the race to channel participation

The Race for Channel Participation

Increasing Channel Sales in a Direct Sales Culture

As the global head of channels at a software firm that has a long history of direct selling, driving channel sales growth requires a massive cultural transformation.   I’m approaching one year on the job and we’ve made huge progress in aligning the global alliance and channels team on our channel strategy.    As a result, channel sales are growing as we make tangible progress on gaining alignment with the direct sales teams.

Building on the momentum of 2016, we set an aggressive channel growth target for 2017.  To achieve that target, we’re embarking on a race to increase channel participation, meaning the percentage of total software license revenue sold through the channel.   Like the Tour de France, this race will require speed, endurance, and teamwork.  Here are the three key elements that are required for us to complete the race and reach our target.

Agree on a channel participation Target

Each spring I work to re-build my cycling miles after a winter off the bike.   It’s sometimes tough to stay motivated, especially when riding alone, so I try to ride with a friend or my bike group.  I find the best motivator, though, is setting a goal for how many miles I can ride by the end of each month.  My end goal is to be able to ride the 6 Gaps Century, an awesome 103 mile ride with over 11,000 vertical feet of climbing.

Working with the direct sales teams to set a channel participation target is a great motivator for driving more sales through the channel.   There’s a management adage, inspect what you expect.   Measuring channel participation, for example on a sales management dashboard, is a great way to get everyone thinking about a common goal.   Furthermore, sharing that measurement on a regular basis with other teams, including marketing, finance, legal, and services, helps get everyone aligned.

Agree on the Plan

Agreeing to a goal is only the first step.   You also need a detailed action plan to achieve that goal.   For cycling, my plan includes weekly mileage targets, strength training in the gym, and getting the right nutrition.  When you’re still in the early stages of building your channel, you need to feed your channel partners with leads and opportunities.  In addition, you must provide sales support so they can learn how to win business on their own.   Therefore, our plan has the following 3 key components:

  • Identify the channel partners who are willing and able to invest in growing a resell business
  • Align these partners to each of the sales teams, down to the sales rep level, based on the partner’s geographic, vertical, and solution focus
  • Set targets for how many leads will be passed by each rep each quarter, with a detailed lead passing process that gets our reps working directly with the partner sales reps on each opportunity

Our expectation of our partners is that by passing business to them and investing in their enablement, they will in turn invest in gaining the skills required to bring more business back to us.

Reward the Team

Finally, a little competition and recognition goes a long way in driving a change in behavior.   I love competing with my friends on the bike and being rewarded with a chocolate-peanut butter smoothie after a long ride.   That’s why rewarding the team is the third key element for increasing channel participation.   A quarterly competition, for example spiffs and bonuses to reward sales reps and managers on leads passed and channel participation, will help drive adoption of the plan.

There’s a lot that goes into building a healthy and vibrant channel business, whether you’re a start-up or a well-established business.   The rewards of success make the journey both fun and rewarding.    I’m eager to hear what you’re doing to drive higher channel participation.   And if you’re looking for a challenging ride, sign up for 6 Gaps!