Magazine Article | October 1, 2018

How To Build A Reseller Channel From The Ground Up In 90 Days

Source: Software Executive magazine

By Frank Sivilli

6 practical tips for planting the seeds that can grow into an impressive and highly lucrative part of your software business

One of the most effective ways to grow your SaaS company is by developing a robust reseller channel. Resellers are your troops on the ground. They help to grow the total number of users of your software and can become essential partners in the growth of your business.

But finding good resources about how to actually develop a reseller program can be difficult. Here’s a cursory dive into the steps you can take to build the foundations of your reseller channel in just 90 days.

  1. DESIGN YOUR PARTNER PROGRAM

As obvious as this first step may sound, creating an outline of what you want your reseller program to look like is as essential as any business plan. This is the guiding infrastructure that should be the first step you take in the development of your reseller channel.

One way to start is by thinking about how you’re going to position your program to resellers. By reframing your resellers into “partners,” you change the nature of your relationship and give them skin in the game. They aren’t merely another cog in the machine; they’re players with investment in making your software succeed — because if you succeed, they succeed.

Here are some key points to consider as you design your program:

  • Develop a business plan and outline value propositions that will attract resellers to your service.
  • Decide on a commission structure and pricing models.
  • Identify the different types of resellers you want. For instance, if IT/MSP firms are your best bet, you’ll know to target them. Or you might find that your software integrates well with third-party HR platforms. In any case, identifying who to target will help organize your efforts and save you frustration in the long run.
  • How will you communicate about your partner program? Deciding on how to market your program is just as important as the development itself.
  • Design an upsell component. For example, if you sell a network security program that IT providers are going to use in their business, use that sale to educate them about the opportunity to resell. This is a built-in relationship that you can develop into a lucrative reseller relationship if you sell it right.
  1. DEFINE YOUR VERTICALS

Choose target markets for your resellers to hit. By defining your verticals, you allow resellers to target their sales and outreach efforts. This serves a few functions. First, you can identify verticals that you have already had success in and use your resources to help resellers further penetrate the market. And second, you can help your resellers focus on where to spend their time selling, avoiding markets that you’ve found to be unresponsive.

Use your current experience running your business to guide your decisions here, and if you’ve never experimented with verticals before, this gives you the perfect chance to start.

  1. DEVELOP RESOURCES

Give your resellers the tools they need to succeed. Sometimes you’ll encounter resellers who are already adept at sales. However, in the case of resellers who perform operational or support roles, they may not have the experience they need to build relationships and close deals.

That’s where you come in. You’ve built your software business because you understand how to get people excited about what you can do for them. Translate this experience into a series of sales and marketing resources for your resellers. By giving your resellers an outline of how to pitch your product, perform demos, and close deals, you create a uniform sales process that’s infinitely reproducible. This helps cut down on miscommunication and misplaced client expectations that can come from a nonunified sales process.

Take these 90 days to develop an outline of what your ideal sales process should look like. This will be an invaluable resource for your resellers to follow.

"However, there will always be accounts that are just too big or too strategic for resellers to close on their own. In these cases, it’s essential that you make members of your sales team available to resellers."
  1. GIVE SUPPORT

Giving your resellers the tools to pitch and close deals on their own will streamline the account management and training time you need to dedicate to them. However, there will always be accounts that are just too big or too strategic for resellers to close on their own. In these cases, it’s essential that you make members of your sales team available to resellers. Whether it’s closing big deals, conducting complicated demos, or even just making the appropriate connections by sending leads, you should take a serious look at how you’re going to nurture your resellers. Try educating your resellers about hot topics in the industry, or how to use the resources you’ve spent time creating to win deals.

  1. DEFINE YOUR RESELLER’S END CLIENTS

Once you’ve identified your resellers’ target verticals, you’ve already taken the first step. But now take it one step further. Take a look at these vertical targets and determine who the decision makers and gatekeepers are within those target organizations. Roughly defined, the gatekeeper is the contact you need to work through to get to the decision maker. For example, in healthcare, the gatekeeper might be the office manager whom you need to win over before speaking with the decision maker (the physician).

If you think of it from your reseller’s clients’ perspective, that’s the easiest way to go about it. By defining gatekeepers and decision makers, you can better educate your resellers on how to communicate with these individuals. To go back to our healthcare example: You can teach resellers to speak to office managers about how much time your SaaS offering will save them, how it will simplify their job, or even how your product will give them more importance within their organization. After communicating to the gatekeeper in this way, your resellers will have an easier time getting through to the decision makers, which is ultimately where they will close the deal.

  1. GET INVOLVED!

Once you’ve developed the elements we’ve described above, your next step is to start getting the word out! Of course marketing can help your cause, but so can creating direct relationships.

Join industry groups where your resellers are networking, and develop relationships with them as advisors and partners, rather than reseller targets. Resellers will be bombarded with dozens of new services and offerings to add each year. You need to make yourself stand out by becoming a part of their community.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Now that you’re equipped with these strategies for developing your reseller channel, you can get started on your 90-day plan. Use these 90 days to lay the foundations for your program. It may be tempting to roll your program out immediately, but give yourself time to flesh out everything you need from the get-go, and you won’t have to worry about snags along the way.

Remember that these 90 days are just the start. You’re planting the seeds for what will grow into an impressive and highly lucrative part of your business. Maintaining relationships with resellers is a function of giving them the tools they need to close deals, along with keeping an eye on trends and tips that will differentiate your partner program to help attract resellers and grow your business!

FRANK SIVILLI is a writer and editor based out of Queens, NY. He regularly reports on cybersecurity, ransomware, data security, and healthcare regulation. He is the director of content at Compliancy Group, the industry-leading HIPAA compliance SaaS company.