25 October 2020

How to repel the sharks: a crucial skill for success in the channel

More than any other industry, channel strategy is probably the most important sales success factor for players in IT and telecoms. A vital element of the art is compellingly communicating the supplier and seller’s complementary value. To the outside world, that alliterative phrase is more commonly called the joint value proposition (JVP).

For confidential internal use the JVP can be expanded to incorporate sensitive interactions between the two parties: training, go-to-market strategy, campaigns, sales incentives, technical backup, and second-line support, to name a few. We call that document a quick-start guide (QSG) to reflect its role in both onboarding new members and simultaneously maintaining close, real-time communication with existing channel partners.

Dealing with dichotomy

However, there’s a dichotomy developing in our industry between simple solutions sold online or over the phone, and more complex systems needing a fair degree of hand holding. In a world that’s transitioning ever faster to the cloud, suppliers of the latter need the expertise and scalability that comes from a well-chosen team of channel partners.

Against that background, IT and telecoms firms are reigniting channel partner programmes at the top end of the market. But their channel support collateral may have been developed in a pre-digital, pre-cloud, pre-pandemic environment. And might not have aged well.

Take a look at yours. You almost certainly have your own value proposition. The problem might be joining it up with partners’ value propositions to make sense in the next normal. The good news is that only about 20 percent need be customised; the other 80 percent can be generic (albeit powerful and well written).

What does good look like?

Viewed from the above perspective, the JVP is a natural and slightly more in-yer-face subset of the QSG. Success in both is contingent on an in-depth understanding of not only both organisations and their ambitions, but also the specific audiences at which they wish to aim their key messages.

Let’s start with the JVP. Naturally, it must clearly and compellingly explain how the joint solution gives the customer the best value compared to engaging both companies separately, or choosing a similar offer from their rivals.

Content-wise a JVP should always contain:

  • Short, persuasive elevator pitch (for busy execs and key decision-makers)
  • Clear evocation of the solution and services (including who does what)
  • Short, powerful description of features and benefits
  • Proof points like case studies, customer testimonials and analysts’ reports
  • A compelling call-to-action

Turning to the QSG, one should now add the go-to-market elements. Not intended for external audiences, these will include commercially confidential arrangements between supplier and partner, such as:

  • Definition of partner tiers, usually by revenue, and benefits accruing to each layer
  • Targeting and payment and monitoring processes and timescales
  • Incentives in terms of sliding scale of percentage return on sales achieved against target
  • Messaging guide with talking points to enliven the sales conversation
  • Oven-ready marketing campaigns with best practice call scripts and email templates
  • Objection handling counters, with example dialogues
  • Sales qualification guidance to highlight the best prospects
  • Short and long copy blocks for websites and marketing collateral

A powerful addition to the above is to describe a future roadmap, painting a picture of innovation and new ideas, an essential closing argument that others often miss.

And finally …

A crucial step is to clearly communicate channel strategy. Otherwise it can end in both sides’ salespeople competing to own the customer relationship. And, once you’ve developed a JVP, perhaps for your website or for sales to use as a leave-behind, also think about turning it into a mobile-friendly infographic to support email and social media campaigns.

GoRefCo people include seasoned sales and marketing professionals who’ve been around the channel partner block a few times. So, if you need help or informed insight to assist with the above, please contact us. 

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