Top 7 Predictions for Channel Sales in 2016

As experts in channel programs with a base of more than a million partner users, our organization, SaaS Partner Relationship Management (PRM) technology leader Impartner is stepping up to the bar with our top seven predictions on the factors that will influence channel leaders in 2016.

With Accenture estimating 80 percent of tech revenue already occurring through indirect channels (and increasing), here are our top seven predictions that will help channel chiefs succeed in 2016.

  1. 1. Channel Executives Become Part of the Passion for Customer Experience

    The realization has dawned that Customer Experience (CX) is imperative No. 1 in business. You simply have to get it right. Spending marketing dollars to drive customers to a poor customer experience only helps make sure they won't be back. Your partners know this as well as you do. If you don't give your partners a good experience, your competitors likely will. There are so many product choices and so many vendors for a reseller to choose from, partner loyalty simply won't cover for a bad CX.

    Leading analyst firms point to customer experience as the new competitive battlefield, referring to CX as the most impactful area of innovation available to businesses today, and urging vendors to make customer experience and personalization priorities.

    When you sell through the channel, the front door of your partners' experience is the Partner Portal, and it is imperative they can find what they need (and like what they see) when they arrive. You only get one shot to get it right.

  2. CMOs (Finally) Get Their Way

    It's no secret that there has been a tug-of-war going on between CMOs and CIOs in fast moving, digitally oriented companies. CMOs have a huge need for rapid fire, metric driven IT that can embrace new marketing technologies and turn them into revenue before they move into mainstream adoption and hence lose their potential competitive edge. CIOs, on the other hand, are driven by a contrasting need to run a reliable, secure network with minimal disruptions.

    Gartner admonishes IT teams to be bi-modal and strike a balance between the two extremes. But Impartner predicts the tussle will end with CMOs victorious. By the end of 2016, headlines from analysts and editors will proclaim that the balance of power has shifted to CMOs, and that customer acquisition rules over stability within fast growing companies.

    We predict CMOs will be comfortable with this. Modern marketing needs to move in gigahertz, while IT tends to move in megahertz. Interestingly, however, CMOs would likely prefer having a strong IT colleague at their side, helping them quickly evaluate and "test drive" new digital marketing tools and to provide insights on scalability, security, reliability, etc.

  3. Game on for Gamification

    Gamification has been nibbling at the edges of the business world for a few years and has leapt into the center of the customer experience when it comes to engagement and loyalty. You don't need jumping frogs to have a successful, interactive, engaging Partner Portal, but you do need to make sure the experience you create for your customers is relevant and contemporary, or they will question how well your products themselves are keeping pace.

    Just as importantly, games are serious business when it comes to sales. Leading analyst firms like Forrester point to the programmatic use of gamification as key in accelerating targeted selling behaviors. Your company can't afford to let others lead when it comes to creating a compelling sales experience. No secret here - we predict channel chiefs will gamify their interactions with partners in 2016.

  4. Director of Onboarding Becomes the Hottest Job in Channel Sales

    Getting partners to "click to accept" your program Terms and Conditions is great and automating the process is key, but being able to ramp them quickly to productivity and profitability is more important to your success, and theirs. Making sure your organization has a focused, internal champion who is 100 percent committed to bringing the best out of every partner and not just bringing on more partners is critical to moving the needle. As more companies turn to indirect channels to scale their revenue, the best partners will choose vendors that give them the best chance of being successful quickly. Companies who invest in processes, tools and the right people have the best chance of moving ahead. If you haven't already, we predict you will hire an onboarding specialist in 2016 (or at least make sure it is in someone's job description.)

  5. Big Data Comes to the Channel

    The tools and the techniques used to manage sales teams today are stellar: Sales Force Automation tools, Customer Relationship Management tools, pipeline management and prediction tools, and more. Companies sell solutions that will automatically scoop up your pipeline, feed it into a Learning Machine, and spit out a prediction of what revenue you'll actually realize from all the deals. And beyond tools, methodologies abound for running pipeline calls etc. All of these capabilities exist for the direct channel. But what about the 80 percent of revenue that comes from the indirect channel?

    In 2016, we predict that companies using their Partner Portal only to push information out to their partner channel will be getting only one-half the value they could. Ideally, the portal represents terrific insight into how your individual partners, as well as your overall partner channel, are performing.

    We predict data analytics and data-driven business planning with partners will land squarely on organizations "to do" lists in 2016. Data-driven quarterly business reviews will enact a dramatic transformation in channel performance.

  6. Vendors Will Solve the Problem of "Bad Marketing at Scale."

    In a recent webinar co-presented with Impartner, Forrester Principal Analyst Tim Harmon pointed out how dramatically indirect channels have moved into the spotlight. As the importance of the indirect channel blossoms, vendors will begin to evaluate partners as much for their marketing chops as their customer list.

    Even with the adoption of TCMA tools (Through Channel Marketing Automation) there is no guarantee the quality of marketing will scale with the reach of the marketing. Forrester refers to this as the problem of "‘bad marketing at scale' when channel partners, left to their own devices, launch programs into the market without the firm's branding - or they dilute, confuse, or...damage the brand."

    We predict 2016 will be the year vendors awaken to the fact that go-to-market strategies must include partners in order to adequately build their business, and the capabilities of these partners will need to increase along with the availability of marketing tools.

  7. Channel Partners Will "Swipe Right" for the Perfect Vendor

    In the era of PRHD (Partner Relationship Hyperactivity Disorder), finding the right vendor can be a challenge for partners. They need to know their investments in training, certification, and market building will generate a short and long term ROI. Partnering with the wrong vendor can wipe a reseller out.

    Likewise, making it easy for companies to find a local partner that complements that company's vertical and company size helps make the strongest match that truly makes powerful connections and drives sales. We predict a formalization of the vendor / partner dating process will emerge in 2016 to facilitate better connections between these two groups.

    In all, if there were ever a time for channel chiefs to buckle into their saddles, we believe 2016 is the year. In nearly every interaction we are having with analysts and customers, we feel a groundswell of momentum for selling through channels, and most especially for indirect channel selling as a way to expand revenue more efficiently, particularly as it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain top sales talent, especially in the IT space. Indirect channel selling is the pedal that allows these organizations to scale.

To learn more, watch the webinar or download the infographic.

*This article originally appeared on VMblog.com on December 15, 2015

Impartner delivers the industry's most advanced SaaS-based Partner Relationship Management solution, helping companies worldwide manage their partner relationships and accelerate revenue and profitability through indirect sales channels. Impartner PRM is the industry's only turnkey solution that can deploy a world-class Partner Portal in as few as 30 days, using the company's highly engineered, three-step Velocity™ onboarding process. Watch Impartner's interactive demo here.

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