Disruption in the Channel: Rethinking Traditional Partnering

We hear about disruption all the time in the B2C; think Netflix and Uber. However, it’s just as prevalent in B2B, particularly in the Channel with so many Vendors competing for Partner mindshare. In today’s evolving landscape, there’s really only one choice for Vendors: disrupt or be disrupted.

“Traditional” Partnering relied on revenue. If you brought in “X” revenue, you got “Y” benefit. Today, business isn’t that simple and Partners don’t always fit into a pretty 3-tier system. Revenue still drives Partnerships, but revenue today isn’t the same as it was before. The switch to recurring and consumption-based revenue has changed partnership completely. Now getting a PO off the fax machine is worth very little if you can’t get the end-user to adopt and expand the use of your technology.

In the midst of all this change, challenge your organization to be the disrupter, rather than disrupted. If you want to rehabilitate your Partner Program for success, here are four ways to get started:

1. Redefine “Partnering” 

Try this exercise: clear the decks of your current Partner Program and all that goes with it. Invite your Channel team, as well as internal teams who are invested in the company goals. If the current confines of your Partner Program and Partner types were removed, how could you restructure to ensure Partners better serve company goals?  Some areas to focus on:

  • Partnering for additional coverage – resellers, referrals, distribution
  • Partnering for service delivery – integrators and other delivery options and providers
  • Partnering for technology – alliances and other business development activities (like API development and integration)

2. Review Partner Performance

Are your Partners acting and reacting the way you need them to?  If not, how can your Partner Program help guide their behavior? For example, if you are a SaaS company and need Partners to adopt a recurring revenue sales model, consider how your organization currently supports this transition, if at all? If your Program only rewards revenue, Partners probably won’t be excited to sell your services or solutions because the initial sale is comparatively small to an on-premise sale.  In this case, you may want to offer incentives for renewals and expansions the same way you reward initial sales.

It’s all about re-building your Partner Program to first teach Partners how to be successful, then reward them for that success.

3. Don’t Forget your Team

Your Partners look to their CAMs for leadership and support. Help CAMs align with Partner and company goals by reassessing and restructuring your sales team training. Now is the time to disrupt your entire process and introduce your Partner-facing team to a new paradigm.

Educate CAMs and Partner Marketing teams on your products and services, but also on industry trends and specific Partner pain points. Refuse to accept “we’ve always done it that way” mindset and reward CAMs for identifying problems and solving them with out-of-the-box strategic solutions.

4. Have a Disruption Strategy and Plan

Disruption is purposeful and requires commitment. Create your new Partner Program with a different definition of “Partners.” Include a clear understanding of desired behaviors from all involved and set forth a strategy to support each other in alignment with your goals. There is no one-size-fits-all approach anymore. Plan to be flexible and you’ll be at the center of the disruption, rather than on the side lines watching competitors capture Partner mindshare.

In the end, be bold! With change, there will always be growing pains, but if your team is able to rethink “traditional partnering,” you’ll both be free to innovate and drive success.


jess-baker-disruption-in-the-channelJessica Baker is the Chief Consultant and Strategist with The Valuable Channel.  As a  self-proclaimed “Channel Geek,” she helps her clients build partnering strategies that work in the new era of cloud and SaaS.  She has 20+ years of experience in the channel and consults on many topics including program development and optimization, channel market strategies and team enablement.  She focuses on education and alignment while challenging clients to drive innovation into their ecosystems.  You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @jabakernh, or drop her an email to chat about the channel anytime.  

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