Guest Column | October 10, 2019

How To Successfully Build A Channel Program

By Todd Rychecky, Opengear

Services Marketing: You Can’t Build A Strong Marketing Strategy On A Weak Foundation

In years past, companies would sell their products to customers through word-of-mouth or paid advertisements. As organizations are now able to communicate with their clients more easily, they have the potential to sell to customers outside of their base regions. To ensure they are reaching all potential customers across the United States, companies must commit to making their presence known in new territories. One way to accomplish this goal? Expanding their channel program.

At Opengear, our program has grown rapidly as we’ve added a broad range of resellers to our channel landscape, and, as proven by our recent placement on Selling Power’s “50 Best Companies to Sell For” list in 2019. This strategy has been a core business focus for several years, with partners a critical element of our sales plan. In fact, while in previous years, Opengear has sold products both directly and through channel partners, the success of our resellers has allowed us to become a channel focused company. Organizations interested in successfully expanding their partner strategies can take a page from three focus areas that helped Opengear succeed.

Prioritize The Partner Program

A foundational success criteria is that business leaders commit to investing in resources that can drive program growth, which is what we decided to do at Opengear. Earlier in 2019, our business leaders made a more conscious effort to make the channel distribution strategy a priority by adding additional personnel and resources to the program.

In order for businesses to see value from their programs, they must listen to partners’ wants and expectations so that their needs can be fully met. After learning that our partners needed more technical support and infrastructure, we hired a channel sales engineer to provide that support, as well as expanding the capabilities of our online portal.

Put Education At The Forefront

Before they put products in the hands of partners, organizations must commit to offering regular hands-on training and education to help partners feel comfortable and confident when selling. In addition to hiring world-class staff, our success has been fueled by providing the latest tools and training to partners to ensure they remain knowledgeable about our products. At Opengear, we educate our partners by providing online sales and product training modules and deeper technical resources on our partner portal, as well as offering customized live training.

Business leaders should also remember that technical training and resources must be available each time there is a new product offering or major enhancement, as this process is continuous. This way, leaders can ensure everyone has the proper knowledge and resources to sell the product. At Opengear, one way we are doing this is by continually providing new technical training modules, and our partner portal now includes a deal registration space. This is an important next step in our channel growth, because it provides a space for our partners communicate with us and to look at other resources and assets that we offer, helping us reinforce our continuous education mindset. Partners can be assured that we are continually thinking about how to improve their experience and help them feel appreciated.

By prioritizing continuous education about a company’s products, partners become more knowledgeable and understand where to upsell, increasing overall ROI.

Reward Partners

Much like any employee, it is important that organizations reward their partners for their hard work and efforts. Rewards can be as simple as creating categories for partners grouped by sales success. We recently added a new tier named “Elite” for the highest-performing partners. Creating a new category for our partners executing at an exceptional level allows us to recognize those that are performing best for us, but also to create some healthy competition as other partners strive to meet this milestone.

Companies may also think of other ways to reward partners through financial incentives, annual events and the like. Opengear recently hosted its first partner summit in Dallas to show our partners how much we value their contributions and how we will be expanding our program to continue making them feel valued. In addition to creating a new partner tier, we also have  begun to provide new logos for all partners to put on their website, letting their customers know that they are a certified Opengear partner.

By making a partner program a priority, emphasizing continuous education and making partners feel valued, organizations can trust that partners will be more confident in offering your product – creating a win-win situation for all.

About The Author

Todd Rychecky is VP Americas for Opengear.