As a SaaS company, you know how important channel sales are; your resellers likely bring in a big chunk of your monthly sales. As important as channel sales are, however, they in fact make up just one slice of the bigger ecosystem pie.
Alongside channel sales, your ecosystem consists of integrations with tech partners, strategic alliances with partner companies, and even partnership agreements with online influencers and affiliates. This means that when you build your channel partner program, it pays to take into account the bigger picture of the various connections and motions within your wider ecosystem.
Keep these four key considerations in mind when building or adapting your channel partner program:
1. Use account mapping to spot opportunities and accelerate deals.
Account mapping is an indispensable foundational step in any channel sales partnership. Account mapping is the process of comparing your leads, opportunities, and customers against your partner’s leads, opportunities, and customers. Doing this is essential as it allows you to instantly spot opportunities to accelerate deals already in your pipeline, co-sell to common targets, or leverage your partner’s existing customers to fill gaps in your own pipeline.
Another benefit of account mapping is the potential to find out more about specific customers or leads that show up in both pipelines. In this case, your partner’s customer data can help you round out your understanding of the customer and thereby better meet their needs.
Pro tip: take your channel partner program to the next level by digitizing the account mapping process. This case study illustrates how Branch, a mobile measurement and deep linking platform, was able to improve account mapping efficiency by an incredible 70% by using the Partnered platform to automate and streamline the process. Over and above eliminating the need for laborious and error-prone account mapping spreadsheets, using the right tool enabled Branch to quickly spot and take advantage of customer overlap, unite their sales and partnership teams with seamless two-way communication, and accurately prove ROI based on real-time data.
2. Give your partnerships team executive representation and attention.
According to Crossbeam, in most organizations, the partnership team still reports to Sales.
However, as channel sales partnerships and wider business ecosystems continue to gain more traction and importance in their own right, your partnerships department should report at an executive level.
In fact, as Crossbeam reports, some of the most cutting-edge companies have already embraced a new C-suite role: the Chief Ecosystem Officer. “[A Chief Ecosystem Officer or Chief Partnerships Officer] is responsible for growing a company’s partner program and ecosystem while ensuring they’re investing in the right partnerships with the biggest business impact.” Giving your channel partner program and ecosystem partnerships an advocate and leader at this executive-level allows you to maximize your ecosystem revenue and signal to potential partners how seriously you take your ecosystem.
3. Use the right tools to manage your channel partner program.
We mentioned earlier how using the right technology was a game-changer for Branch when it came to account mapping. Of course, having the right tools in your partnerships kit will have a huge impact across your entire ecosystem. Besides a PRM and a CRM, you should also have a Partner Ecosystem Platform (PEP) that allows you to track, manage, and share data with your partners. According to Sean Blanda in this G2 article, “A good PEP will typically also include tools to attribute revenue to your partners, track ecosystem qualified leads, and keep your data secure.”
4. Embrace marketplaces.
Jay McBain predicts that marketplaces may be the biggest challenge facing more traditional distribution models going forward. According to McBain, part of the reason why marketplaces have become so prominent is because they are customer-friendly, partner-friendly, investor-friendly, vendor-friendly, and future-proof. In fact, McBain foresees that “[upward] of 17% of the $3.5 trillion that businesses and governments spend on technology may go through marketplaces as quickly as this year.”
In light of this, it makes sense to take steps to future-proof your channel partner program by launching your own eCommerce-enabled marketplace where partners and resellers can sell their services and products alongside your own.