According to CompTIA, estimates show upwards of two-thirds of IT products and services sold to U.S. businesses either flow through or are influenced by indirect channels, including a network of retailers, e-tailers, resellers and distributors. There is no question that these channel-driven companies must ensure that their partner management processes are optimized.

Today, data is being used to drive almost all key decisions, from refining such business processes to optimizing marketing campaigns. Channel sales are no exception. To do so, companies must have a system in place to capture and analyze relevant data about their business. Furthermore, companies need to make this data easily accessible by field sales and marketing via the cloud, and in their CRM tools or mobile devices.

Without accurate and timely data from channel partners, companies are forced to make business decisions blindly. Conservative estimates show that lack of channel visibility leads to technology and industrial sector losses of about $50 billion annually due to the misallocation of channel incentive payments and inventory markdowns.

Successful companies are able to analyze point-of-sale (POS) data in order to optimize their channel programs and get the maximum ROI out of their channel investment. Here are six best practices for analyzing partner data that will provide a deeper understanding of your channel partners:

Track Partner Loyalty: Most companies likely know who their most loyal partners are and have divided them into tiers, such as gold, silver or bronze, with special rewards for each category. However, not all do this with accuracy and consistency. Timely, accurate POS data enables companies to measure partners by objective benchmarks, such as meeting a minimum total volume over the last ten weeks and exceeding volume targets in at least eight of those ten weeks.

Identify New Resellers: Once top partners are identified, companies can start to focus on new, up-and-coming resale partners. Depending on the industry, hundreds of new resellers might pop up every month. It is therefore important to set parameters for judging when they become significant enough to be enrolled into a company’s partner program, such as a monthly volume criteria or when a partner first makes multiple purchases in a month.

Identify Partners at Risk: Analyzing POS data can provide early warning signs for which partners are becoming ineffective and why. For example, a reseller may have met minimum volume criteria, but their quarter-over-quarter sales growth has slipped significantly. Early identification of this problem helps companies take action to reverse the downward spiral.

Broaden the Product Mix: Some partners sell the same product, but never expand to sell the full product line. Once these partners are identified, companies can implement programs to incentivize partners to cross-sell their other products. Benchmarking and comparing a partner’s sales data with their competitors’ data might reveal additional markets where they can sell the expanded product line. Alternatively, companies can also create incentive programs to encourage specific product bundles.

Expand Partner Relationships: Careful analysis of partner sales data can reveal opportunities to convert resellers that only buy periodically into more regular buyers. Identifying why and when sales spikes occur can help companies turn resellers that primarily purchase from competitors into regular customers.

Identify and Build Out Key Market Segments: Many companies have special programs to sell into government, education or other industry verticals. Therefore, it is important to identify the segments partners are selling into and effectively leverage that information. The way to do this is to gather the data to assign Standard Industrial Classification Codes to resellers so companies can identify and raise awareness in the strategic end-user customer market segments into which they are selling.

Most companies already have visibility into their resellers’ sales volumes and have identified their largest and most strategic partners. They primarily track overall sales, and perhaps, whether the largest resellers are growing or declining over time. However, by consistently collecting and analyzing indirect sales data, and by presenting these insights to channel sales and marketing at the point of decision-making, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of underlying partner buying behaviors and patterns, which is key to successful channel development.