The 5 Best Practices for Starting a Channel

If you’re building a channel, it’s always best practice to follow best practices. In an excerpt from Impartner’s eBook, “The Ultimate Field Guide to Starting a Channel,” here are the five key steps for success:


  1. Solidify and clearly explain the policies you will employ within the program.
  2. The first step is to establish strategy, then establish policies, then the program. It’s important for senior leadership to understand the channel and the depth of these requirements or leaders risk fast employee burnout, or over commitment and under-resourced initiatives which ultimately fail or do not produce the expected growth. For example, your strategy could be to have a direct relationship with enterprise corporations. Therefore, you would have a policy that states when an opportunity would be taken direct or with a partner. And your program would state the rules of engagement that support the policy.

    You could also use deal registration as an aspect to your program to enforce some of the policies. If your strategy were for enterprise accounts to be managed directly, your policy would ask for partners to register opportunities to help identify anything that supports the vendor’s enterprise direct touch strategy. And, your program would enforce the best practices of deal registration with extra benefits to drive that type of behavior.

    Channel conflict is another set of critical up-front policies to establish. Hand in hand with deal registration, you will need to set forth the policies on how you will handle involvement with your direct sales force and indirect sales force. Within your program, you may establish a list of accounts that are known direct, or rules for which a partner may then work a direct account. Whatever you do, be sure they are clear and are known early in the sales process, to avoid any duplication of efforts or worst yet false starts or fast partner failures. Channel / Indirect – Direct / and Partner – Partner conflict is one of the prime reasons partnerships fail to product expected targets.


  3. Invest in end user demand generation for partners.

  4. The pace of business these days is incredibly fast, and the fastest way to revenue is when vendors assist in finding and somewhat qualifying leads for partners to engage with. You may think of this as “priming the pump” but it really has become the best practice way of getting partners on board and getting to revenue quickly. The “best practice” is a co-marketing/co-demand generation with the channel partner. The vendor needs to establish a demand generation closed loop process that results in the partner getting qualified and ready-to-buy leads.


  5. Make systematic and inter-organizational trust and collaboration a competency in your organization.

  6. Collaboration should be the primary vehicle for progress versus command and control. According to an annual CEO study, collaboration — both deliberate collaborative business practices and processes emerge as a strategic competency. Collaborative business practices has also emerged as a new ISO11000 standard – turning it from an art to a science - and aimed at ensuring channel partnerships and strategic alliances are built on strategic business practices from the onset.


  7. Ensure that you have the highest level of skills within your team.

  8. You can assess the current team’s skills against a channel / partner competency model, recognize hiring gaps, and/or prepare to elevate the skills of the teams where necessary. Theresa Caragol Consulting’s new 2017 Competency Model established that as a best practice for the requirements for our next generation CAMs, they should cover the 4 main areas of knowledge for a CAM: Business Acumen, Industry Expertise, Deep Channel Expertise and Collaboration Acumen / EQ. This quadrant and the sub skills for each can serve as a checklist for the types of individuals you will need to have leading and working on your indirect channel initiative.


  9. Protect all of the above with a technology and systems support plan including PRM.

  10. Often, building this “Channel Technology Stack” is an afterthought and companies go wrong and end up with more costs later. As the indirect model expands into new geographies, partner types, customer use cases, and channel business models – the one common link is the support infrastructure.

    It’s important to make automation decisions from the onset that will grow with your success. For example, consider a Customer Relationship Management tool that integrates well with your Partner Relationship Management tool, and yet further integrates with Incentive Automation or Demand Generation Platform. Evaluate your options available, check references and talk to existing clients; and consider the companies you are buying them from to ensure they are capitalized well for the long term. For example, you may choose to work with companies who have established relationship and partnership with other vendors in a potential “stack” of a solution you are taking to market. Taking these factors into consideration can save you time, money, and aggravation as your channel strategy and programs scale with success.

Want to learn more about building a channel? Get your complete copy of Impartner’s Ultimate Field Guide to Starting a Channel here.

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