What Everyone Gets Wrong About Channel Sales

Hey everyone, I’m Nichole Gunn, CMO here at Extu. I want to talk to you about the thing everyone gets wrong about channel sales. Any guesses?  

It’s the belief that channel partners can’t sell a brand’s products as well as the brand can. It’s a hill that many CROs will die on. Sales leaders will proclaim it with their whole chest.  

But here’s the thing: often your partners can absolutely sell your product as well as or better than you. And you shouldn’t be scared of that. You should encourage and celebrate it. 

Don’t believe me? See what some of the best companies in their respective industries have to say about it. 

Jim Harold, VP of North American Channels at Aruba, says that his sales team relies heavily on partners because they have trusted relationships with customers and often a technical ability that surpasses their internal sales teams’. 

The biggest myth…is that our partners can’t sell our solutions as well as they can. They also often believe the channel is unable to handle complex installations and deployments. In reality, our channel partners are often trusted advisors to their customers who have a great deal of influence on the sale. We’ve seen countless large sales we would never have won without our partners’ involvement. As far as technical ability, it’s not uncommon for us to outsource technical work to our network of partners that have a strong technical bench. 

—Jim Harold, VP, North American Channels at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard company 

That’s one of two we’ll cover today. Next up, Take a look at how Cisco does it.

We have an internal consulting group that goes in and looks at partners’ business processes, how open they are to change, how they pay people today, how they recognize revenue. They have indicators that say certain partners that meet x qualifications are ready to make that change. At the same time, there are indicators that say they’re not ready, but [we recommend] things that would get them ready. That’s a free service that we provide.  

—Hope Galley, Global Sales Director at Cisco

According to Global Sales Director Hope Galley, Cisco created a Lifecycle Advisor Program that’s a “gym membership” for strengthening partner performance. The primary goal is to find partners who are ready to take their business to the next level, then help them do just that.

If you’re one of the many brands that’s fallen victim to the idea that your channel partners can’t sell your product, let’s talk about some things you can do to change that.

1. Get more feedback-friendly. 

Create a structured feedback system where partners can regularly provide insights and ask questions about product features, market trends, and customer needs. Try quarterly round-table discussions, dedicated feedback channels, or surveys. Reward them for participating then share the fruits of your collaboration. This allows you to adapt strategies, products, and training programs based on real-world input from those on the front lines. It also makes partners feel valued and heard, strengthening their commitment and alignment with your brand. 

2. Step up your channel partner training. 

Reward channel partners for completing courses, earning certifications, and improving their product knowledge. Online reward points program and debit/gift card rewards are great options for this. At Extu, we’ve found that it takes about $500 worth of rewards annually to change behaviors. You can make a difference in what people do on a day-to-day basis, meaning you can get your partners trained up to a level where they can outsell your internal teams. 

3. Segment and personalize. 

Your channel partners aren’t all the same. They have different needs, specialties, and capacities. Where one partner may have reached max growth in one product or region, another partner will flourish. Use channel technology that incorporates tools like automation, predictive analytics, and configurable access permissions. This allows you to use one channel program that has multiple, separate promotions, marketing campaigns, and performance analytics so you can offer personalized experiences to your partners that allows them to be exponentially more successful. 

There you have it: the thing everyone gets wrong about channel sales. Except now YOU won’t get it wrong.