By Keith Lubner, Managing Partner of Channel Consulting Corp.
ISVs with indirect channels will face incredible challenges within the next few years. They will either thrive or, sadly, die a slow death. There will be no middle ground, and the choices will be clear for ISVs: accelerate or not. Fortunately, there are three very important gears ISVs can leverage to accelerate their channel. The gears are "pipeline," "people," and "perception."
Sales Pipeline Gear
In the pipeline gear, the cloud is obviously changing the way IP is brought to market and how this IP is sold. Funnels must become more robust. Velocity must increase as deal sizes tend to be smaller. Therefore two things must occur. First, you need more deals, and second, your funnel needs more leads. No surprises here; you know this. But, what can you do about it? You must increase your activity as an organization and this comes down to prospecting (i.e. getting more in the funnel). Many organizations are getting this wrong today. They consider conducting prospecting activities by emailing, texting, posting on social media, and blogging. These are only components. The most effective way to prospect is to simply get on the phone and build the relationship. The problem, however, is that as a whole people have moved away from that. Take a look around. Most people are trying to communicate via their smart phones. If most people are doing this that means that most people are not attempting to communicate by other methods, like the phone. The channel managers who are really knocking the ball out of the park are teaching their partners great prospecting skills, combining ALL of the elements, and rooting everything with the basics like phone calls.
The second tactic for those "rock star" channel developers is this: teaching partners to sell into other lines of business personnel. Why is this so important? Simply put, all of the research houses have statistics that say people outside of traditional IT (think CMO, CSO, etc.) now have more budget authority than the CIO, and the percentages of share keeps increasing. The directive is to sell to these folks because they have the money. The challenge is, it's a different tactic than what most salespeople have been accustomed to. We call it “Business Guidance Selling,” where the salesperson is now more of a "consultant" as opposed to the traditional definition of salesperson. Jay McBain of Forrester calls this other world "shadow channels," and I'm sure you will hear more and more about it.
People Relationships Gear
The second gear revolves around people. People buy from people. They don't buy from organizations. As referenced above, we are sadly moving away from people and partners establishing great interpersonal relationships. Relationships drive everything at the end of the day. Jeb Blount talks about the importance of emotional intelligence in sales in his bestseller Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal, and he is absolutely dead-on correct. Partner managers are becoming disconnected to the needs of their partners, becoming naively rude in how they are communicating (mostly via text or email). As a result, they are not able to grow the business. We see it all the time; the brightest and best executives are now deploying programs to help elevate these critical interpersonal skill sets. The results are more loyalty, greater partner satisfaction scores, more highly motivated partners, and greater pipelines, all because of a relationship.
The Perception Gear
The third gear is perception. Partners are really smart. They are people who put their necks on the line and created great businesses. Years ago they built their businesses on the backs of one or maybe two vendors. Today, they have tremendous amounts of vendors in their portfolios (and they have to in order to survive). But, the perception from the vendor is rooted in the old world. Partners don't need you as much nowadays. Your daily mantra should be, “I need my partners more than they need me.” As a leader, this is where you can have tremendous influence when it comes to "mission statements" or "marching orders." Put yourself in the partner’s shoes. See the world from their viewpoint. Then, align your messages, your people, and your programs accordingly. Accomplishing means simply implementing the changes within the first two gears and reinforcing it by steering the ship in the third gear in order to accelerate.
Keith Lubner is an advisor and mentor to several of today’s leading Fortune 500 and technology driven organizations on strategies, tactics, and programs to accelerate growth. Keith has founded three companies and is considered a world-renown expert on enablement, channel sales, channel marketing issues, and channel leadership. His focus and specialty revolves around acceleration strategies, and his training programs and workshops have been delivered across the globe to both start-up and multinational organizations. He is currently Managing Partner of Channel Consulting Corp and Co-founder with Jeb Blount (author of Fanatical Prospecting) of Channel EQ, an organization focused on providing transformational training and enablement tools, workshops, and programs.