Feature: Optimising the channel network by forging better partner relations

By Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs.

Workers across the globe have embraced hybrid and flexible working as standard, to the extent that the recent return-to-office mandates from the likes of Amazon and Zoom have caused backlash from employees who feel they are just as productive working in a hybrid format. It’s evident that employees want flexibility, especially when nearly a third (30%) of workers say a flexible working location is one of the most appealing employee benefits, and 42% say flexible working hours, according to the Owl Labs annual State of Hybrid Work Report 2022.

However, for a workplace to operate successfully under a hybrid or flexible working model, the correct technology and tools need to be implemented. As a result, there has been a large wave of demand for meeting technology that is more immersive and engaging. To meet this demand, vendors can rely on the channel to help bring their technology to the office.

The channel is an ecosystem where vendors and resellers need a symbiotic relationship. By forging strategic channel partnerships, the reseller can become an extension of the vendor’s sales team, using its market expertise to deliver excellent customer service and provide the right tech setup for the end user, while the vendor can focus on building and improving its technology. For channel partnerships to run smoothly, it’s crucial for vendors and resellers alike to collaborate effectively.

Communication-led partnerships

Considering that nearly two thirds (65%) of resellers and distributors want better relationships with vendors, there is a clear need for vendors to adopt a more collaborative strategy with their partners. In a successful vendor-reseller partnership, resellers should act as an extension of the vendor’s sales team, bringing the technology to the target market.

The fundamentals of a positive channel partnership are built on successful training and education. Simply handing resellers a product factsheet and tech specs won’t cut it — vendors must be actively involved in educating their resellers and distributors on their products. Here is where vendors could implement an in-depth product demonstration or how-to training session. Activities like these not only help showcase the technology or service and its features in a more engaging way, but also allow resellers to buy into the vision of the company and understand the product inside-out. Vendors could even share regular partner newsletters with product updates, press coverage, training and events, and industry news.

The benefits of vendors exhibiting a successful education model are clear. Resellers can in turn provide the highest quality support to the end user, act as a trusted representee, and even identify new ways to market the tech to their customers. For example, more immersive training can unlock new opportunities for resellers to upsell a particular functionality that taps into a niche challenge of a certain buyer. This would not be possible if they didn’t know the product inside and out.

Providing ongoing tech support to their distributors and resellers is essential for vendors to maintain a successful and lasting partnership, given that nearly half (47%) of resellers and distributors agree that customer service is the most important consideration when deciding which vendor to work with. This goes beyond initial product demonstrations — vendors must ensure they are funnelling a consistent flow of information into the supply chain and ensure ongoing communication and support. For example, vendors could host a partner portal to share the latest and greatest sales collateral with all partners as it becomes available.

A successful vendor-reseller partnership needs to be built on trust. Resellers require access to pertinent business leads, which vendors should relay whenever they encounter them. Through sharing their business pipeline and entrusting resellers to capitalise on these leads, vendors can empower resellers with all the necessary tools to connect and effectively sell within the appropriate market.

Rewarding your resellers

For vendors to make their channel partnership model more compelling to resellers, they need to offer partnership incentives beyond good customer service. When vendors reward their resellers for growth, there is a greater incentive to deliver strong results. Naturally, this is advantageous for both parties in terms of sales, but a strategic partnership can also improve the quality of sales. With vendors and resellers working together, they can deliver the best hybrid work tools to customers that keep them coming back.

A successful channel partner program should offer benefits such as tiered partnership options. For example, an effective approach is to offer various partner packages, such as bronze, silver, and gold options which are based on each reseller’s annual revenue requirement. Essentially, the benefits would increase as the reseller revenue increases. Bronze partners could receive a deal registration and access to a territory manager team, whereas silver partners could enjoy a greater number of benefits on top such as free shipping, discounts across demo units, and a channel account manager. Gold partners, top earners, could even merit a marketing consultant and receive marketing development funds (MDF) for their product store.

Implementing benefits like these motivates your channel partners to grow their respective business in a sustainable manner, and rewards them once they hit their sales targets.

Creating a localised approach

Understanding that regional markets operate differently to one another is fundamental. As a result, sales strategies must be localised to achieve maximum results for each market. For example, a US sales strategy may not resonate at all with a UK market due to cultural differences such as business practices and communication styles. Additionally, each region has its own market dynamics, trends, and customer behaviours, and what drives demand, customer pain points, and competitive landscape can vary significantly from one region to another. IT channel vendors should research and understand these nuances in order to tailor their offerings effectively.

Business leaders around the world are facing a multitude of new challenges as companies double down on hybrid work approaches and implement more long term flexible working models. They need to be in a position to leverage immersive technology that keeps employees engaged in the long run, facilitates the hybrid working experiences, and elevates remote meetings.

With regard to hybrid work, vendors and resellers need to understand which challenges affect any particular region they are working with while being aware of any new policies coming into place and understanding how employees prefer to work. Resellers can then leverage these challenges and pain points to successfully market immersive technology as a solution.

Additionally, some channel resellers may already have their own preferred ways of doing business and interacting with vendors. Some regions might prefer more personal interactions, while others might prefer streamlined digital communication.

Here, resellers have the power to educate vendors by communicating their respective market’s needs, which overall enhances the vendor-reseller relationship. Incorporating geo-specific vendor training or channel events, as well as providing localised sales collateral to suit local nuances is key for providing your channel partners with what they need. For both partners, building and maintaining a strategic partnership beyond your region is invaluable to your sales performance.

The key to sales success

Building foundational relationships with distributors, resellers, and integrators across the channel in multiple regions is a pivotal factor in any vendor’s sales success. Forging a strong presence and capitalising on those relationships contributes to sustainable business growth, particularly in competitive markets.

Additionally, effective channel partnerships help businesses build a loyal and engaged customer base. Resellers can leverage their established relationships with customers to cultivate consumer trust in vendor products, which is invaluable to vendors selling new-to-market tech or products in a higher price range.

Overall, channel partnerships are mutually beneficial and should be nurtured from both ends to kindle sales success. By considering resellers’ needs, vendors can effectively employ suitable strategies to cultivate positive channel partnerships, which ultimately proves advantageous for both parties involved. The vendor must exhibit effective communication throughout the partnership, as well as offer rewards and benefits to its resellers. As an extension of the vendor sales team, the reseller plays a pivotal role in bringing the vendor’s technology to the target market and should reap the rewards of a successful partnership.

Check Also

Feature: Want more sales leads? It’s easy if you ask the right questions

Daniel Priestley of Scoreapp quizzes channel marketing.    You’ve probably found securing high-quality leads can …