We recently hosted the webinar “Pitfalls to Avoid When Launching and Scaling an International Channel”. Channel Mechanics VP Sales, John McArdle was joined by special guests Justine Cross, Managing Director, EMEA Channels and Nehul Goradia, Co-Founder, Enabler ONE to share their experience of whether they see organizations proactively developing a solid channel strategy and execution plan before they embark on their channel journey.
When launching their first channel, Justine Cross has seen organizations take numerous strategies. Some go headfirst without a plan expecting it to be hugely successful. While others take time to develop a solid channel strategy before embarking on their journey. And then of course there is the final category; organizations that over plan to the extent they spend all their time planning, they don’t execute on any of it because the plan is too complex. It ends up becoming too difficult to deliver on.
Justine sees most organizations either over planning or being speculative. All too often she hears “Hey, we don’t need to plan, we’re going to be successful, our product is super”. This lack of planning can lead to all sorts of complexities that make them back away from the channel. So for her, creating a plan is critical. “A plan should not be complex. A plan should be executable and everybody in your business should be working towards delivering that international plan together”. For Justine, when she works with organizations taking their first steps into international markets, she tries to keep everything as basic, as simple and as executable as possible. “We try and say don’t have 100 things to do. Try and get the first five right. And then you can build on top of that.”
For any company who approaches Nehul Goradia about embarking on a solid channel strategy, he advises them on what he likes to call “the 3 P’s of the Channel: Planning, Perseverance and Patience”, while quoting Sun Tzu:
To be successful in the channel, you’ve got to not only have a plan, but a very good plan. It needs to be agile. It needs to be adaptable to different regions, to different product portfolios. In addition, it needs to be adaptable to the different types of partners you want to work with. But the plan doesn’t stop there. Once you have the plan, you need to constantly review if your plan is functioning and giving everyone what they need. Monthly or even Quarterly Business Reviews are a good time to review the plan with your partners and equally so, with your internal organization. The plan needs to be a live document, attached to a broader strategy scenario, that can be reviewed and changed as the company sees the market change.
Perseverance is almost as important as planning. As Nehul points out “I’d like to make a very key point here. Your partners are not your employees. They are in business for themselves. They’re doing business to earn profit and revenue for their own organization. Vendors and their products are just a medium for them to do that”. Therefore, it has to be a two-way relationship. What Nehul wants vendors to remember when building a solid channel strategy is that if partners are not highly focused on you today, it’s probably because you do not have enough wallet share with them. And if they’re not making money from you, they’re not going to focus on you.
The best strategy advice he has is to continue to persevere with them, if they are the right fit for your product. “If they are a good partner and they are the right partner, you need to persevere with them to ensure they become successful with you, before you look at whether you’ll be successful without them“. By persevering with the right partner type, you will be rewarded.
The third P stands for patience. It takes time to forge a new path. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So you need to have realistic expectations. “You should expect that what takes your own team weeks or days to achieve, your channel’s journey will be similar”. In fact, if anything, the channel route can take longer. What you need to remember is that the upfront investment of time, effort and energy that you’re giving to your channel, will pay off over a longer period. This is because you’re training and giving them skills. But they still need time. They need hand holding. And this can easily take three to six months.
“They need to know how to position your solution. How to handle objections. And that doesn’t happen overnight“. Even after channel partners are fully trained and certified, they still time in the “real world”. Training, especially now, tends to be in a classroom environment. “It’s not on the job. It’s not live. They don’t know what kind of questions the customer is going to come up with. So you need to have patience and ensure that you’re working with them”.
While it’s important to focus on what “to do”, it’s equally important to focus on “what not to do” when building a solid channel strategy. Nehul believes “you need to look at what you shouldn’t be doing when you build your channel strategy and your channel plans, rather than only discussing what you should be doing. Because that’s where the gaps really come in. If you’re able to identify what your weaknesses are, you’ll have a better strategy, a better plan and a better execution perspective”.