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After a channel has been developed, it has to be actively managed. In today’s environment, there is nothing easier than signing up resellers. The real challenge is getting the channel to perform. A channel that is ignored will quickly wither and die. Some of the elements of an effective program are:
Sales & Technical Training
Even if the technology seems to be fairly easy to understand, and the reseller does not feel a need to spend time on sales and technical training, there are many benefits to both the developer and the reseller. The reseller will learn more about how the product works, how it is sold, and how it is used by clients. The vendor will benefit from developing a stronger relationship with the new reseller partner, getting input regarding features that might make the product better or easier to sell in the target market, as well as giving more people in the organization exposure to the new partners.
This is a critical document that outlines all of the company policies, order procedures, payment process, contact information for tech support, price list, product overviews, etc. It should be designed in a way that reduces or eliminates most of the questions that might come from your partners.
Sales and Marketing Programs
Let the channel benefit from everything you are doing. Resellers and distributors will rarely have a marketing staff or creative people who can create materials from scratch, nor will they have the same economies of scale you do. Remember, you are likely to be one of 20 or 30 products they are selling, so make it as easy as possible for them to sell yours.
Sales and Marketing Reports
Reseller partners generally dislike filling out monthly reports because they see it as administrative busywork that takes time away from selling and supporting products. However, they are an essential element for a developer in monitoring, managing and motivating reseller partners.
Programs and Incentives
There are a number of programs that can be implemented to promote your product, but they will vary based on the complexity of the technology, the sales cycle and the markets in which you are active. Some of the more common programs are sales contests, quota clubs and spiffs (payments usually made directly to a reseller’s salespeople for the sales they make).
A developer should visit key partners every year. The visits improve the relationship, provide an opportunity to meet with more people in the partner’s organization, and in many cases, can be used for sales calls on key accounts.
When the channel becomes large enough, an annual conference should be scheduled. They help create a feeling of community, and are an excellent forum for presenting new versions of the product, as well as getting feedback (and criticism!) that isn’t provided in one-on-one phone calls and e-mail exchanges.