This blog post is for those VPs of Sales who wonder if you are getting enough revenue from your indirect channels. It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


In many cases expectations for channel partner sell-through are not realistic. This is particularly so when standing up a channel for the first time. Many executives are not prepared to allow the methodical process of building, supporting, and enabling a channel organization to take root. It “competes” for internal mind share with the direct selling teams. Many channel programs are unable to break through to strategic significance. 


However, in some cases, the channel organization matures and becomes a significant contributor. Even occasionally, it becomes a dominant one. It is for those organizations that we now address a nagging question for senior sales leaders:


How do I know if I am getting “enough” revenue from my channel partners? 


Do you have a Channel problem?

To do some quick triage, answer the following questions:


  • Do I have many partners who do not contribute to revenue generation in a significant way?
  • Is my internal cost of supporting the indirect selling organization increasing?
  • Is it substantially more difficult to launch new products through the channel than direct?
  • Are we unable to recruit the most effective channel partners in our marketspace?
  • Do we have worse customer feedback from channel relationships than direct ones?
  • Has our “share of the partner wallet” declined over time?
  • Do we have limited-to-no visibility into our partners’ sales pipelines?
  • Do under-performers from the direct sales organization get transferred to the channel?


If the answer to some or most of these questions is ‘yes’, you have a channel partner management problem.  





To pinpoint the problem, assess your partners against a defined set of performance criteria. But having assessed your partners is only half the battle. The next step is to improve partner performance conditions. Doing so, ensures the partners who remain and any new ones you bring on will exceed expectations. To do this, SBI recommends you make the following changes to your partner management program:


  1. Channels are sometimes loaded with B and C players. In companies where the partner management organization is responsible for 5-25% of the sell through, the quality of the talent can be spotty. Sometimes, it is downright deplorable. This usually happens due to an internal culture where those people managing the partners are the ones who could not achieve success in direct selling but were considered good corporate citizens. If you even suspect this for a moment, assessing your talent is time well spent.
    • Call-to-action: Commit to a process of talent definition, competency assessment, increased personal accountability, recruitment, and development – all specific to the partner management function.
  2. Track partner performance through a set of leading indicator quantitative measures. Most mature partner organizations have a joint strategic planning process with their partners. Partner plans are an important component of setting expectations and managing the interaction of two organizations. These plans are, by their nature, very specific to each partner. Unfortunately, many partner management organizations do not also establish a common set of measures against which they can compare, track, and benchmark all partners. In many cases, they can also be compared to the direct force when both are selling the same solution in similar markets.
    • Call-to-action: Implement a Partner Performance Scorecard and compare partners against each other. Scorecard metrics might include: Partner-generated leads, partner deal Close rate, partner discount exception requests; partner co-marketing spend; Partner technical staff trained; Partner-related customer support calls, Customer satisfaction (via NPS scores).
  3. Go direct with your marketing. Unless they are significantly larger than you, your channel partners will tend to under fund their Marketing function. And even when well-funded, their marketing efforts are dedicated to their own value proposition, not yours. Plus, they have to spread their spend across all the solutions they are selling, not just yours. Paradoxically, the marketing budget for your support of your channel partners is oftentimes starved at the expense of supporting your direct selling teams.
    • Call-to-action: The best way to directly influence the purchase decision for your solutions is to direct market to the buyer, irrespective of the channel partner. That way your message gets to the right person without being filtered. Spend on brand awareness as well as your co-marketing dollars.


  4. Support bi-directional lead-sharing. It is shocking how many business partnerships are founded on a one-way relationship. Suppliers hound partners to provide leads. Either that or partners demand leads from their supplier as a quid pro quo to agree to sell the supplier’s solution. Either way, the imbalance in lead sharing limits partnership effectiveness.
    • Call-to-action: Integrate your lead management function with your partner community. You should generate leads for them and vice versa. And track results.
  5. Perform Joint Sales Calls. In many cases, your sales teams are actively engaged with the partner sales teams. Sometimes they work well together, sometimes not. One of the most contentious aspects of partner management is territory de-confliction (that is a topic for another blog post!). You should strive for as much joint selling activity as possible. Why? Because you get to observe their sales teams in action. You can test for technical proficiency, product positioning, prospecting techniques, and customer-facing skills.  Plus, you gain insight into the possible pipeline.
    • Call-to-action: Bake joint selling into your partner planning. It may not be the most efficient approach to selling but it gives you the G2 you need, over time, to assess the capabilities of partner sellers. Plus, they will respond to the attention your sales teams give them.
  6. Pipeline Visibility. Most partner relationships are not exclusive. In other words, your partner may be selling solutions competitive with yours. This causes them to be less than transparent in sharing their pipeline information. From their view, they might think “why should I give my partners access to my pipeline, as I may not know what solution to sell so early in the sales cycle?” This is a reasonable position for a partner to take. The only way to overcome it is through trust and a willingness to be reciprocal. The benefits outweigh the risks in this case.
    • Call-to-action: Both you and your partner should provide early visibility to sales opportunities. In addition, you should keep each other updated on status changes in the deal. Do this in accordance with your respective sales methodologies. Consider extending your CRM system to include partner log-ins for those partners who are willing to commit to a more dedicated partnership.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:

  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job


If you would like to spend time with me on this subject of channels, come see me in Dallas at The Studio, our state-of-the-art executive briefing center. A visit to The Studio increases the probability of making your number because the sessions are built on the proven strength and stability of SBI, the industry leader in B2B sales and marketing.


SBI's Executive Briefing Center - The Studio


Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.
Mike has led every function at SBI – Delivery, Sales, Talent, and Technology. Now he is a leader for Account Management, Private Equity Partnership, and long-term business development at SBI.


He has personally led over 100 projects for SBI over his decade+ time since its founding in 2006.


This starts by earning trust – of clients, of PE firms, of prospects. Mike obtains this by leveraging deep domain expertise, with more than 25 years in sales, competitive intelligence, sales management, marketing enablement, product management, pre-sales and sales operations. Mike relishes the idea of living in the field. So he does.


As a founding partner, Mike built out SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Mike built himself many of the solutions now part of the Revenue Growth Methodology. And whatever he touches gets adopted. This is part of his commitment to making it happen in the field.
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