As the “bread and butter” of most high-tech companies, channel sales typically represent 70 percent of an organization’s revenue. Yet, often companies fail to manage their channel business with the same level of care and attention as they do their direct business. As companies seek to design innovative and effective channel programs, they often do so without the data and tools needed to ensure the programs will be successful. This results in programs that miss the mark on what customers want and can easily deviate from the overall sales strategy. Not to mention, this ad-hoc approach results in a high level of manual oversight and mismanagement. This all-too-common scenario has the unintended consequence of expending valuable resources without actually giving channel customers what they want.
Given channel sales’ impact on top and bottom line revenue, companies should make optimizing their channel programs a priority. Modern systems and tools can leverage the power of channel data while intelligently managing channel programs and responding to customers’ needs. Improving channel programs is a never-ending battle. To help companies do this, here are five ways to modernize your approach and ensure better channel programs.
If your company is waiting longer than a few days for partner data, it cannot manage the channel business in real-time. Without timely data, companies are not able to proactively engage with partners or identify and address problems, and they are at risk of missing opportunities for growth. On the other hand, when companies do have real-time channel data in hand, they can respond to partner issues quickly, monitor market trends, and track sales forecasts and revenue goals.
High-Quality Data for High Performing Programs
According to Forrester, channel marketers rank managing data quality as one of their biggest challenges. Despite all of the advances in technology and options available for companies to streamline their operations, many still rely on manual processes to manage their channel business. Not only are manual processes slow, but they are also more error-prone and are hindered by the lack of skills and expertise required to create the necessary tools and processes. By using modern automation and standardization technologies, companies can ensure their channel data is high quality and consistently reliable.
Rewarding Partners and Protecting Profitability
Talking about general data quality concerns might be hard to wrap your head around, but it becomes all too real when partners increasingly question rebates and payouts. Partners that feel the need to “audit” your channel program results in lost valuable selling time, breaks down trust in your relationship with the partner, and is a great source of frustration for both sides. On the other hand, for a large company with millions in annual channel revenue, inaccurate or incomplete sales data can easily add up to a seven-figure expense in the form of overpayments to partners. A modern channel data solution can address this problem by automating data collection, providing clean and complete channel data, and ensuring on-time partner payouts. In a true “win-win” scenario, you can reward high performing partners while protecting the bottom line and maximizing profitability.
Unlock Secrets to Success with Data Analytics
Data is only as good as your ability to understand it. A modern channel management solution unlocks data through customizable business analytics. This data provides valuable insight into channel operational performance, timeliness of data delivery from partners, data error rates, and other valuable information. Armed with these metrics, companies can more easily employ corrective measures. Companies will also be better equipped to implement effective sales and marketing incentive programs while achieving greater levels of success with channel partners.
Channel Programs Meet Revenue Management
A key way to maximize the value of the channel is to consider how channel programs and revenue data interact with your revenue management processes. Companies can utilize modern solutions that integrate customer program data with revenue management systems, offering the ability to share data into downstream applications automatically. This type of seamless integration can offer improved rebate tracking, partner compliance, and, ultimately, payments against the rebates.
The benefits of modern channel program tools are evident. Companies will enjoy high quality, real-time, comprehensive data, which can then be analyzed and interpreted to help improve business decisions. Well-managed and correctly understood channel programs and the data they produce will unlock opportunities for improved management of channel partners and increased success for you and your channel.
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 Source: Forrester’s Global Business Technographics® Marketing Survey 2015.