make Partner

How to create your partner business plan in 5 easy steps

business plan for channel partner

Partner Business Plan tool

One of the tools we use with our small firm clients is the STAGe model. This is widely used to create 3-year or 12-month business plans for them. The good news is that it is versatile enough to help you create your 3-year partner business plan or 12-month partner business plan or vision for your practice. In this article I explain how to use the tool, plus you can download a template to create your 3-year partner business plan or 12-month partner business plan for your own practice. 

What does the tool enable you to do?

The STAGe Tool is a one-page vision summarising your practice’s expected performance over the next 3 years or 12 months. It gives you a simple visual way to explain how your practice will develop in the future. In other words, it acts as a very simple, but highly effective tool to help you create your partner business plan – a key component of your business case for partner.

The tool consists of 5 circles that correspond to now, year 1, year 2, year (or the timescales of your choice.), or Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4. The circles are dissected by axes which represent the performance measures that best illustrate how your practice will develop. Each performance measure is broken down into what it will be at each year. This article assumes you are creating a 3-year partner business plan. However, you can also use the same template to create a 12-month partner business plan.

Click here to download your free PDF of the STAGe model to help you rapidly put together your partner Business plan.

Here is a completed STAGe tool:

business plan for channel partner

Stage 1: Envision the future

Take a moment to think about where you want your practice to be in 3 years if you are successful at the partnership vote. (Or 12 months if you are being asked to create a 12-month partner business plan) You may find it useful to do this exercise away from your desk and distractions.

You may like to consider the following areas:

Business Development

Read: What needs to go in the 12-month marketing plan for your business case for partner

Stage 2: Identify the really important metrics or things for your practice

In stage 2, you identify what are the really important things for you and your practice. Those things that if you focus on them you will achieve your 3-year. These then become the axes on your STAGe diagram. Ideally, you will identify 8-12 measures of performance to accurately show how you will grow your practice in the next three years.

Stage 3: Identify your year 3 performance measures

Now take the STAGe template and label your performance measures and name the years on the concentric circles. For each performance, measure the axis and add what you are currently achieving. You now want to define your year 3 performance measures. By defining year 3 first you can then work backward towards your 12-month targets.

It can be very helpful to start the year 3 discussions by considering the fundamental financial measures for your practice such as revenue, GRF, turnover, profit, or contribution. This is because they are normally easier to complete, and it often sets the agenda for the rest of the performance measures.

Stage 4: Identify year 1 and 2 performance measures

Once you have completed your year 3 performance measures you then want to work along each of the performance measures axes to complete year 1 and year 2 goals. You may like to use questions such as:

“If I am to achieve this level of performance in year 3, what level should I achieve in year 2?”


“If I am to achieve this level of performance in year 2, what do I need to achieve in year 1? Is this too big a stretch from where I am now?”

At the end of this stage, you should have a fully completed diagram with each performance measure having a number or statement for each year on the diagram.

Stage 5: Critically review your partner business plan

Now you have completed the partner business plan, it is time to critically review it. That means:

If you haven’t already click here to download your free PDF of the STAGe model to help you rapidly put together your partner Business plan.

Once you have completed your partner business plan, it’s time to get feedback on it, plus identify the projects or activities which are critical to achieving your year 1 targets.

Still need help with creating your business case? Download our on-demand course How to build a Cast-Iron Business Case for Partner . (This course is included in Progress To Partner Membership).

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5 strategies to make your channel managers your highest roi investments.

business plan for channel partner

If your channel mission is to build more capable partners, activate them to invest in growing your brand, and build greater partner sales pipeline, then all roads lead to your channel managers.   Channel managers that are guided and enabled effectively can drive more partner revenue and ROI than virtually any other investment you can make.   This is possible if these five strategies are implemented to enable, motivate, and support your channel managers in driving more revenue for your indirect channel.

No, this not a physical fitness training program for your channel managers. It is a set of effective business strategies to enable your channel managers to drive more partner revenue.   Managing and motivating partners, which are independent businesses with their own goals, is very difficult.   Channel managers need help to capture the attention of their partners, motivate them to invest in your brand, and show their partners the path to success and greater profits.   A set of effective channel manager enablement tools can turn a channel manager into an expert consultant for building partner capabilities, commitment, profits, pipeline and performance.

How to Turn All of Your Channel Managers into Expert Partner Consultants:  The majority of your partners are actively seeking business advice from your channel managers to help them grow and become more profitable.   The problem is that channel managers are not fully equipped to deliver partner-valued consultative advice for each of the above areas.  The solution is to provide your channel managers with tools to help deliver partner motivating consulting to build a more profitable business.

Partners want to get better at selling and supporting your brand.   They want to see how they stack up against your best practices and against their peer partners.  Channel managers can be turned into expert capabilities development consultants by providing them with instant score-carding tools to show their partners where they stand.  Scorecards like this can be created by your channel managers or with your partners in minutes , which highlight strength and improvement opportunity areas and lead directly to improvement planning and performance management QBR’s.

Channel managers can be turned into instant partner commitment development experts with guided tools to help them build 36-month business plans.  Channel managers can gain across-the-board partner commitments for growth with user friendly 10-minute partner planning tools.  These work-flow guided tools turn channel managers into trusted advisor consultants for conducting business planning and quarterly business reviews.

Partners are motivated to invest in brands they believe in.  The most motivated partners are those that see a path to greater profitability with brands that are easy to sell.  Enabling your channel managers to show their partners how easy your brands are to sell and how profitable they are in minutes is key to building partner commitment levels.

Above all else, partners value when their channel managers help bring in new sales deals.   A partner will tell you that the best pipeline deal is a signed PO delivered directly to the partner.  Unfortunately, you can’t count on prospective customers to simply hand over business on a silver platter.  Partners are looking for their channel managers to help them build pipeline and ROI-producing campaigns to drive new revenue.   Your channel managers can become expert marketing campaign and pipeline development consultants with the use of 5-minute partner marketing planning tools.  Your partners will appreciate the help to build a marketing plan that they can confidently invest in and believe in the forecasted results.

QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews) are great opportunities to monitor your partner’s performance and motivate them to stay on course or modify their strategies to meet and exceed their goals.  The majority of channel organizations don’t automate this process, and as a result it is highly inefficient and time-consuming for channel managers to execute these reviews, even for their top partners.  Most channel organizations miss the opportunity to have meaningful quarterly (or monthly) review sessions with their partners. Automating this process so that channel managers can bring together all of the following in minutes for their partner’s results is a much more productive and partner commitment affirming process. The success of QBRs can be measured in dollars and cents of incremental revenue simply based on checking in, sharing progress, and motivating continued partner performance for the balance of the year.

Channel managers can create PowerPoint QBR presentations instantly for their partners by automatically bringing in both planned sales, actual sales, and pipeline data to illustrate the partner’s performance-to-date .   These QBR PowerPoint presentations allow the channel manager to pull in the relevant performance charts, add their comments and export in minutes.  As a result, channel managers are spending 90 percent of their time presenting and consulting with their partners versus administrative work to pull these reports together.

Armed with the right tools, your channel managers are your most valuable investments for driving partner commitment and revenue generation. They will be equipped with the tools necessary to motivate your partners to invest in your brand and build their capabilities and grow their sales pipeline.  The result is a much larger set of partners that are activated , motivated, and contributing meaningful revenue growth toward the achievement of your channel sales targets.

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5 Tips for Starting a Channel Partner Strategy in 2020

business plan for channel partner

“Two heads are better than one.” 

“It takes two to make a dream come true.”

“Two can play that game.”

These are all sayings that can work just as well in business as they can in any rom-com.

As the digital landscape continues to expand, companies are looking more and more towards channel partner programs that allow them to divide and conquer their respective markets.

Whether an organization decides to sell a separate product as an adjunct service; sell their own product alongside a similar business for added exposure and maximum distribution; or outsource a portion of their sales to a company that offers complementary products, there are several ways a business can benefit from this modern-day spin on the good old-fashioned “partnership.”

Yet though the advantages can be astronomical , a channel partner program takes loads of research and meticulous planning if it’s going to see any kind of success. 

Curious about reaping the rewards but not sure where to start? That’s where we come in. 

Here are our top five tips for building a channel partner strategy in 2020 (and beyond). This list speaks mostly to businesses looking for partners that will sell for them, but the theories and principles should still apply, no matter the type of partnership involved. 

1. Make sure your own house is in order

As tempting as it may be to start hunting for partners the second your business gets off the ground, slow down . Take a deep breath, count to ten, and then take a cold, hard look at exactly where your business is right now at this very minute.

Remember, the best candidates for channel partner programs are businesses that can already boast a strong foundation. Before you hand your product over to a third-party representative, your product/service and business model should be tried, tested, true, and entirely viable . You should also have a serious handle on your market as well as a good sense of your projected growth.

Once you engage in a partnership, you’ll be expected to train your partner in how best to put your product forward. And as if that weren’t enough, you’ll also be required to bring your own team into the fold by creating a company-wide, partner-friendly culture.

Just think of the trouble you’ll run into trying to support and sustain a partner program if your own infrastructure is less than secure. You’ll be leaving yourself vulnerable to embarrassment if you pitch to a partner before your company is ready, and this would effectively doom the partnership before you’d even gotten your foot in the door.  

So instead of getting ahead of yourself, make sure you do an honest self-assessment. Got some roadblocks holding up your production rollout?

Clear your path and then start researching potential partners. Still struggling to find the right audience for your product? Revamp your marketing and sales strategies before looking into a partner channel. Keep in mind your overall mantra when it comes to partnerships should be: “walk before you run.”

2. Get to know the playing field

Business standing on its own two feet? Cool. Now hit the books. (Not literally, of course; most of the background research you’ll be doing will likely be online or by phone.)

As with any major business venture, it’s wise to do your homework before making any big decisions. When it comes to partnerships, a helpful place to start is by imagining what an ideal partner would look like.

-What kind of company/product/service would complement yours best?

-What specific strengths can your product offer a third party?

-What specific weaknesses are you hoping a partnership will help you tackle?

Next, it’s time to begin evaluating potential partners. As customer success expert Lincoln Murphy suggests , candidates who are ready, willing, able, and who––perhaps most importantly––align with your system of values should be at the top of your list. For each possible partner, be sure to take their temperature on things like company goals, ongoing challenges, and inherent value.

Use your imagination and think about what a partnership between you and the candidate might look like. Will the market be interested in a collaborative effort from your two companies? Are your respective teams capable of building and maintaining this kind of business alliance? Will one side be pulling more weight than the other…and are you both okay with that? Get some answers via news outlets, market research, and one-to-one interviews. If (and only if) a partnership candidate meets your criteria, you can start putting pen to paper.

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3. Learn to compartmentalize

Here’s the thing about partnerships, though: You can actually have more than one. If several different candidates can offer your company added value, you can build a partner “ecosystem” by onboarding them all . Think about how much brand recognition and revenue you can build when you have an expanded network of third-party helpers to champion and disseminate your product.

If you get the chemistry just right, it may feel like the best party you’ve ever been to (you know, the type of get-together where everyone contributes to the conversation, everyone gets something to take home, and everyone ultimately has a good time).

But an advanced ecosystem requires lots of organization, as well as an uncanny ability to compartmentalize. If you find that more than one potential partner fits the bill, consider implementing a tiered system of partnership, in which you accept a number of partners while ensuring each partner is given duties and responsibilities commensurate with their level of experience, with the size of their consumer base, and with the value they can provide.

While some big-name partners may command a lot of your time and attention, some may simply call for minimal––yet actionable––involvement (think link exchanges, guest posts, etc.). Bear in mind it’s possible to be loyal to many partners at once, but remember to scale your activities according to how much each partner is able to give you in return.

4. Have a clear game plan.

Found a partner (or partner ecosystem) that suits your business? Excellent! Your next step will be to build a solid plan of action. Some things you’ll need…  

Strategies for open communication: When it comes down to it, the success of your partnership is entirely dependent on how good you are at communicating your ideas, goals, and best practices to your partner…and how good you are at implementing their feedback (you know, listening ).

Digital platforms for communication (internal messenger solutions, file-sharing sites, sales enablement platforms, Skype, etc.) will help immensely here, as will a designated “partner manager,” who can spearhead talks between your company and your partners and help ease any pain points.

A definitive list of “must-haves” and “must-dos”: And this goes for both parties. Set up a meeting with your new partner(s) to decide what your overarching financial goals are, what demographics you hope to target, who will contribute what (and when), what you’ll need to get started, and how you plan to regroup and reassess should things go wrong or technical updates be required.

Sales training tactics: Acquiring a new partner is almost like acquiring a new sales team. Make sure your partner is armed with all the content , tips, and training they’ll need to showcase your product in the best possible light. Remember: Some of the people you’ll be dealing with may not be well-versed in buyer journeys or sales funnels.

Instead of being frustrated by this, use the opportunity to flex your mentoring muscles—share as much information as you can with your partner and give them pointers on how to optimize sales materials and get the most out of your brand messaging.   

A finger on the pulse of market trends: Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but… knowledge is power. Your ability to support your partner will only be as good as your ability to stay on top of industry news. Keep as up to date as you can on happenings in the market, shifts in buying behavior, and recent success stories.

It’ll be useful to stay one step ahead of your partner on these matters, especially if they come to you with questions or concerns on how to sell your product effectively.

Hang tight, we’re almost at the end…

5. Get comfy. This may take a while.  

Sorry. We made you think there’d be an obvious conclusion to all of this, when in fact there isn’t. Well, not immediately, anyway.

If you remember nothing else from this carefully prepared list of tips, remember this: Partnership payoffs take time . We’re not just talking about the time it will take to get the whole operation up and running. Nope, that’s not even the half of it. What we mean is that channel partner programs can sometimes take a year or more before they start bearing fruit.  

Does this timeline feel a little long? Consider that investing in a channel partner program adds an extra step (or five) to the customer’s journey. Partners enable you to reach a wide range of new consumers, but this type of expansion means your product/services will take extra time to get into your customers’ hands—and any actionable feedback or impact on your ROI will take a little longer to make its way back to you.

Don’t despair about the timeframe, though. Instead, make a concerted effort to stay on your partners’ radar. Enlist in the aid of your partner manager to keep the lines of communication open and facilitate check-ins. Whenever you can, remind your partners that you’re still here, you’re still working hard, and your product still has a lot to offer.

Partnerships are all about driving growth. And growth takes a lot of focus, cultivation, and TLC. Settle in and let your partners know you’re in this for the long haul. We think it will all be worth it in a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of way. Besides, we’d take long-term gains over short-term gratification any day of the week.

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Thinkific Plus

Use this channel partner onboarding template to scale your program, share this article.

If you haven’t heard by now, channel partners are valuable resources for growing your business, increasing sales, and meeting customer needs faster. But successful partnerships tend to take work, education, and a thoughtful onboarding program.

Like employee and customer onboarding, channel partners need a foundation to best understand your product and effectively sell it to their customers.

The good news: channel partner onboarding templates and LMS partners can make this a super simple process.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

Why is a channel partner onboarding strategy important?

First, let’s start with the basics – why partner onboarding ?

Channel partners have significant customer buying power. No matter if you’re distributing your product through a retail, wholesale, or agency channel, your partners have the means to influence purchases based on their product knowledge.

Without channel partner onboarding and education, untapped revenue quite literally will walk out the door.

Here are three reasons why channel partner onboarding strategies are important:

Understanding the channel partner onboarding process

Did you know that channel partners can take more than a year to become profitable for your business? This means time is of the essence – and so is the need for a productive onboarding strategy.

Let’s start with the four main phases of an onboarding process:

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Success Factors: Getting your channel partner onboarding strategy right

Creating a channel partner onboarding strategy can be a bit daunting at first. In fact, you may already be asking yourself any (or all) of these questions:

These questions are a solid first step! Also, because we’ve been around the channel partner training block a time or two, here are some of our best practices:

Set goals for the program

Before embarking on any new training strategy, it’s essential to know what it is you’re trying to achieve . Do you want to better support your partners with more hands-on training? Amplify sales growth? Reduce customer churn?

No matter what your aim is, write them down and remember to check in on your goals along the way.

Conduct a gap analysis

Different partners face different challenges. Which is why it’s smart to start your onboarding journey by tapping into their specific needs with a gap analysis .

By going directly to the source, you can identify:

All of which should be addressed in the onboarding information.

Consider the nuances of various partners

Working with a variety of channel partners means their onboarding experiences might look different from one another. If you partner with a combination of distributors, independent dealers, independent sales agents (ISA), service delivery partners, or others, consider creating onboarding courses tailored to their needs. 

Identify essential internal stakeholders

Now, it’s time to look internally. Pinpoint internal stakeholders that will play a key role in developing, managing, and distributing the onboarding program.   

Likely internal stakeholders to consider are:

Streamline your training delivery

Getting your onboarding program into the hands of your partners is easy with a learning management system (LMS) partner, like Thinkific Plus .

With a tool like Thinkific Plus, you can create your launch timeline – no matter how aggressive – with your dedicated Customer Success Manager. The platform is easy-to-use when creating courses from scratch and when uploading your existing lessons.

LMS’s are also great tools to automate the communication and delivery process . Once you have your courses in place, Thinkific Plus allows you to drip your content on your own time and easily host multiple Thinkific sites each tailored to your specific partners’ training needs. 

Partner education in action: Meet CommentSold CommentSold is a SaaS and e-commerce platform that uses Thinkific Plus to organize and implement their partner training and engagement strategy. Through their customized Thinkific website they are able to attract new partners and offer certification courses, share product updates and information, and distribute sales materials to their existing partner ecosystem. Learn more about CommentSold and check out their unique partner education platform here .

Once your channel partner onboarding program is off the ground, don’t take your foot off the gas just yet!

Remember to set 30/60/90-day check-ins to follow up with your channel partners. These check-ins are valuable ways to learn how the programs are or are not helping them understand, message, and sell your product to customers.

Get started with a channel partner onboarding template

Templates are some of the best tools to get an onboarding program started from scratch. In fact, we created a channel partner onboarding template that you can download and customize based on your specific needs.

Or, if you’re ready to take the reins, a first step would be creating an onboarding program checklist. Here are some essential milestones to check off as you go:

Kicking off your journey with our channel partner onboarding template will ensure you’re off to a running start. But, no matter your preference, remember to make your program knowledgeable, flexible, and open to feedback.

Ready, set, go!

Now that you have your channel partner onboarding template, you’re ready to streamline your program on an LMS platform. Book a call with the Thinkific Plus team today to learn how we can help!

Gaby Rice is a Plus Marketing Specialist who is passionate about creating valuable and engaging content. She loves supporting entrepreneurs and companies to grow their businesses through online education.

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What are Channel Partners & How to Profit From Them in 2023

Generate revenue for your business in 2023 with channel partners. Read more to learn what they are!


Channel partnerships are a great way to break into prime markets and verticals. Without channel partnerships, you might find it quite difficult to see significant growth on your own.

To scale your business and increase profit, you need to increase sales. And to achieve this, you need to engage customers. The more the customers engage with your product, the more frequently they convert. The right channel partners can help capture customers on their end to make this happen seamlessly.

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So, what are channel partnerships, and how can you make the most of them in 2023? Read on to find out more.

What are Channel Partners?

A channel partner is a company that works with a manufacturer, vendor, or producer to market and sell the manufacturer's goods or services. Instead of using an internal team to market and sell its products, the manufacturer uses third parties under the channel partner agreement model.

Let's say your company offers cloud computing services. You may decide to market them directly to customers. Alternatively, you could use the channel partner strategy and work with a network of partners to market and sell your product.

what are channel partners

Types of Channel Partnerships

Channel partners can position you for steady, long-term profitability, while you focus on other aspects of the business. They can be the result of a preexisting relationship or something you seek out in a particular industry.

The benefit of working with a channel partner is that they can connect you with high-caliber contacts and teach you how to spot potential candidates who would make good clients.

Let's take a closer look at the most comment types of channel partners:

Affiliate Channel Partnerships

These channel partners are responsible for affiliate marketing or promoting products. Affiliate partners are paid when a sale is completed due to their marketing efforts.

In this type of channel partnership, the vendor maintains ownership and ongoing management of customers.

The key benefit of affiliate partnerships is their capacity to have a very broad reach, provide a large number of leads for you, and sell your product to customers you could not otherwise have reached.

However, because the vendor may not have a personal relationship with the potential client, these leads are frequently of poorer quality than those from referral partners.

Referral Channel Partnerships

Referral partnerships are companies or people who refer leads to a vendor with the goal of boosting customer relationships and sales. 

In this type of channel partnership, the customer goes to the vendor to make a purchase, and the partner is paid a fee when the sale is closed.

The best thing about referrals is that the customer is usually more inclined to value the partner's recommendation and buy the product.

Essentially, this partnership allows companies to leverage the partner's existing customer base, an audience they may not be able to reach on their own.

Reseller Channel Partnerships

Resellers are channel partners who acquire your products from you directly to resell to their market with the advantage of keeping all sales revenue.

In this type of channel partnership, customers make purchases from the reseller, which places the reseller in charge of handling all customer support and inquiries.

The benefits of reseller partnerships are that when you work with a reputable vendor, you can easily access their goods and services. Instead of investing time, money, and resources into developing your own software solution. 

It is important to understand that a co-selling arrangement, in which the sales teams of two partners work together to convert potential customers and/or provide value to existing customers, is different from a reseller relationship.

In this type of channel partnership, it may be more difficult to handle product restrictions or pricing flexibility. This is because the vendor frequently has the upper hand over the reseller.

How to Profit from Channel Partners in 2023

Now that you know what channel sales partners are, the next step is to profit from your channel partners.

To do this, you need to have a solid partner onboarding and training program, combined with a well-thought-out partnership strategy.

Below are six steps you can take to make your channel partners profitable.

Step 1: Have a Channel Partnership Strategy

 A well-thought-out partnership strategy can lead to improved sales and profitability. 

Instead of selecting partners at random, you should understand what channel partners want and how their goals align with your business.

To know the ideal partner, ask yourself these questions:

Does this partner have the resources to invest in the partnership?

Are they willing to reach their goals? 

Is there a competence fit? 

Is there a culture fit?

Step 2: Build Relationships with Channel Partners

It's crucial to build a relationship with your channel partners that benefits both parties. 

Be Accessible : Your channel partners are your eyes and ears in the public eye. They also promote and sell your business as if you were there in person. Be approachable, express your interest in growing the relationship, and show your appreciation for their efforts.

Teamwork : Your business can benefit greatly from collaborating on marketing and promotional initiatives. It can be a great benefit to see how the partnership markets your business and then make suggestions to them.

Be Sociable : Being active in social groups can help you keep up with the latest trends. Paying attention to what customers want will give you great insights. This will help you adjust your plan and give you an edge over your competitors when you're trying to grow your business. When you use social events effectively, your partnership becomes even more impactful. 

Bring Value: The best strategy for building lasting relationships with partners is to plan how you can help them now and in the future, and how you can use your particular skills and solutions to help them achieve their goals. For example, you can add value by providing marketing tools to ensure that the channel's messages are consistent.

Step 3: Enable Channel Partners

Channel Partner Enablement is the process of improving channel partner practices, knowledge, and capabilities to drive engagement and brand loyalty.

Your company likely uses a channel partner to benefit from their relationships and knowledge of the market or audience in question. 

However, without a solid understanding of your brand and offering, they will not be able to implement an effective plan to promote and sell your offering to their target audience.

Businesses can empower channel partners in key areas like sales training, building industry expertise, and technical training.

When developing your enablement program, keep the following in mind to guarantee that you maximize its effectiveness:

Partner-centered : Think of your channel partner enablement program as a product where your partner is the customer. 

Partner assessmen t: Each partner brings a unique set of knowledge, skills, and procedures. Assess the partner to determine what skills they already possess and what they need to successfully market and sell your goods.

Partner incentives : Half the battle is getting your partners to participate in your program. Providing additional motivation through incentives will improve participation and adoption of your enablement program.

Partner Lifecycle : To be truly successful, your enablement program must provide progressive enablement across your partner's lifespan.

Step 4: Define Business Plans

The key to a successful channel partnership is having a well-defined business strategy that helps you and your partner establish your goals and ensures that you are on the same page.

Gaining the support of the rest of your organization and leadership team requires a channel sales business plan. 

Therefore, creating such a plan is critical before you launch your partnership program. This will help executives understand your goals and the resources required to achieve them.

A worthy example is the Kiflo business plan that enables you to set indirect sales objectives as well as track results. It equally helps partners to focus on business activities that matter. 

With the existence of a business plan, the partner manager can easily track the progress of the partners and take the right action at the right time.

Finally, it's useful to regularly review your channel partner business plan to ensure your goals and efforts are still relevant once you have a program in place.

Step 5: Define Responsibilities and Expectations

When working with a new partner, to make sure that everyone is on the same page and aware of their various obligations during the sales process, you must designate roles and responsibilities.

You should make an effort to be as specific as you can when assigning responsibilities. Make sure to include a list of expectations. What should your channel partners expect from you, and what should they expect from you?

As soon as you are familiar with your list of responsibilities, you can delegate the tasks to your internal team members and channel partners.

Step 6: Sales Support and Account Management 

 Transparency helps facilitate a successful channel partnership campaign. Try to work hand-in-hand with partners to ensure continuous customer success. 

Also, identify roadblocks your partners may face and develop a strategic recommendation to help out.

Remember, as a business owner you can take advantage of multiple channel partners to enter a new market and expand your reach. But while valuable, partner programs can be quite tasking. To effectively manage channel partners, you are going to need a PRM.

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Kiflo is one of the best PRMs you can trust to deliver results all the time. It will help you drive sales growth with partnerships. 

Despite what you need—be it channel conflict management, developing your reseller partner program, or growing your referral partner program, amongst others—Kiflo will always come through for you.

See how Kiflo PRM helps SaaS SMBs to scale, manage and grow partner revenue.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is a channel partner example?

Channel partners include retailers, resellers, affiliates, channel value-added resellers, service delivery, technology alliance partners, and others. The nature of the business, its size, and other factors affect the choice of partner.

How do channel partners work?

The whole idea of working with a channel partner in the first place is to increase sales and market exposure. In return for the leads generated by the partners, the business will pay the partner.

Who are channel partners?

Channel partners are companies, or individuals in some cases, who partner with businesses for the sole purpose of helping the business sell its product or services.

What is a channel partner strategy?

A partner strategy is what a company uses to optimize its partner network. Every business has a slightly different channel partner strategy. But eventually, every strategy is revenue-focused.

How do you develop a channel partner?

To develop channel partners, you must add value, empower them, and foster connections. The success of your partnership depends on developing approaches that harmonize business objectives.

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There’s more to Customer Success than delivering customer outcomes. The discipline embraces the idea that success for customers means success for everyone including manufacturers, service providers, partners, and other stakeholders. Times are changing—subscription services are giving customers more power over where their money goes. If they want to keep up, Channel parties need to adopt a customer-centric mindset to drive success throughout the Channel.

Customer Success and the Channel

"The entire fabric of the Vendor-Partner relationship is going to change as a result of the Customer Success movement." Chris Doell VP of Customer Success at OpenDNS

3 Common Goals

Goal 1: achieve your revenue goals.

"By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator." Walker Information

Drive revenue by focusing on the Customer

Align your portfolio with revenue initiatives, update your route-to-market strategy.

Goal 2: Maximize ROI

"[A manufacturer’s] best bet is to take a page out of the SaaS vendors’ playbook and deploy a customer success function ." "The Manufacturer’s Dilemma" by Geoffrey Moore Venture Partner at Wildcat Venture Partners

Maximizing Lifetime Value (LTV) with a customer lifecycle strategy

Optimize your portfolio mix, goal 3: create a foundation for growth.

"Partners who are leading edge in customer success are seeing double digit increases in renewal rates and expansion rates leading to double or triple the lifetime value of a customer." Ed Daly Customer Success-Global Leader at Cisco

How to Start Your Channel Program

"Understand what your business strategy and your partner strategy is and get started. Cause if you overthink it you’ll make no progress and we know you’re going to leave a ton of money on the table. You don’t want your competitors to get with these partners first to help them build the capability for their offerings and not yours." Ed Daly Customer Success-Global Leader at Cisco

Step 1: Define your priorities

Step 2: segment your portfolio.

Step 3: Select your tech stack

Gainsight for channel partner success, align priorities across your ecosystem.

"Gainsight has enabled us to really have a prescriptive Customer Success approach in a pooled global customer model. And that has enabled us to scale in ways that we hadn’t thought was possible." Greg Stivers SVP of Client Development at SMB-Americas at Concur

Provide visibility and drive accountability

"From an efficiency perspective, we have been able to manage 500% more customers per CSM as the team automated functions in Gainsight and used Cockpit to prioritize the right customers." Chad Horenfeldt VP of Customer Success at Influitive

Engage meaningfully

"Year-over-year cloud revenue growth has improved more than 20% since we have invested in Gainsight. And our NPS scores in different lines of businesses have increased anywhere from five to twenty-five points." Mark Friedman SVP of Global Cloud Customer Success at Genesys

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Ready to Move Past Recruitment? 9 Partner Onboarding Best Practices to Set Partners Up for Success

Channel news directly into your inbox.

Once you’ve buttoned down your strategy for recruiting channel partners , you’re ready to establish your channel partner onboarding process. Onboarding is pivotal to your partners’ success in selling your business-to-business (B2B) services, so it must be a focal point of your channel development program and not an afterthought. The old adage “don’t re-invent the wheel” is more apt than ever here, as we spoke with several channel leaders who shared similar views on partner onboarding best practices. But, let’s start at square one:

What is Channel Partner Onboarding?

Channel partner onboarding is a multistep process to initiate and integrate new partners into your company’s partner program. It sets the ground rules and the tone for your relationship. Any major hiccups in this process can compromise your future with a new partner and send them into the welcoming arms of a competitor.

It’s important to understand that onboarding partners is not the same as onboarding direct business customers so they can use your cloud apps or set up hardware. Partner onboarding done well requires more than a couple of web meetings, portal logins and training links; it’s a months-long process that requires both of your organizations to get to know the other so that you can go to market as partners.

Partner onboarding begins in earnest after the agreement is signed. Typically, it includes business planning, sales training, technical training, systems integration (if needed) and usually extends to marketing support, lead generation, co-selling and initial wins.

When done poorly, partner onboarding can cost dearly, including:

When done well, channel partner onboarding offers many rewards, including:

What to Consider in the Channel Partner Onboarding Process

The axiom, “garbage in, garbage out,” aptly explains why your partner program must be well defined before developing your partner onboarding process. Without clear rules of engagement (ROEs) and operational processes, it will be challenging, if not impossible, to set up partners for success.

Here are examples of questions you should ask and answer:

Answers to these sorts of questions will dictate the onboarding process, capacity and pace.

Partner Onboarding: The First 90 Days (& Beyond)

Plan, plan, plan. You need to set key milestones for your critical partnerships. Specifically, mapping expectations for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months and 12 months will increase the likelihood of success.

The Channel Company’s IPED Consulting and Research division’s 2017 guide on channel partner program onboarding emphasizes the importance of the first 90 days. “The first 90 days of your relationship directly influence whether the partner will ever become productive.”

What should you do in the first 90 days? We consulted a panel of channel experts who offered the following advice:

Oanh McClure

“The first 30 days are pure discovery and relationship building,” says Oanh McClure , Director of Alliances and Channels at Zscaler , a provider of cloud security services. “It’s harder to sell a partner on selling your product than sell [your] product to an end-user. You have to enable a partner to know so much that they offer your product first.”

Day 31-60: By day 60, according to our panel, onboarding moves to:

Patrick Sheehan , Senior Director of Field Channel Sales for cloud communications provider Intermedia , says following the orientation period, he likes to “get the sales team trained, engaged and excited about making money” while helping his partner execute demand-generation campaigns and ensuring operations are aligned to get some early wins.

Day 61-90: By day 90, our panel generally agrees that onboarding activities include:

6 Months: Day 91 through 180 is when the training wheels slowly come off and partners put into practice what they’ve learned in the first three months and develop confidence and competence to sell independently.

12 Months: At the end of the first year, it’s time to revisit the business plan with new goals and milestones for year two.

The Importance of a Channel Partner Business Plan

A critical component of channel partner onboarding is developing a joint business plan outlining steps for partners, supported by your team, to reach short- and long-term goals from selling your solutions.

Ayesha Prakash

A solid business plan also lays the groundwork for trust and accountability, adds Robert Maute , former Senior Vice President of Channel Sales for Evolve IP . He says, “The business plan should answer why you are establishing the partnership, agreed-upon goals and benchmarks, how you will work together to accomplish these goals and how to measure success.”

Create (and Use!) a Channel Partner Onboarding Checklist

One of the hallmarks of a successful channel partner onboarding process is that it’s repeatable and easy to follow. Creating a channel partner onboarding checklist is a smart way to keep the process on track.

“An onboarding checklist serves as a guide for your internal staff throughout the partner onboarding period,” says Heather Tenuto , Chief Revenue Officer for enterprise channel management platform provider Zift Solutions . “It also helps your partners to understand the process from end to end and see critical milestones at a glance.”

Partner Onboarding Portal – To Use or Not to Use?

According to a Forrester Wave TM report on Partner Relationship Management (PRM) released in November 2020, channel programs on average have more than 100 distinct elements, with onboarding being among them.

“With so many moving parts, manual processes are prone to human error,” says Zift Solutions’ Tenuto. “This potential for mistakes is multiplied if your channel program is successful and you’re onboarding partners en masse. Using a partner onboarding portal to scale with you as your company grows is vital for long-term success.”

9 Partner Onboarding Best Practices from Channel Leaders

To help you create an effective channel partner onboarding process, we spoke with 10 accomplished channel business leaders about their experiences building and running partner onboarding.

Nine partner onboarding best practices surfaced from these interviews.

Best Practice 1: Keep in Mind Partner Onboarding is an Ongoing Process

Robert Maute

“Onboarding is an ongoing process,” says channel veteran Maute. “It is not a single meeting with partner leadership or a training session with their sales team that magically turns on the revenue stream.”

Partner onboarding not a single event, nor is it an isolated exercise; it’s an integral part of your entire partner program and an essential tool for both short- and long-term goals.

“Don’t think of onboarding by itself,” says Intermedia’s Sheehan. “I’ve found that looking at channel development holistically allows you to create the most effective onboarding process and successful outcomes.”

Best Practice 2: Establish Simple & Repeatable Processes

Complexity is the enemy of the good when creating an easily replicable partner onboarding process. Panelists cautioned against building a 90-step program unless absolutely necessary and encouraged automating as many steps as possible using a Partner Management Solution like ZiftONE TM .

“Keep it simple,” says KELA’s Prakash. “Be strategic and consistent with your onboarding. The front-end work can make all the difference on how the partner engages with you in the future.”

Liz Lederer , Senior Vice President of North American Channel Development for cloud communications provider Star2Star , agrees that upfront effort to develop effective procedures can pay dividends. “We believe that if you would like repeatable and predictable revenue from partners, you have to offer them repeatable and predictable programs and processes.”

Best Practice 3: Designate Onboarding Process Responsibilities & Ownership

Select a point person, ideally a project manager, in your organization to manage onboarding for a given partner from start to finish. Establishing ownership eliminates confusion and creates accountability.

“This doesn’t mean the burden of onboarding falls on one person – it takes an interdepartmental effort to complete the process,” said Zift Solutions’ Tenuto. “However, having one competent individual overseeing the effort will keep the process moving. They’ll know the onboarding status and loop in key parties to avoid delays.”

Best Practice 4: Gauge Partner Focus & Alignment with Your Company

Vendors have high hopes that every partner they bring onboard will become an advocate for their products and bring in tens of thousands of dollars in new monthly recurring revenue. These prized partners are out there, but it’s folly to believe that outstanding sales performance magically happens. In fact, our panel says vendor-partner alignment is a prerequisite to sales growth.

Chad Gagnon , Senior Channel Advisor at Evolve IP, starts an engagement by finding out where his company’s solutions fit into the partner’s go-to-market model. “Personally, I like to really understand the partner’s focus before anything else,” he says. “This allows me to make sure … what I review with them fits into their day-to-day.”

Intermedia’s Sheehan also recommends offering different paths for partners based on their interests. “Having a well-defined onboarding process with ‘tracks’ that address both the long-tail and the high-potential partners — and communicating it to partners upfront — is key to proper alignment.”

According to Gagnon, a key factor in determining alignment is comparing the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for both companies. “Once you are in sync with [the ICP], the focus and planning are easy,” Gagnon says. “You know the process is working well when you are top of mind for a partner and the opportunities are great fits.”

Chad Gagnon

That said, not every partner you recruit is going to be a fit, which can be a tough pill to swallow after you’ve spent countless hours convincing and converting a prospective partner, only to have them not bring in any meaningful deals. Janet Schijns , CEO of channel consulting firm JS Group , reminds vendors that partner acquisition isn’t a numbers game.

Janet Schijns

Best Practice 5: Be Upfront About Your Solution’s Strengths (& Weaknesses)

Your “innovative, ground-breaking, revolutionary” solution typically has plenty of competition. So, you must help your partners understand how you compare and what sets you apart. Arm them with resources, including:

Hilary Gadda , Director of National Channel Development for TPx , a nationwide managed services provider, recommends cutting to the chase by outlining how your company can help them win deals. Instead of telling partners about everything in the portfolio, she explains in what situations TPx is a good fit or where “TPx shines” to help partners close deals. “Time is money for partners, and I need to respect that,” she says.

Hilary Gadda

Best Practice 6: Provide Multiple Ways to Learn About Your Solutions

Keep in mind that people, including sales partners, don’t learn in the same way or at the same pace. Some partners would rather attend live scheduled training, while others prefer to watch video tutorials or read product guides in your learning management system (LMS) on their own time. Still, others are inclined to scour your partner portal and website for informative sales and channel marketing collateral .

Making multiple options available to your partners will cover your bases. Experiment with different formats and delivery methods to hit on the best curriculum.

Evolve IP’s Gagnon, for example, has found that live training works best if narrowly focused. “I like to set up multiple sessions with the team to help focus on one of our solution sets,” he says. “This keeps the sessions short and interactive, and the partners are more engaged.”

Intermedia’s Sheehan advocates self-service to accelerate results. “Providing effective self-service enablement via LMS in combination with a robust partner platform that facilitates sales and marketing engagement is fundamental for all partners to start selling quickly,” Sheehan says.

Best Practice 7: Work with Master Agents & Distributors to Collapse Timelines

Master agents and distributors often take on pre- and post-sales functions such as quoting, sales engineering, ordering, project management and installation for partners so they can shortcut some of the processes and start selling faster.

JS Group’s Schijns believes vendors should capitalize on distributor relationships to speed ROI. “Working with distribution is key for most vendors; they shorten that timeline for onboarding and save the vendor significant funds managing the channel at large through onboarding and first sale,” she said.

Best Practice 8: Monitor & Track Onboarding Performance & Feedback

No doubt your organization tracks CSAT scores, surveys customers and audits call center logs to ensure your customer-facing staff delivers top-tier service. Operate the same way with your partners.

“Having a process is great, but you have to monitor its effectiveness over time,” says Intermedia’s Sheehan. “To do that I’ve found it is critical to manage the entire channel development process, including onboarding, through business applications that enable you to monitor KPIs, identify trends and ensure positive outcomes.”

Patrick Sheehan

Best Practice 9: Remember to Be Human

When selling technology, it’s easy to forget that your “solution” is not only a piece of software or hardware; it’s also your people. And the character of your people can make or break the partnership.

“Yes, our business is tech, and we sell a product, but we are in the business of people,” says Zscaler’s McClure. “Nobody is loyal to companies. People are only loyal to people. A partner will not compromise for a partner program. They will compromise to demonstrate future success with you.”

In other words, if your people are pleasant and helpful, partners are more likely to want to work with your company even if your technology is not best-in-class, and they’re more likely to forgive an honest mistake on an order or install. On the other hand, if your team is difficult to reach or treats partners as second-class sellers, they’ll leave even if your solution is the market leader.

A mission statement is not enough; you need to demonstrate your people skills every day in many ways. When your software has a glitch, how do you handle incoming service calls? When your edge device gets shipped to the wrong address, how do you deal with that? Do you treat both your large enterprise and one-person shop partners with equal importance? Did you welcome and integrate your partner into your organization?

TPx’s Conrad drives this last point home: “It is important the partner feels like part of a community, not just a one-on-one relationship with one channel manager. A partner must feel comfortable with several areas of the company if they are going to put their business and their paycheck in your hands.”

9 Partner Onboarding Best Practices – Download

Below, download our one-pager to help these practices stay top of mind while creating your channel partner onboarding practice.

Following these tips can put you a step ahead of your competition in building and maintaining revenue-generating partner relationships.

business plan for channel partner

Laz Gonzalez

Laz Gonzalez is Chief Strategy Officer at Zift Solutions. A prominent industry analyst and thought leader, Gonzalez brings unparalleled channel expertise to Zift and has served as strategic adviser to leading B2B channel programs worldwide.

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3 Steps to a Successful Channel Partner Program

3 Steps to a Successful Channel Partner Program

Channel partnerships are a high impact strategy for growing your company and a good partnership can provide access to new customers and references that bring in business. Follow these action steps to define, refine and secure a channel partnership. Step 1: Determine a channel partnership

Clément cazalot, share article.

Channel partnerships are a high impact strategy for growing your company and a good partnership can provide access to new customers and references that bring in business.

Follow these action steps to define, refine and secure a channel partnership.

Step 1: Determine a channel partnership strategy

A channel partner distributes goods and services. There are three major types of channel partnership options to distribute your product.

1. You sell through your partner.

Product companies sell their product through a third party storefront. Retailers are partners to products they think will sell with their customers. 

This is the case with AppExchange on Salesforce, the AppStore for Apple or any marketplace. Another classic example is GILT Groupe, who partners with brands like Calvin Klein and Quicksilver, providing distribution by promoting products at discounts. This is a powerful strategy, acting as a source of potential customers as your partner grows.

2. Your partner sells with you.

Here, partners sell your products as an upsell or missing value proposition. Any company that offers your service as a way to expand their offering fits into this category. For example, a car reseller might work with a bank to upsell a car loan, or a software vendor might complement its offering with another partner.

When Microsoft embeds an antivirus demo in its operating system, or when online services like Box bring in security providers to complement their enterprise offer, they are also employing this strategy.

3. Your partner sells for you.

Any partner acting as the promoter or seller of your product falls into this category. This partner is 1) a sales and marketing partner using marketing and sales resources to promote your product to new markets, or 2) a value added reseller, using your service as part of their own service offering. This provides additional value in the operation of that service, instead of simply selling it.

This is the case in any distribution partnership, from your local supermarket, to more traditional distributors. This is also the case in an OEM partnership, like Dell selling computers with Intel processors inside.

This scenario is the most complex because you have to make sure that your partner has an incentive to sell your product.

Step 2: Identify relevant partners and grade them

There are a number of factors to consider to ensure a partnership is relevant and profitable:

How well does your solution fit the need of the customer? How likely are your partner’s customers to purchase?

Once you have a good sense for each partners potential, score them:

Step 3: Develop a coherent plan for reaching these companies

Now that you have established criteria for partners, reach out to these companies and establish a connection. Here’s how:  Start with companies that will take a chance with you.

B partners are more accessible than A partners. These partners may have a small, regional customer base but could be fast to work with, and willing to take on new products.

If your partner is selling your product, develop a relationship with their sales team. By doing this, they are more likely to suggest your product.

Develop a compelling value proposition and pitch it to that company. Position your company as a value add to the partner. Does your product help a company drive profits? Your offering should add revenue to your partner’s product line.

Step 4: Drive growth through your partners

Channel partners boost sales, decrease time to market, and provide access to competitive markets. So get started on building channel partnerships today.

Clement Cazalot  ( @clementc ), co-founder & CEO of  docTrackr  –  document control software  for businesses and salespeople – that is distributed through channel partners like Microsoft SharePoint and Box. On Twitter:  @docTrackr .

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The Essential Guide to Partner Planning

Build your partner planning framework.

Partner planning aims to have the right quantity of products in the right places at the right times to satisfy customer demand in an efficient, cost-effective manner. While the concept seems elementary on the surface, the complexity arises once you dig deeper. A channel leader must review their partner plan to ensure the strategy aligns with the company’s desired business outcomes.

Through years of experience and a rigorous approach, our team of channel experts at Spur Reply have identified five essential steps to guide partner planning.

Step #1: Understand the present strengths and weaknesses of current efforts

Step #2: know your growth levers, step #3 define the required ecosystem need, step #4 evaluate partner performance, step #5 create partner-level action plans.

Developing an understanding and maintaining a line of sight into the strengths and weaknesses of your channel strategy is integral to driving revenue acceleration through the partner channel. It is essential to review, analyze, and benchmark your teams’ and programs’ performance regularly and can be done using a model that examines 18 points of execution across six primary areas:

Capacity planning: Do your existing partners deliver enough sales velocity to hit your targets?

Joint business planning : Are you ensuring your partners are aligned to the right goals?

Partner scoring : Do you know who the right partners are?

Partner business proposition : Is everyone aligned on the compelling reason you beat the competition?

Partner onboarding : Are you maximizing partner activations throughout your recruitment efforts?

Partner recruitment : Do you understand and act on the profile of your best possible candidates?

Campaign development : Do you know which partners are effective marketers of your solutions?

Go-to-market playbook : How aligned are your partners and field sellers to deliver unified joint sales?

Partner enablement : Are you arming your partners with the tools that help them with customers?

Channel incentives : Is your contra-revenue program driving value?

Deal registration : Does your program incentivize sales behavior or simply transfer margin?

Partner investment framework : Are you getting sufficient return on your other investments?

Cloud revenues structure : Have you made the same shift to the cloud as you expect from partners?

IP development : Do partners see you supporting their future IP development?

Partner program : Does your program deliver enough value to partners?

Partner co-selling model : Are you partner managers what’s expected?

Performance dashboard : Do you hold all stakeholders accountable to the same metrics?

Pipeline management : How central is managing a specific partner pipeline for your partner field sales?

Use these questions as a guide to review the performance of your channel programs. You should be able to classify the health of your channel processes as one of the following:

Formally benchmarking your programs and processes will then allow you to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your channel programs.

6 disciplines_CTA

Another critical element of partner planning is the ability to diagnose channel performance against a vendor’s strategic product focus and growth model. Spur Reply has developed the Growth Profile TM Strategic Model to help map product priorities to sales and partner performance in a quantifiable manner. The model is composed of 4 quadrants to classify which products are in each stage of the growth cycle:

Incubate - Break into new markets and technology by concentrating on research and development efforts with a new or existing channel or direct resources.

Optimize – Maintain sales with programmatic reductions by redirecting resources from low-performing elements to higher-performing elements to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Perform – Maximize sales and current revenue flow with existing partners and direct sales resources.

Transform – Strengthen to scale or achieve performance leadership by recruiting new partners or adding additional direct sales resources.

Having a clear understanding of your growth profile is essential, as it quickly helps you determine the right strategic balance to recruit, grow, develop, or prune your direct and partner sales base.

Managing your partnership community to ensure it contains the right mix of partners is vital to sound channel management. Partner managers need to have both a full understanding of the company’s partner community and how to optimize the community’s performance — using five simple levers.

Planning should inform channel management activities such as data-driven models for recruitment and development, balancing engagements based on strategy and performance requirements, and testing partner business propositions across segments.

In the evolving channel space, leaders have limited resources to influence partners and meet business objectives, and a standard partner scoring system can boost partner value and returns. Partner scoring can reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each partner, revealing opportunities for potential incentives, management, and scaling strategies.

We believe that partner scoring should be more than a forecasting tool. The framework can help increase sales, improve ROI, and re-direct partner behaviors to high-value actions. Spur Reply uses a three-step approach for calculating a Partner Evaluated Revenue Capacity (PERC) score, considering both current performance and potential for growth.

The PERC score allows you to create an action plan for partners and even extend the model to get more value. You can evolve from the core model and customize your PERC score, create better dashboards, compare like partners, simplify research, and strengthen capacity planning.

The final element of effective channel planning is partner business planning, which improves your ability to set goals, manage commitments, and drive partner performance against benchmarks.

We recommend you track partners and build out your channel management strategy in five key areas:

Business Model – The design of a partner’s business

Industry Importance – The partner’s focus area

Product Focus – The products the partner highlights and emphasizes

Program Membership – Partner program membership and status

Vendor Alignment – The vendors your partner is working with

By developing a firm understanding of these five aspects and leveraging data-driven insights to adjust strategies accordingly, companies can optimize their channel management strategy and accelerate revenue.

While each element of an effective channel plan is individually important, none are successful in silos. The elements of a high functioning channel plan are interrelated as they inform and influence one another.

Set the right goals

When contemplating a successful partner channel, the more partners the better, right? The more partners you have re-selling, the more revenue you and your company will enjoy.

Why more doesn’t always equal better

When it comes to your partner strategy, more is not necessarily better. At a certain point, the right kind of partner becomes more critical to the success of your channel than the quantity of partners.

Learn how to get a better, more measurable return from your partners with our  whitepaper on successful channel management 

Spur Reply recently worked on a project at a large software independent software vendor (ISV) that develops ERP and CRM solutions. The company wanted to adjust and refine its channel strategy, which was large, and through data analysis, it was clear that some trimming was necessary for two reasons: an unbalanced partner community and too many partners overall.

Creating balance in your partnership community

The right mix of large and small partners is an essential for a well-balanced channel program. Too many times, a customer would be best served by the right partner, but with a channel that is oversaturated with them, the perfect match doesn’t happen. Capacity planning and economic modeling can help you look beyond just the sticker price on a partner relationship.

Efficiently supporting your partners

Every partner, regardless of size, quality, or ambition, needs support. Whether it’s incident response, training, or marketing, partners management requires budget, and partners not driving revenue can easily eat up your support allocations. Plus, if your channel is oversaturated, you can end up with too many partners chasing a limited number of customers. Avoid having so many partners that it limits your return.

Benchmark your channel efforts against your direct sales

Both direct and indirect sales are essential elements of your go-to-market effort. Channel leaders must never forget the most important reason for an indirect sales motion is scale. You have partners because they help you win customers, drive sales, and enter markets where you wouldn’t otherwise have the presence or meet the cost structure.

In an age where new products are hitting the marketplace at an unprecedented rate, companies are tasked with the challenge of developing strategies to find the right partners to sell the right products at the right time. You can optimize channel revenue and profitability with a robust understanding of the stage of your product in the growth cycle.

However, before you can develop a channel strategy based on your product growth profile, you’ll need to understand the elements of the growth cycle and how each one influences channel decision making.

What is Product Growth Mapping?

Spur Reply has developed a proven system for product growth mapping called the Growth Profile Strategic Model. The model is built upon the idea that products fall into one of four quadrants: Incubate, Optimize, Perform, and Transform. The model helps you map your product priorities to your sales and partner performance in a quantifiable manner and optimize profitability for each product.

The axes of the graph you’ll create are labeled “Percentage of Total Revenue” (Y-Axis) and “Percentage Growth” (X-Axis). The elements of the graph and their descriptions are displayed on the grid in the following order:

Incubate – Break into new markets and technology by focusing on research and development efforts with a new or existing channel or direct resources (bottom left quadrant).

Optimize – Maintain sales with programmatic reductions by redirecting resources from low-performing elements to higher-performing elements to increase efficiency and effectiveness (bottom left quadrant).

Perform – Maximize sales and current revenue flow with existing partners and direct sales resources (top left quadrant).

Transform – Strengthen to scale or achieve performance leadership by recruiting new partners or adding additional direct sales resources (top right quadrant).

Thresholds to determine when products move from one quadrant to another are set based on company size, product offerings in the market, and the amount of revenue each product drives. A company with one great product bringing in most of the revenue may set their percentage of revenue threshold at 5% so that it will include more than one product. On the contrary, a company with several extensive offerings may set their threshold for this axis at 10% or 15%.

For this example, let’s say for a company the percentage of revenue threshold is 10%, and the percentage growth threshold is 5%. A product in the incubate phase is growing at a steady rate but does not yet make up more than 10% of the company’s total revenue. Products in the transform quadrant are those that drive more than 10 percent of the company’s revenue and are experiencing growth higher than the threshold of 5%. Performing products are typically great products already at scale, accounting for greater than 10 percent of total revenue, but the growth has plateaued and is below the 5% threshold. Products in the optimize quadrant are being phased out because they are not growing enough and make up less than 10% of revenue.

Now that you have a good grasp of the model, we can look at how this influences the channel strategy for each product.

Why is Product Growth Mapping important?

Having a clear understanding of your growth profile is essential. It quickly helps you determine how to recruit, grow, develop, or prune your direct and partner sales base and invest in each product in the most efficient manner.

An important piece of context is that growing sales through partners means you need to use one or more of these strategies:

Convince current partners selling a different product begin selling a new product

Leverage current partners sell more of that same product

Recruit entirely new partners who have never worked with you begin selling a new product

Every partner growth strategy uses these three significant engines, so keep them in mind as you choose partners to sell your products.

How Product Growth Mapping affects partner choice

Within each quadrant — and the corresponding growth cycle phase — there are typical partners that sell products in each.

Starting in the incubate stage, the chances of recruiting new partners to sell relatively new products is slim to none. You don’t know them, they don’t know you, and chances are they aren’t overly familiar with the product. Instead, you will likely leverage partners you have worked with before and who you have an existing relationship. These partners often have a low-risk profile and have experience selling innovative products in an unproven marketplace.

In the transform quadrant, we see a completely different story. Now we rely on all three partner growth engines to sell a product. Current partners start to sell more of what they traditionally sold. Other partners are willing and excited sell a new product, and new companies from an entirely different space or an adjacent space view this as an attractive opportunity and jump in to sell the new product.

In the perform stage the product has reached maturation, and very few new partners are coming on because the market is already developed. The only exception is if the partner is a laggard in the marketplace, and this is the strategy they have adopted for this product. The focus here is to keep current partners selling, if possible, to stave off a deceleration of sales.

Once a product reaches the optimize quadrant, the strategy is to figure out how to pull back investment and roll partners off that product.

Also, channel managers need an investment model for each phase of the growth cycle. Most funds dedicated to product marketing should be focused on products in the incubate stage, even though they are bringing in little or no revenue as they ramp up. This money can be spent incenting partners or developing a joint venture to decrease the risk of selling a new, unproven product.

As you move through the model to transform and perform, you spend less money in each stage to fuel product growth because the products mature and gain traction in the market. As the product reaches the optimize quadrant, you want to invest as little as possible to keep the product afloat and devote resources toward the end of life milestones and rolling partners off that product. Having a consistent mathematical model that drives the investment strategy for the growth cycle is equally as important as having a sound partner engagement strategy in place.

Common mistakes to avoid

When developing investment and partner engagement strategies for different stages of the growth model, we often see two significant mistakes: selling a product before it’s ready to move from perform to optimize stage and developing an investment model based on the traditional cost-of-sale model.

The first mistake is incenting partners to sell a new product before a product is ready to move from the perform stage to the optimize stage. We often see new products cannibalize old ones, and sales of the old product are cut short because partners begin to focus all of their attention selling a new and exciting product. A vendor must be careful with their launch and incentive strategies to avoid this partner behavior.

The second major mistake we see is companies developing an investment model based on a traditional cost-of-sale model. Companies will spend their product marketing budget in the wrong quadrant, most often the perform quadrant, because it drives the most revenue. Instead, devote this budget towards a product in the incubate quadrant — even though the current revenue is low.

With technology changing so rapidly today, having a great product simply isn’t enough. You also need go-to-market efficiency and data-driven tools for managing partners and channel sales. Whether you are doing annual business planning or trying to determine your best partner strategy, knowing your growth profile is essential. You can quickly and efficiently assess which products are in the growth cycle and determine the right strategic balance to recruit, grow, develop, or prune your direct and partner sales base.

Roll it out to partners

Every business wants to accelerate its revenue, yet it’s a tough goal to reliably accomplish. Combining product advantage with go-to-market efficacy is the key to consistently achieving revenue acceleration.

You have a great product or solution but, in a market saturated with competition, you need an effective go-to-market and business plans to meet your goals.

How do you make planning valuable for both you and your partners?

The best partner business plans are mutually beneficial, helping both you and your partners to grow faster than your organic growth paths. To make sure the plans will deliver accelerated results, you’ll need to take a critical look at six areas of your business and answer the following questions:

Now that you have identified the necessary elements, it’s time to structure those them into a practical, adjustable plan. At Spur Reply, planning is a four-step process: assess, learn, plan, document.

Assess > Learn > Plan > Document

First, you need to set your goals and select your growth partners. It will require you to assess and analyze your partners’ growth profile. Specifically, you need to look at the difference between their organic growth and your desired growth for them. How can you get your partner’s growth up to a level that will reach or surpass your revenue goals?

Once you have your goals and growth partners set, you need to understand performance drivers and growth areas. Leverage the work you have already done for capacity planning and partner scoring to learn what you need from partners.

After you determine your most valuable partners, you can finally set up your plan . In this step, you will define business outcomes and partner commitment. A good business plan sets the right expectations by covering off on what the partner and vendor commit to across several components:

Partner Commitments

Vendor Commitments

Now that you have your plan, you’ll need to document it and both of your commitments correctly, which involves sharing the plan and driving performance accountability. By sharing the business plan in this way allows all stakeholders to review the plans (the partner, the partner’s account manager, and whoever has corporate responsibility for outcomes).

As you go through the planning and documentation process, leverage the opportunity to make sure you understand your partners.

First, use your partner business plan to develop profiles for your partners by collecting information that allows you to benchmark future performance. Then, make sure you have set up a timeframe with performance milestones, specific outcomes, and investments based on rewarding performance against commitments and completion criteria.

With your partner planning process set up and documented, make sure to track your performance against the 5Cs in your Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs). Whether under, at, or exceeding goals, determine if you need to adjust the plan, reset the goals, or reallocate the investments.

No matter how developed your channel partner ecosystem, creating robust partner business plans will improve the go-to-market efficacy and revenue acceleration of your product.


Richard Flynn

Related articles, how do i encourage our channel partners to use partner software, 7 examples of partner incentives with a proven positive roi, how to use partner scoring to increase channel roi.

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Partner Business Plans Management

With the Partner Business Planning module of ZINFI’s partner relationship management (PRM) platform, you can completely automate the development of business plans, streamlining interactions between internal and external channel partner stakeholders to ensure efficient plan execution and compliance.

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Partner Business Planning

Use the Partner Business Planning module to automate business planning activities in a multi-level channel ecosystem with an online form and approval flow process. You can also set up system alerts to notify channel partners when new business plan templates become available.

Using the module, channel partners can easily incorporate marketing plan details, then sign the business plan and push it for your approval through an expedient, automated, multi-level approval process. The reporting features of this module give you greater insight into the planned marketing activities initiated by your channel partners.

Key Features Include:

Certification & Training Management

The Partner Business Planning module allows you to designate channel partner specializations using the Certification and Training zone, where you can also instantly determine resource availability for any assistance a channel partner might require.

Channel partners can designate individuals for specific training programs organized by your organization to ensure teams get trained and certified on the appropriate products before marketing and sales activities begin. The Certification and Training zone gives you complete visibility into the resources needed for your product marketing and sales activities.

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