The reseller market is shrinking. Traditional value-added resellers are consolidating and born-in-the-cloud resellers are starting to make their mark. Increased competition is emerging from many directions, including telecommunications and new cloud technology vendors. So, what’s a company to do to ensure its sales are maintained amidst this changing landscape of sales channels?
First, embrace the change. It’s not coming tomorrow. It’s here today, so it’s time to transition. In the increasingly complex world of cloud resellers, it’s important to remember the sales channel basics: reward partner engagement, incent product knowledge, maximize sales tool utilization, and celebrate closed deals. Then, start with these action items to leverage your existing sales partner strategies.
Build relationships. Support retention
In the cloud, sales channel success is not just about the initial win or product training, it’s all about how connected your resellers are to their customers over time. As the vendor, you must facilitate this client connectedness. One-off e-mails or short campaigns for your resellers to brand and send are no longer enough. You must build end-to-end, targeted campaigns that drive product utilization and loyalty.
The right partner relationship management platform can take a smart communication plan and use it for lead nurturing and loyalty building. Here’s the key, though: You need a plan. So reach out to your marketing resources to develop communications that focus on usability and adoption, not just buy-now product offers.
Control churn. Invest in loyalty
For hybrid and cloud-based resellers, churn is one of the greatest challenges. In a traditional VAR model, partner activity is often evaluated in six- to 12-month summaries. With cloud-based resellers, it is no longer sufficient to reward big blocks of revenue. Loyalty needs to be measured and reinforced on an ongoing basis.
As a vendor, how do you identify, drive and incent this loyalty with partners? A recent Forrester (News - Alert) study identified five key qualifiers: wallet share, certification investment, tenure, transaction frequency and portfolio breadth.Model your partner scorecard to reward these triggers.
Align with your customers
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: The hybrid and cloud market is more vertical, more industry-specific, and more solution-oriented. Want to stay competitive? You need to empower your sales partners to think like their customers.
Send your partners to conferences that offer industry insights. Encourage your best generalists to attend specialist-level workshops and networking events. Enable them to understand pain points so they can sell solutions. These experiences will also deepen their loyalty to you.
Work smart. Incent smarter
Your partners are worried about revenue impact as they transform their business. To them, an unknown migration to recurring revenue may mean college tuition or a family vacation. To keep them loyal, put some money where your mouth is. Use your existing channel budget to bridge the gap and drive goals:
- market development funds to educate your VARs via eLearning, conferences, certification programs and more;
- front-loaded incentives for signed, ongoing cloud-based services contracts;
- rewards your partners really want, such as prepaid debit cards;
- engagement incentives with and for propagation of your end user communication plan; and
- marketing concierge services to support business transition and new go-to-market techniques.
Most importantly of all, you must use a partner platform to elevate the awareness of these opportunities. A robust channel management system can promote, measure and reward in real time for real loyalty-building engagement.
You need your resellers’ loyalty now more than ever. In the long run, you can’t retrofit your traditional go-to-market tactics to satisfy a new breed of VARs. But today, you can stay in the game if you’re nimble and responsive.
Theresa Wabler is global director of marketing for Parago (www.parago.com), a global incentives and engagement company.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi