Channel development can be complex if you have a SaaS solution and you want to ensure that your growth comes through the channel. I have spent my past 20 years involved in software channel development on many continents and I have seen many different variations in both failure and success. I think the biggest obstacle for many software vendors to become successful with their channel is when they ignore to recognize and understand the business model that their channel partners have or are building. SaaS software vendors assume that their solution is the only one that makes sense, but a typical channel partner have tens of other solutions that they can represent.
What SaaS vendors forget in many of the cases is to realize that a channel partner has to make a sizable investment in personnel, marketing, support and any other functions that the company has to have to become successful. What it means in real terms for the SaaS vendor is that a channel partner is making a considerable investment on behalf of the SaaS software vendor. That is what the SaaS vendor is really asking for. Invest in us, and we will then pay you your share of the success. If you do not sell anything, you will be left with your investment. I think every Channel Account Manager (CAM) making outbound calls to potential channel partners need to first figure out how the channel partner can make money and how they can help their business to become better. If the CAM focuses on the product/solution and not on the channel partner business, the relationship will never take off. I have experienced this so many times during my career and every relationship that I have put time and effort to, typically has paid off. Today, I got a call from a document management software vendor and the CAM not only presented his case well, but gave the reasons why I should take the next steps in the discussion. It takes skills to do what the CAM did and he was focusing on my business, not on how good his solution was technically.
One way to understand the channel partner is to create a Business Model Canvas for both the channel partner and the SaaS software vendor and then analyze them side-by-side and see if there is business model alignment. What it means in real terms is that each side has an interest to do business, both parties have an opportunity to make money and become successful. I have run workshops using this type of approach and the typical reaction from the software vendor is to realize that some of the foundational thinking has been based on wrong assumptions. It is important to realize that this has nothing to do with the skills of the software vendor, it is just a perspective that they never had and thought of when setting their channel strategy. The key is to help to build the “story” for the channel partner and part of the story is also to identify how your solution fits in the other solutions that the channel partner might be representing. If you want to become successful with your channel, stop focusing on yourself and put some time focusing on the channel and how you can make them happy and successful.
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