Establishing a reseller channel can be a smart business strategy for ISVs. A channel is a relatively low-risk way to get feet on the street and grow your business. But a revenue-generating, client-base-building channel doesn’t happen overnight. To get the right outcomes, you have to build the right channel.
A successful reseller channel starts before you ever talk with a potential partner. Its foundation is a well-planned go-to-market strategy and a clear vision for a channel’s role. A channel’s function may be primarily to expand your reach. The rationale for this approach is simple to understand: 40 or 50 resellers (or more) can cover much more territory and follow up with many more leads than the handful of in-house sales reps your company can afford. But you may have a different plan for taking your software to market. If you plan to partner with hardware vendors to offer a complete solution, value-added resellers (VARs) can provide the installation, training, and ongoing service that your customers need for successful implementation.
Choose the Right Partners
Once you’ve determined the roles your channel partners will play in your business’ growth, find the right people to fill them. Two different ISV channel programs could potentially search for two completely different types of partners. It’s wise to be discriminating. You don’t want to invest in partners that aren’t fully committed or that don’t have the right skills. Tiffani Bova, Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist for Salesforce, advises, “Before you begin to make any partnering decisions, remember this key point: No two partners are the same – and finding the right match is key.”
A good prospective partner will have more than the technical skills you need. Their goals and your goals for the partnership need to align. Communication and transparency will be vital to make sure that your expectations and the partner’s expectations are realistic. Also, stay alert to any potential conflicts due to the reseller’s alliances with other ISVs. And remember to trust your gut. If you don’t feel like you can work with the reseller, the partnership may be doomed to failure.
Building the Right Culture
You’ve set the right course, you’ve chosen the right resellers – but your responsibility for your channel’s success doesn’t end there. You need to provide the resources and support your reseller partners need to be successful, including training, marketing assistance, and sales support that can help their grow their businesses. It’s also important to keep the lines of communication open through, for example, an online portal, 24/7 support, and dedicated channel reps, so your reseller partners can find answers and get help with they need it most.
Even though you may function as a mentor or adviser with resellers, remember that you are in a partnership and not an employer-employee relationship. They aren’t sales reps or technicians whose schedules you can set. They aren’t purely customers. Create a culture of mutual respect – and mutual benefit – that will allow true partnerships to evolve and will allow resellers to thrive.
Don’t Rush into Channel Relationships
A rush to sign resellers can result in a channel that doesn’t function the way you need it to – and doesn’t get the results you need. Take time to carefully develop your channel strategy and then be selective about the partnerships you form to execute it. With the right perspective, you can also build a culture that will allow your reseller partners to reach their maximum potential and provide the greatest benefits to your business.