When BlueStar invited me to join them at their ISV Connect Summits in 2019, I jumped at the chance to help steer education sessions. Why? Because I know many software companies want to have successful partner programs, but they struggle to execute when it comes to selling their software through indirect channels.
Of all the points I emphasized throughout the Toronto ISV Connect Summit, this might be the most important: Your partners don’t care about your software’s features and functions as much as you think they do.
Why not? Because they are too busy running their business! I kicked off the event by highlighting data related to the who, what, and why of channel programs. Some of that data was gathered from analyzing content from our sister publications, Channel Executive magazine and VARinsights.com. In the past 8 months, the most popular content themes on those platforms include sales, marketing, security, pricing, cash flow, and hiring. You’ll notice none of these themes involve “finding more products and services to resell.”
Paul Leduc, president of Toronto-area reseller Globe POS, joined me on stage for a Q&A to wrap up the event. His business challenges are very much in line with what his peers are reading on VARinsights.com and in Channel Executive. When I asked Leduc what his primary challenges are, he said cited how hard it is to hire good sales talent and the complexities of creating compensation plans for his sales team. Imagine if you were the vendor partner who could recommend a new sales hire, help train that new hire on your software and market factors, and then provide data on how other reseller partners structure comp plans. That help would be exponentially more helpful to a partner than a long, rambling email about the dozens of new features you released this quarter!
Leduc also talked about the importance of communication from his vendor partners. As the president of a growing company, he doesn’t have time to read a monthly newsletter that spells out dozens of product updates and news. He’s much more likely to read an email from his personal contact at a vendor company. He gave an example of asking a vendor when a particular feature would be ready, only to learn that feature had been released months ago. What a missed opportunity for that software provider to score points with a partner! Leduc explained he probably did get an email at some point announcing the release of that feature. But it was lost in the noise of all the other emails and updates and news being sent to his inbox. Your resellers need simple, straightforward, constant communication in order for a partnership to be successful. And that communication shouldn’t just be about your software, it should seek to help your partner’s business.
Software providers also need to make sure they’re communicating with their partners’ sales and customer-facing teams. An executive-level title like Leduc’s might be listed in the press release announcing your partnership, but often it’s the boots on the ground who will make or break your relationship. As an added bonus, getting to know a wide range of contacts within your partners’ companies will make your relationship that much stickier. (I saw this concept firsthand at Epson’s ISV Partner Conference in November 2018 – each ISV partner brought along a member of their leadership team and someone from either their engineering or product team.)
Many software companies – and many B2B companies for that matter – insist on leading with speeds and feeds sales pitches that completely ignore the realities of your partners’ or customers’ businesses. Software providers need to keep in mind the ways in which they can actually help partners (and, no, simply telling them to sell more of your software isn’t what I mean by “actually help partners”).
When Software Executive and SoftwareBusinessGrowth.com have hosted our own events in the past, we’ve always had a panel dedicated to the topic of building partner channels. It’s a topic so important that it deserves an entire event of its own – an event like the ISV Connect Summits. If you’re a software company and would like to join us at one of the three remaining ISV Connect Summits in 2019, you can register at the links below:
If you can’t travel to an ISV Connect Summit, you can still brush up on your channel education with the below articles. Each of these directly relates to a topic we discussed on stage at the Toronto event.