You’ve got a great product. Your marketing materials are in good shape. You’ve built a profile of your best prospects and even have a sales process that’s worked in the field–a couple of times. Many VP’s of Sales at emerging growth companies are in exactly this predicament. Numbers to make with everything lined up except the prospects. Geoffrey Moore, author of the best-selling business handbook Crossing The Chasm, used the image of a perilous divide to refer to this phase of company growth. Many businesses fail to make the transition from startup to high-performing household name and one of the reasons is failure to create a scalable, dependable sales channel. What are your options for building a sales channel that will propel your company to greatness?
- Hire direct sales people, train and manage them, with the hope that some turn into eagles
- Look for other companies with complementary offerings who already have an established channel and can sell your product as a channel partner
Building a direct sales channel takes time, lots of money and there’s a real risk you’ll have to try a lot of sales talent before you find people who produce for you. Recruiters tell us that it takes 2 months on average to hire a sales rep and 6-10 months before the rep is fully productive. In other words, it can take nearly a whole year before you know you have a non-performer. If you’re burning your financing dollars while building your channel, there’s a real risk you may run out of cash before your channel produces enough revenue to sustain the business. Developing a channel partner can be a faster path to revenue growth but there are a number of unknowns:
- Marketing and communication
- Education and training
- Performance management
One increasingly attractive option for mezzanine-level growth businesses is using a 3rd party software to provide the framework for recruiting, developing and managing channel partnership relationships.
In order to ramp your channel revenue quickly, channel partners must be educated on your product and trained to present your value proposition consistently to prospects. In the past this was challenging because sales partners created their own go-to-market strategies and marketing materials, which either were ineffective or bore little resemblance to the hiring company’s materials. However, today, Software-as-a-Service providers are offering channel management systems, also referred to as Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, which provide channel partners easy access to marketing materials. These systems allow you to maintain brand integrity and consistency across your channel partners via an easy to set up, inexpensive and highly effective platform. Your company can store its menu of marketing assets in one central location, where partners can access them, educate themselves and present them to their prospects. This ensures a more consistent experience from one sales partner to another.
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