Unless your company has benefited from the sales demand surge as a result of the pandemic, then you are probably running flat or sliding down the “K” curve. I will share some insights to help any vendor to re-energize their channel ecosystem in 2021.
The need for some solutions exploded in 2020. If your company is riding on the coattails of the pandemic demands and experiencing huge growth, then you are probably going to do just fine in 2021. Your challenge is that your competition also sees the big growth curves and will be gunning for more market share. Other players may also pivot and double down on your target market to drive growth. Expect more competition moving forward. This is probably a good time to rethink your digital channel partner playbook and explore how you can stay ahead of the wave and not get blindsided. It’s good time to invest in building your thought-leadership and expand your partner base. “Make more hay while the sun shines”.
If your company is doing okay (not much growth or not much loss) then you are probably still making enough to pay the bills and keep your organization coasting along. Things can go south very quickly as markets have a way of shifting course just when you least expect it. Disruption to status quo can happen anytime! The pandemic proved it and the recent stock market rally on companies like GameStop by people outplaying the usual big investors is yet another sign. Stay on guard! Review everything you do in the channel and explore ways to improve. If you cannot drive sales growth, then at least find ways to get more efficient, support your current partners and explore if some of your technology can be repurposed or improved to solve more problems to expand into new markets.
If your company is on the downward trend and bleeding then you instinctively know what you need to do. Get into emergency mode to stop the bleeding and stabilize your business. You have most likely already done all you can do to stop the bleeding as you get into a maintenance mode to prevent any further decline. If not, you are in trouble. You will need to rethink everything.
There is one other scenario… Companies who planned to start up in 2020. The good news is that you have not yet made any mistakes so you can build right from scratch. That said, you need to build something different and not copy traditional channel playbooks. You need to take a giant leap forward in your digital channel game and head to where the puck will be going and not to where it currently is!
My 10 tips to all those tasked with the difficult job of managing their channel in 2021:
- Ensure that you continue to reach out to all of our current partners to support as much as you can. This is the time to keep on doing the right things and go above and beyond the basics to be the hero. It’s what they need from you. They will remember.
- Do not stop spreading your message. Whatever seeds you plant today will grow and bare fruit in the future. Whatever you do, don’t go dark.
- Show your face. Find your digital voice. Many people prefer to work from behind the scenes. Well, if you are not out front on news or social media then you are probably not going to be relevant in the accelerating digital-first economy.
- Retrain your sales team to build digital warriors. The changing of the guard has already happened from road warrior to digital warrior. Hint: It’s much more than having a social media account.
- Ramp up your channel partner automation, but do not get stuck on PRM. Think about making support and transactions easier and seamless. Build better knowledge bases and training support. Rethink MDF and use to help partners in ways you never considered. Focus on helping your partners market better in the digital game. Roll up your sleeves and become synergistic with your partners. Stop old-thinking that channel partners will upload their customer database to you to send your promotional information. Rethink your channel partner automation playbook and get it right.
- Don’t look or sound desperate. If your channel facing people are simply not up to speed in skills, then they will be sending the wrong message. I have seen what amazing channel reps do and what digitally unskilled reps can do. Get your team up to speed. If you want to see some of the best vendors check out the Reseller Choice Awards on Feb 4.
- Build out a digital-first channel playbook, but remember that you just cannot actually automate your channel partners. Some processes can definitely be automated, but relationships, motivation and loyalty cannot. There are many things you can do to maintain and build relationships virtually. Test them all!
- Get some updated data. Survey your channel. Survey your end-users. Dig into some of the go-to research reports. Use the latest data to formulate your decisions, but do not be afraid to think outside of the data. Data only tells one part of the story.
- Never stop searching and recruiting new partners. Every time I hear a vendor tell me that they have enough channel partners, I roll my eyes (in my mind). No one could ever have enough good partners. There are always areas on this planet where you can do some expanding. Microsoft adds about 7,000 new channel partners every month. I think they already have more partners than most vendors?
- Help all of your channel partners to become the best sales champions that they can be. Every channel partner has a gap in their game. Even the best World champions have coaches to fill their gaps. Improving best practices is forever. You can see some of the best channel partners at the upcoming 50 Best Managed IT Companies Awards on Feb 4. Or invite your partners to take the best practice assessment test or join a peer-group.
How TechnoPlanet fits into this puzzle?
We can start by giving you good advice. If you like what you hear, then we can take the next step. Let’s talk.