5 Ways Vendors Should Enhance Their Channel Programs in 2023

This practical advice can help struggling or stagnant channel programs address the biggest issue facing resellers.

We’ve all read a million pieces about digital transformation by now — on how to execute a project successfully, on how to design an implementation that’s built to last, on how to get your money’s worth from your technology, and on and on and on. All the questions have been asked, and all the questions have been answered.

But one topic that still resonates — and I’ve found this across conversations I’ve had and writing I’ve done — is customer success. You can talk theoretically about what will work and what should work and what might work until you’re red in the face. But ultimately, nothing impacts business leaders (and their decision making) quite like real examples of success.

Partners are well aware of this. It’s why they’re embracing the ongoing shifts in software sales tendencies — because things are trending toward an ecosystem where merit and competency are king. Software sales are no longer about selling a solution, or executing an implementation, and then hitting the road. Vendors and partners today must sell services — and sell a partnership grounded in mutual trust and collaboration. That’s the basis for a business oriented toward success. Because examples of success are essential, not just to new business, but to the renewability of existing business as well.

Still, the question of what exactly success looks like — and what it means to various business and transformation leaders — is not a settled question. In fact, it can vary greatly across industry, project and even lines of business. So, how can vendors help push partners and end customers toward an agreed-upon reality, one where they not only agree upon what success is but feel like they’re all experiencing it? I can think of five ways.

1Strongly — and Mutually — Define Success

Most transformation initiatives that go wrong start going wrong on Day Zero. Because, often, from the beginning, expectations are misaligned and communication is muddled. Make sure everyone — from vendor to partner to end customer — is fully and completely in sync regarding what a successful transformation project will actually look like. Is it just about getting the software to go live? Is it about hitting certain KPIs? What about financial goals? Trust and credibility is everything in this business, because leaders are investing heavily in technology that will define their employees’ day-to-day lives. Having the hard conversations early on will save you much, much harder conversations later.

2Prioritize Competency Over Pedigree

Historically, software implementation partners have been rated, so to speak, on their loyalty to — and time spent working with — software vendors. This isn’t an inherently flawed ideal, but it can lead to complacency, as legacy partners take precedence over those with more specialized capabilities and skills. Vendors today are trending toward turning that complacency into competency. By focusing first on competencies, end customers can seek out partners with specific solution specialization and unique software capabilities. Across the board, this makes it easier for both partners and end customers to know exactly what they’re going to get — and exactly what they’re getting into.

3Transform Transformation Compensation Models

Sometimes, we get so caught up in high-minded ideas of transformation and innovation that we forget to transform the methods by which we’re selling it. That’s why at SAP, for instance, we’re working to reinvent the traditional technology resell compensation model with a model more focused on recurring cloud sales. This approach allows us to pay compensation to the partner more effectively than the traditional one, reducing partner financial risk and ensuring more money winds up in their pocket in the end, too. It also enables customers to truly lean into working with partners who can do what they actually need them to do. It’s an approach necessary for survival in the cloud.

4Embrace the Roundtable

Feedback and collaboration across the vendor-partner-customer ecosystem is absolutely vital to all success any one member of that trio will experience. We, as a vendor, might have a broad and wide-ranging portfolio of digital solutions, but we don’t offer the IP in every single area that can help businesses in different industries go deeper. And neither does every partner. Openness, flexibility and diversity can be the quickest shortcut to sustainable success. So, make it a point to convene regularly — so you can foster a sense of community that will drive project success.

5Factor in the Future

Transformation is about far more than just tomorrow and the next day. It’s about years into the future, as companies evolve, grow and transform themselves. In the midmarket, for instance, where my team focuses most of its energy, we have to build programs for businesses that have no intention of settling for being small or mid-sized. These are leaders who want to lead the next big company. In fact, one of three companies we work with are backed by a private investment firm. Their ambitions are much larger than their current business size. These are high-growth customers, and they need their business models to be enabled and enhanced by the proper IP and subject matter expertise — as they grow into industry and category leaders.

This is the path to success — and selling success — in 2023 and beyond. Because, ultimately, success boils down to what’s in the eye of the beholder. Some stakeholders may be looking for certain financial numbers or productivity-related statistics, while others may be searching for less tangible and more qualitative benefits.

Because while you may sometimes win people over with logic, most times you must win them over by getting them emotionally engaged. So, make sure everyone — from vendor to partner to end customer — gets to lead the project in their own way, and you’ll be well on your way to success everyone can feel.

And, if you’re lucky, you won’t have to read another article about digital transformation ever again.


As head of Midmarket and Partner Ecosystem for SAP North America, Greg Petraetis is responsible for all facets of the organization’s operations. Along with accountability for sales and field project execution, Greg manages value-added resellers, third-party and OEM partners, distribution and inside sales. Underpinning these responsibilities is his unwavering commitment to ensure customers in this Midmarket segment in the region have the strategic support they need to digitally transform, innovate, and grow.