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Featured Article—December, 2006

Channel partners are more than just a distribution point

By Michael D. Stewart

 

Often channel partners are seen as another way to put more products into the marketplace at less cost (than a direct sales force). They can be the primary channel of distribution, or they may be in addition to your direct sales force. Many companies use channel partners in places they do not have adequate coverage of their own, or in countries outside their own major markets.

 

What is often lost in building this relationship is the fact that the channel partner needs a competitive edge, over and above your product’s capability or brand name recognition. Although they may be able to offer a level of “value-add” in selling to their customers, they often desire changes in your products to address local requirements in a more competitive manner.

 

Here are some of the ways you can extend your reach through Partner channels:

 

· Create a conduit of communication that brings the partner’s needs forward in a timely manner. Beyond email, offer communication tools like an eNewsletter, a Blog, or some form of collaboration software (e.g., a Wiki).

· Offer a dedicated group of individuals to serve partners in the areas of sales, marketing, product management, and R&D.

· Conduct surveys on the partner’s behalf to better understand the depth and breadth of the markets they believe the product changes will serve. Consider Prediction Markets as a means to better test the theory behind the change.

· Consider adding to or enhancing your Web site with a dedicated Partner Section. This can begin with a global reach to all partners and expand to include more private dialogue for the business exchange of information.

· Allocate a portion of your own staff’s time to look for Partner Opportunities that may otherwise not be obvious to the partner.

· Once in the marketplace with the partner’s revisions or changes, maintain a level of follow-up to ensure continuity of what was required and its ability to serve the need (at both the partner and customer level).

· If you expect assistance in partner sales from your sales team, make sure there is adequate sales compensation for their time and effort. Whether you credit the sale in an appropriate way to their overall Quota, or compensate them individually for each sale, make every effort to offer an incentive for them to help the partner achieve success.

 

Solid partner relationships are essential to competing in a global marketplace. Don’t see this as a one-way avenue of sales and distribution. Partners worldwide want to see you as an extension of their own product development efforts. Give your partner the competitive edge by being open to changes in your products and services. Build a partnership that serves both parties in a mutually beneficial way.

 

Michael D. Stewart is the Vice President of Sales for the TROY Group, Inc. For more information about TROY products and services visit the “Contact Us” portion of their Web site at http://www.troygroup.com/index.asp, or call them at (800) 633-2266.

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Text Box: December, 2006
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