Congratulations. You have been put in charge of a baseball team made up of the top players in the country. Here are a few thoughts that are not going through your brain.
“We’ve got the the world’s best pitcher; let’s make him our shortstop.”
“Let’s not hire a coach.”
“Let’s underpay our players.”
“Let’s not bother with practice plans.”
And why aren’t they going through—or anywhere near—your mind? Because any one of them could weaken, even destroy, your all-star team.
Similarly, no sales leader has self-sabotaging thoughts when implementing a channel sales program, which can have an incredible impact on revenue growth. But unfortunately, many are running channel programs incorrectly.
On average, channel sales can increase year-over-year revenue up to 30%, even in highly competitive tech industries. In fact, if all sales go through indirect channels, and demand is driven at the retail-customer level, growth can skyrocket as high as 50%.
In other words, channel sales programs are worth doing right. Yet, when promising programs fail, it’s often because of wholly avoidable errors.
Let’s start by looking at three common ways people shoot themselves in the foot when implementing channel sales programs. Avoid them, and you greatly increase your chances of success.
- Misaligned Vision
Global visibility and alignment are vital to the success of a channel sales program. When visibility is obscured or communication is hazy, you have what is known as channel conflict. This is a misalignment of perceptions on how a successful channel sales program impacts your company.
The most common manifestation of channel conflict is a chasm in understanding between sales reps and company executives. Sure, decisionmakers may have approved the project, but this is not the same as being fully on board. In order for the program to succeed, the commitment and understanding of the program’s value must be consistent among all stakeholders.
- Bad compensation plans
“Let’s underpay our players.” Bad idea, right? Bad for an all-star baseball team and just as bad for the people entrusted to sell your product. Fair compensation is essential to keeping both your channel partners and direct sales team motivated.
Channel partners also need to know how to earn their rewards. A good program will document, define, and align sales goals for all sales organizations. Thorough training and clear KPIs will engage and incentivize channel partners to do their best for themselves and for your company.
You also need to adequately compensate your direct sales team for their role in making the channel sales program a success. If they feel undervalued, they are less likely to see the program as win-win, and more likely to perceive it as a threat. There is no way a channel sales program can succeed if your employees actively work against it.
- The wrong partners
Channel sales requires a high level of expertise and commitment across the board. This means finding channel sales partners with the right capabilities and sales foundation to bring your product to market and nurture its growth. Understanding how a partner’s strengths align with your product and strategy is critical.