Monday, September 29, 2014

It's Time to Stop and Smell the Channel

If you're like me, and you've spent the majority of your career selling directly to customers, you have an innate mistrust of the Channel. Sure, they're just like you and me, they sell stuff too, but they do it in strange and unknown ways, in a dark and mysterious realm beyond the reach of human vision, entirely out of your control.

It's really not as bad as all that, but if you're serious about your craft and have embraced Sales Process as the key to greater success, it can definitely feel that way. As you deign to entrust your precious leads and life's blood revenue goals to organizations and individuals that you no idea whatsoever which sales process they embrace, if any at all.  The instinct is to keep all the "important" deals firmly in house where you can have full control and total visibility of their progress through your sales process and not have to risk "throwing your pearls before swine" into the black hole of the Channel.

Well, sorry to say it, but this approach in a competitive market will virtually guarantee slower growth, lower margins and continually being outflanked by your enemies.  To stay at the front it is absolutely essential to embrace meaningful partners, and to do so around a commonly shared sales process and true collaborative selling. To be honest, we all need to get that place of trust where we eagerly hand off the best leads with the biggest upside to the right partners.  It's often the partners who have the better relationships within the customers and hence a much better chance to actually close the business.  You just have to know that your partner knows how to best sell your product.  It's easier said than done, but with today's convergence of major technologies like mobility, digital business process, the API economy and the Cloud, the previously unimaginable has become not just possible, but essential.  The key is SaaS-based Chanel Sales Automation with a mobile app at the front end which will accommodate a customized sales processes, real deal progress scoring, and a digital Sales Battle-card, with API integration to all of the major CRM and Sales Automation tools currently in use.  Every member of your Channel organization may be using their own CRM or Sales Automation tool, but as the vendor at the top of the food chain you can mandate your own common sales process to  be used to sell your products, and at the same time provide your own "Digital Sales Battle-card" within the mobile app that greatly aids in onboarding new partners with minimal training and ensures they are following your own best sales practices to close more deals.  All of this can easily integrate into their own CRM using available API's to reduce double entry.

The Channel has been around for a long time, but today's greater level of competition and demand for efficiency requires that we all take another look at how we can optimize our Channel investment for far better results, and the good news is that once again, technology has provides the means to do just that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sales Best Practices in Channel Sales

One of the best salesmen I have ever worked with called me last week. He works for a large company that does a lot of its business through partners. He had just lost a deal, and it looks like the partner was not talking to a key decision maker. It sounds like they were outflanked. Everything looked good on this deal, yet it was lost over one of THE most basic of sales best practices – make sure you are talking to the MAN (Money, Authority Need). His reaction was that he needs get out his sales training materials to remind himself of the fundamental rules of selling – he was beating himself up.

Of course, if my friend were selling direct, without that partner, then he would have figured this out for himself before it was too late. It is the fact that he took for granted that his partner would be following best practices for Sales, that was bugging him. This can be a mistake, as in this case. This is a great partner, who is technically strong, and very loyal. Besides he needs the partner. It is just the way the business works now.

How many times have you heard such stories, or experienced them personally? It happens all the time. It could be that a deal is forecast, but it turns out the budget is for next year (or none at all). It could even be that the customer is in pure “Research” mode; there is not even a defined need/project.

There are not one, but two big lessons here. The problem is not just that basic sales principles have not been followed, and that is problem. The more difficult issue is that the partner is a different company and you are not working through a formal collaboration system. If you WERE using a common system, like, then it would have been obvious. There is a simple checkbox for Authority that you would both be using, on a simple app on your smartphone, and you rate your exposure to the decision maker between 1 and 5; if it’s a 1, then you need to find Mr, Miss or Mrs 5. It’s a simple as that.

As new technology makes collaboration and keeping sales best practices easier and easier, and the changes in the product landscape (especially in the technology sector – cloud, SaaS, commodity hardware, apps, etc) make collaborative selling more and more essential, then the more we will need to use such tools. We must work better together.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blog 2: Channel Loyalty and the Software Defined Datacenter

I often tell my adult kids that I owe my career to Moore’s law, and they roll their eyes.  But it’s true, with every advance in silicon, the number of solutions that became economically viable increase, and my value as a marketeer continues.  However, it is a two-edged sword: every advance has made high margin, proprietary hardware, so cherished by resellers, easier to replace with commodity systems. 

And so we arrive at the software defined datacenter.  All of the infrastructure elements are now based on low-margin commodity hardware.  Where do the margins come from that bind a channel partner to a hardware vendor?

Many of my clients sell such hardware, whether it is to resellers or service providers.  My clients want to engage their partners to sell these products, or commit to deploying very large volumes.  We often must remind them that from the channel point of view, the hardware is simply a low-margin pivot point on which to sell high margin services.   So driving channel services must be a key element of the hardware vendor value proposition.  Services drag becomes a core part of the channel partner “What’s in it for me?” conversation.   It is very different conversation than with direct sales.

This is where a channel-collaborative sales model, along with a tool such as, can really make a difference.  Through working closely with channel partners in a shared selling model, vendors can guage and track how services factor into deals.  If, as part of this process, vendors can help partners suggest additional services, based on product capabilities, it enriches the sale and the teaming relationship.  

By documenting incremental partner services, tools such as show that specific products drive channel margins.  It adds a level of differentiation in a commodity marketplace.  Things like sales collaboration, deal process analytics, and “whole deal” revenue tracking make the value more obvious.   And that grows vendor mind and wallet share, which is the whole point.

These ideas are part of every coaching or content development project we take on.   I think it is why folks come back to us, and channel partners are happy to see us.

Director, Solution Marketing
Porter Consulting

+1 408 394 7122


Monday, September 15, 2014

I don’t like you ……..But I love you

This song, originally written in 1962 by the legendary Smoky Robinson, could be an anthem for today’s channel sales model. 

For most companies, channel sales has become “the” major way of doing business. Over 70% of all high-tech sales go through the channel, sales cost can be 20% lower than with a direct sales force and using the channel companies of all sizes can effectively and efficiently extend their reach, not just nationally but globally. You really have to love the channel sales model.

But talk to most corporate sales professionals and they’ll tell you they really don’t like selling through the channel. They spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns and never really know what happens to the leads. Market development funds get spent but there’s no accountability. Forecasting is a nightmare because no-one really knows what is going on, where and with whom and no-one ever admits to losing a sale so there is no feedback on product or sales performance.  Corporate sales professionals really don’t like the channel sales model.

The song’s real title is “You’ve really got a hold on me” and that’s how those corporate sales folks feel.  And they feel like they are held in a very painful place.

So how do you change the game and make this a partnership where everyone likes and loves the channel sales model? The answer is information. Help the channel provide visibility of each and every deal – and do it in a way that is straightforward, with common goals and reporting that’s available in real time for everyone to see.  Show the marketing team what revenue each campaign generates and how those MDF dollars spent are turned into sales. And while we’re doing this, let’s help the channel sales people by giving then sales and product training, on the fly on their phones. Let’s make it so simple that it’s easier to use the new tools that work with the old.  And of course, because everyone has one and they are all different, let’s make the information available into your – and their – CRM systems.

Sound too good to be true?  Well in the past it was. But recently a group of seasoned channel sales professionals, who have been battling with these issues for decades, got together with a team of young an enthusiastic web and software designers to make it happen. The result is Indirect The first and only cloud application to address this formidable challenge.
The application is already live and helping our first customers. They really like what it does to solve their channel sales issues. Like?  I should say love.

Want to know more, see a demo or have trial? Contact us on  And see us at Dreamforce Expo North Booth 2338