Moving from Field Sales to Channel Sales? What You Need to Know

According to Investec research, 78% of technology vendors miss their channel revenue goals, and low channel success is a major factor in a company’s ability to scale up. Meanwhile, a large number of salespeople are transitioning (or being transitioned) from field sales to entirely new roles where the deals are managed through channel partners. Anecdotal data indicates that fewer than 10% of these people are ever trained on how to handle and sell through channel partners.

Investec’s associate director, Junya Iwamoto, thinks that so many tech companies see the channel solely as a means of distribution that it is severely limiting revenue growth opportunities.

It seems to be a fact that tech executives are unable to see how channel partners can assist them in rapidly scaling their businesses. As a result, they are not investing in their channel management teams’ skillsets, such as channel partner enablement, and they are not using best practices to optimize sales outcomes across the partner channel.

The Invested study also showed a substantial gap in channel efficiency between high and low performers. Businesses that consider their program to be “extremely competitive” earn £50 million from their top five channel partners, compared to only £16 million for unsuccessful programs.

The source of the issue happens to be a mentality problem among tech company channel leaders. In channel management, there tend to be two schools of thought.

The first one, “The school of hard knocks,” considers channel management to be just another sales role. The second thought school, “The professional,” believes channel management to be a profession itself. It necessitates complex market, management, and training for channel sales to help partners produce the best results for themselves and the brand.

The new buying decision method for business solutions is a clear example of the distinctions between the two schools and how this reflects on the field. Compared to 10 years ago when, according to Garter, more than 90% of technology-related decisions were the CIOs’ and IT department’s thing to do, today 72% of those decisions are made by lines of business. This is expected to increase to 90% in the next few years, posing a significant challenge for channel partners and channel managers to be weak without adequate channel sales training on topics like these.

Channel managers who subscribe to “The professional” school of thinking keep educating themselves on new best practices in order to successfully attract channel and assist them in improving their performance. Most of this, Aberdeen’s study suggests, is motivated by channel leadership at the best-performing technology firms, who demand that their channel teams treat channel management as a separate discipline.

“Best-in-Class Forms,” according to Aberdeen’s research, are 36 percent more skilled in educating channel partners on how to put and articulate the value proposition, 19 percent more advanced in teaching the channel to tailor sales conversations to the specific needs of individual customers, and 40 percent better at identifying consumers’ and prospects’ market problems.

The Channel Institute released another study demonstrating the value of channel management qualification to employers for both new hires and career advancement. More than 400 Channel VPs and Directors from major technology companies were polled by the Channel Institute to find out what they look for when recruiting new surprising results: “Innovation & Creativity” and “Commitment to the channel,” The more generally predicted influences of “Business Acumen,” “Relationship Building,” and “Flexible Delivery” were also present.

The study’s findings led to five main takeaways for channel professionals looking to advance their careers:

  1. Business acumen and channel management training should be highlighted
  2. To demonstrate your dedication to the channel profession, channel-specific CPD and channel-business certification are needed
  3. “Outside-the-box” mentality must be emphasized
  4. You need to demonstrate an ability to communicate and emphasize
  5. Persuade employers that you can deliver even in the face of unexpected distribution.

The Channel Institute conducted additional research into the obstacles channel leaders expect their channel partners to face in the future. Despite the fact that respondents listed a number of challenges, there were three notable issues that were mentioned the most commonly and appeared to be crucial to success: data management, vision and capabilities, and proving ROI.

Which thought school do you consider yourself to be part of? Are you “more skilled in educating channel partners on how to put and articulate the value proposition” than others in the field? How good are you at finding channel partners and enabling them? Most significantly, how can you improve these abilities before transitioning from field to channel sales?

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