A reseller channel can expand your reach, increase brand awareness, and result in more sales and revenue than you could accomplish alone. As an ISV that developed a B2B software solution, you have probably reached a point where you considered building a network of reseller partners. It takes a well-planned channel partner strategy, however, to attract the right resellers and get the results you’re looking for.
DevPro Journal asked Jim Roddy, Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s (now Worldpay’s) PaymentsEdge Advisory Services, to share his perspective on the right way to build a reseller channel. Based on his experience working with resellers and ISVs in the point of sale (POS) space, Roddy says there are six common rookie mistakes ISVs make with their channel partner strategy that can doom a reseller program before it even begins:
- Too focused on your awesome product
“When I ask ISVs what they have to offer channel resellers, nine times out of ten they start with the product,” Roddy comments. Only a few have invested significant time mapping out the channel program itself. “It’s not build it, and they will come—that was a movie. You need to define terms for tech support, marketing, and how resellers will be paid before approaching a prospective partner.” He adds that if you aren’t prepared to answer fundamental questions about your channel program in initial meetings, it may give resellers the impression you aren’t someone they’d want to work with because you’re not serious about your channel.
ISVs are prone to taking a gamble and guessing at what resellers want from a partnership. Roddy advises talking to prospective partners, asking for guidance from vendors and distributors with partner programs, and researching what the competition is offering its reseller partners. “There is no substitute for talking to resellers one-on-one,” Roddy comments, “If you guess you’ll probably guess wrong.”
In the POS space, Roddy says the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) can be a great resource. Members have access to the association’s member directory, which can be an easy way to engage with people who can help. Talking with just 10 VAR executives can give you a new perspective and make a huge impact on how you shape your channel partner strategy—and how successful it can be.
- Too many acquaintances, not enough good friends
To make your program work, you will need honest feedback on your channel partner strategy from the reseller’s point of view. Roddy suggests forming an advisory group of three or four VARs for the initial program roll out. Learn by working with your advisory group and make adjustments to your program before adding new partners. “I’ve seen this work well for ISVs of all sizes,” Roddy says. “Remember, crawl, walk, jog, and then run.”
- Skimping on support
Resellers will be inclined to sell your software if you have a good product backed by good support. Roddy warns ISVs not to cut corners and overlook the value of support—which is necessary for a good end-user experience. “If your product causes headaches for the reseller’s merchant clients, they won’t sell it, regardless of whether they can make money,” Roddy comments.
Your channel partner strategy also needs to include support for resellers in a variety of areas, such as training, marketing, and technical service. Remember, again, not to guess. For example, your focus may be on online marketing assets, but your reseller partners are meeting prospects face-to-face. They can use a one-page leave-behind co-branded with your logo and theirs, and they’ll appreciate not having to produce it on their own. They also may find it helpful to have a member of your team join them on a call to help close a sale. Talk to resellers to determine the types of support they need.
- Unrealistic short-term goals
ISVs starting a channel program often have lofty visions of hundreds of resellers from coast to coast making sales in their first month and growing from there. You need to be more realistic. Roddy explains that there is a learning curve as resellers learn how to sell and support a new product. They also need to find the niche in their market where your product is the best fit—whether it’s with new clients, existing clients or as a complementary offering to other solutions. Growing channel sales in the POS market takes time. Be patient.
- Lack of empathy
If you haven’t walked a mile in a reseller partner’s shoes, you haven’t experienced how challenging their job can be. They’re working hard, facing new competition, and dealing with markets in the midst of disruption. “Don’t establish an adversarial relationship—don’t treat resellers like a sales force that you can give marching orders to,” Roddy warns. “Don’t only look at numbers, goals, and territories. Remember there are people involved.”
He says National Computer Corporation (NCC) is an excellent example of an ISV in the POS space that has created a channel partner strategy that enables resellers to thrive. Led by president Chuck Prince, a former reseller, NCC’s program is based on a true partnership and honest two-way communication. Roddy says the atmosphere at NCC’s partner conference stands out as one of the most positive and collegial in the industry, where resellers are eager to tell him, “They get us. They understand us.”
A Final Word of Advice
Roddy’s final piece of advice is really where ISVs should start—deciding whether a channel is right for your business. With cloud delivery and online sales, a channel isn’t necessarily the right move for every ISV. “Be open to what the market dictates,” Roddy says. “There is a lot of opportunity, but you have to define what opportunities there are for you.”
Jim Roddy is a Reseller & ISV Business Advisor for Vantiv’s (now Worldpay’s) PaymentsEdge Advisory Services. He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as a Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) board member, and one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of the book Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer.