The past few years have brought unexpected changes to how we work and collaborate, which has caused disruption to nearly every industry. Many of us are in uncharted territory and channel partner relationships are no exception. If your business is a channel-first business, you may be looking for ways to prioritize the needs of those partners. Failing to respond appropriately could result in the reduction of customer engagement, the loss of new business and have a negative impact on the future health of your channel; partners could seek to align with a more supportive supplier. It takes time and resources to foster effective channel sales – pulling back will set you back and places at risk the prior investment you've made in channel sales.
It's smart to remember that channel partners are not a homogenous group. Post-crisis, each has been impacted differently and this requires you to craft a strategy that enables them to succeed in an environment of remote selling and virtual engagement. The key is to balance the needs of your business with the demands of your partner community.
To continue to navigate the changing landscape, you will first need to seek answers to some core questions, assess COVID-19's impact on each partner and then apply the right tactics.
Don't assume that you know what's impacting your channel partners' business. While the two most obvious dynamics are revenue decline due to spending cutbacks and operational challenges related to remote working, we recommend asking your partners directly how their businesses are being affected. The type of partner and their size, region and industry will all play major roles in the depth of impact on each partner’s business. They may be experiencing unique productivity and operational issues, supply chain slowdowns, and are likely impacted by the lack of in-person selling.
Your partners are a direct extension of your brand, therefore it's essential to provide them with appropriate support. Channel programs have the best chance to weather disruptions when the partnerships are healthy. Your channel team will need to actively engage to ensure that your channel remains productive and that your brand is perceived appropriately during this crisis.
In our two-part series, we’ll elaborate on the three primary influencers that need to be considered for promoting strong channel health: channel sales, channel marketing and channel enablement.
This week’s article will focus on Channel Sales.
The best way to overcome the challenges of today is to first ask the right questions. Next, act quickly and consider how the current environmental is uniquely influencing your different channel partners and apply the right tactics to each situation. Partnership and community are especially critical in long-distance sales relationships. Channel support will be rewarded with loyalty, and long-term partnerships.