Move the Channel: #1 Driver of Customer Loyalty is the . . . Buying Experience throughout the Sale

Loyal CustomerIt has long been understood that if you’re going to increase customer loyalty among your end-users, then your organizations should be building their customer loyalty strategies around three basic drivers:

  • Product and service differential
  • Improving brand impact
  • Improving perceived product value

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Conversely, a study by our friends over at CEB has found that end-user loyalty is not being impacted primarily by these traditional drivers, but rather by one important element: the end-user’s buying experience or what they experience throughout the sale. When we talk about sales experience, it’s more than just delivering on your product and/or company promises; additionally, it includes providing insights and added value to the customer. In other words, a salesperson should be capable of doubling as a trusted advisor—certainly no easy task.
How do these findings impact channel organizations? Well, to be frank, this discovery makes many of us VERY uncomfortable. For the most part we are in full control of executing our strategy when it’s based around the traditional pillars of product and service differential, improving our brand impact and improving our perceived product value. In fact, we have very talented people in our marketing teams working on these areas every single day.

But when it comes to controlling our channel partners’ salespeople and sales engineers, to ensuring they are providing a good end-user buying experience for our product, our confidence is a lot less assured. Without having our hands physically in the mix, it can be hard for us to trust that due diligence is being exercised. So I can totally understand why this is prospect might be, shall we say, scary to certain Channel organizations. But I’m here to reassure you that the end-user’ buying experience is actually not out of our hands; in fact, we can exert some measure of control.

For starters, there’s been significant innovation in the area of how to better influence and train our channel partners’ sales people. Arming them with the right content at the right time is one area where we’ve seen a big impact, with companies like SproutLoud and Allbound leading the way. But perhaps the best levers to pull when it comes to this challenge may also be the most obvious: incentivizing them to do the things that make them stronger, more trusted advisors to your end-customer.quize

For example, HMI Performance Incentives helps companies reward these important influencers for 1.)  Completing training quizzes so that they become more informed, more confident and comfortable, and ultimately more influential during the sales experience. Other methods include rewarding your partners’ salespeople for 2.)  Getting your team involved in the sale early on, 3.)  Rewarding for new account introductions, 4.)  Early deal registration, or 5.)  Setting up professional Demo or placing POC (Proof of Concept).

So, just because the territory is unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s impossible to navigate. Don’t you feel better now? I sure do.

As always, send me a note if you’d like to discuss or talk through some of these ideas together. And feel free to join in on this conversation at Move the Channel Group, your exclusive destination for Channel insights and innovation.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Have we out-kicked the coverage when it comes to Channel and Alliance Partnerships? 

puntIn American football, this analogy references the idea of the punter having such a good kick, that he out-kicked his special team’s coverage.  The tremendous kick has the cover team out of position at no fault of their own.  As a result, the kick returner is able to capitalize and runs the kick back for a game swinging touchdown!  It is hard to find a more disappointing and pivotal play in sports than a punt return for touchdown against your team!

In channel marketing & sales, we are starting to out kick the coverage. There is no doubt, channel marketing automation tools and channel sales tools are more advanced and effective than ever.  However, is that a bad thing?   Should we tell the punter to not kick it so far?

Of course not!  Bombs away!   But, we do need to rethink our coverage team and plan.  Your channel and alliance managers need to adjust to the terrific “kick” and provide even deeper coverage.  The booming kick isn’t a reason to scratch the play…  its reason to sprint harder, faster, further.  Just like the booming technology is reason to increase your relationship efforts and understanding with your channel partners.  Too many think the marketing automation and sales tools are reason to let up.  Wrong!  In fact, more than ever we need to “up” our coverage.  
Channel Account Managers (players) shouldn’t take the play off and Channel Chiefs (Head Coaches) need to remember how vital good players are to winning.  A good kicker is a huge asset but don’t stop coaching and properly incentivizing your cover team.

Take note and make some half-time adjustments that put your channel reps back in position to execute.

As always, please send me a note with your thoughts and your experience.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Channel Conduit of the Week: Show your Channel Partner What is Important (other than sales)

Channel Conduit of the Weekpractical-stress-relief

  • Small gestures that make big impacts on channel behavior
  • Commonsense reminders that make the difference b/t you and your competition
  • Elements that should be considered in a Channel Incentive Programs

Channel Incentives must be focused on the right behaviors….  not only sales.  

Our partners want to bring value to our solution and to be recognized for being an important piece of our strategies.  Yes we do a good job of telling them what their yearly growth goal is or what it’s going to take for them to achieve “Gold” status.  Don’t get me wrong these are important behavior to define and recognize.

But there are other behaviors that should be recognized too.  And almost always these other behaviors lead to more sales.  Make sure they know what behaviors are valued and then make sure to recognize for them.  Here are some key behaviors that are often included in a Channel Incentive Program:

  • Deal Registrations
  • Early introductions into the sales cycle
  • Achieved Sales and technical certification or accreditation
  • Customer service – End User tells brags about the support from the partner
  • On-time delivery
  • Integrity
  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Case Study worthy clients

Take some time today to identify your company’s key values and communicate them to your partner.  Then use those values as the foundation of your channel incentive efforts.

As always, send me an email with your thoughts and comments!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Get in Shape for the New Year:   Give your Channel a Metabolism Tune-Up

header-photo1The term metabolism simply means change or transformation. It relates to various processes within the body that convert food and other substances into energy and other metabolic byproducts used by the body. It is a necessary function that enables our body to maintain its working parts, repair damage, rid itself of toxins, and much more.

Just like our body our Channel needs to maintain its working parts, repair damage, rid itself of toxins, and much more.   Although we can’t control everything in the channel, here are 5 things that we can do to help us hone your channel’s “metabolism”

 

Improve “Cardiovascular Fitness”

What does a cardio workout look like in the channel? For starters, it’s all about consistency, and there’s no better way to improve consistency than by communicating frequently throughout your distribution channel and setting up regular channel rep meetings and joint customer calls.   These activities are the equivalent of  your weekly dose of your personal fitness cardio workouts.  Keep in mind: Consistency doesn’t mean you just go through the motions with minimal effort. Sure, a short walk every day is good for your health, but it won’t really do much for your overall fitness. To generate the kind of results you’re looking for, you need to work up a sweat. Your “workouts” should feel like you’re training for a marathon. So, go hard and make sure you’re getting the most out of your communications. Set concrete goals for your meetings and monitor the progress you make with your partners.

 

Build Lean “Muscle”

If you want to build lean, toned muscles, you have to hit the weights. Don’t worry, most of us don’t work out hard or intensely enough to get bulky.   While cardio workouts can be good for your heart, it’s the heavy lifting that builds muscle. More muscle in the channel means more impact and engagement from you partners.   Heavy lifting sounds hard…  But don’t worry. You can build muscle without making drastic changes to your everyday business routines. Here are some Heavy ideas that don’t require constant attention and with the right vendor can be planned, marketed, and executed without adding resources:

Eat Smaller and Frequently 

The feast of a big deal is cause for celebration, but you should also be rewarding your channel for smaller, bite-sized accomplishments. This is why your channel incentive program should include Steps-To-The-Sale (STTS) incentives for each successful deal registration, product training, account introduction, etc.

Drink 10-16 glasses of water daily

Just as our body needs to be replenished with water every day, so our competitive edge requires fresh ideas and perspectives to keep its engine running. There are tons of great resources out there that can help you build your knowledge of channel developments and best practices. Try reading and some of these resources like Move the Channel and Channel Maven. Join communities and discussion groups in LinkedIn and make sure your strategies are keeping pace with the changing demands of the channel. FB_FitnessGroup

Get seven hours of sleep

Pounding the pavement and working hard in the field is how you often find success in the channel, but make sure you and your team take time to recharge your batteries.  Do this by attending channel conferences and other industry-related events can be a great way to absorb new ideas and become a thought leader in the field. I know these conferences can be tiresome and action packed, so make sure b/t the important meetings and networking to get some sleep and enjoy an amenity or two.

It’s the New Year.  Let’s make 2015 the best year yet!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Don’t “Buy” your channel partners’ business, Nurture It.

Nurture-Your-Business-300x208Over the years, I’ve talked to many Channel Marketing Pros who worry that an incentive program is just a way to “buy” business. On the face of it, that almost sounds unethical (and a little bit slimy, if you ask me). While it’s true that some programs are basically designed that way, these program types usually don’t have a good long-term outcome. If you can “buy” something it means it’s for sale…  which means there will be other buyers in the future.   The channel incentive programs that typically end up providing a lasting sales lift are those that reward for “good behavior.”  By good behavior I mean actions that lead to sales or better service.  This is reflected in the fact that some program mangers have even begun eschewing the label of “incentive programs” in favor of the more benign term “integrity programs.” Whatever their name, these types of programs that reward for certain behaviors not only take your channel engagement from “slimy” to “sincere,” they also often end up yielding much higher ROIs.

To illustrate the point, I wanted to share a study shared by my friend and persuasion expert, influencer, Brian Ahearn.  Brian blogs about Influence and Persuasion at InfluencePeople.

The study is about how to get the best survey participation and to move the channel partners to invest their time to respond.   With one group of business owners a $50 reward was offered for completing the questionnaire. With the rest of the business owners a $5 check was sent to acknowledging their time was valuable and they appreciated them taking time to complete the questionnaire.

Here are the result in Ahearn’s own words, “And what were the results? You’d think the $50 offer being 10 times more would definitely get a better response but it didn’t. Only 23% of those offered the big reward filled out the questionnaire but 52% who were given the $5 gift up front complied with the request. So the response was more than twice as much in the gift scenario and there was a huge savings depending on exactly how many people cashed the $5 check. If every person, including those who didn’t fill out the questionnaire, cashed the check, the savings would be 57%. If only those who completed the questionnaire cashed the check the health company would have saved 77%! “No matter how you look at it, more than doubling the response at a substantial savings is the smart business decision.”

We see similar stories all the time in Channel Incentive Programs. We are much more likely to inspire loyalty and receive the “big order” if we reward from the beginning for smaller yet significant behaviors and Steps-to-the-Sale.  not-for-sale

Here are some examples of smaller goals that can be critical Steps-to-the-Sale.

  • Increased Deal Registration
  • Training Completions
  • Individual Sales and Goals
  • Target Prospect Engagements
  • Customer Introductions
  • POC or Evaluation Placements
  • Case Study Submittals

 

Remember: When it comes to Channel Marketing Programs, don’t strategize how to “buy” business, but give smaller incentives for smaller behaviors.  Those smaller incentives can accumulate and lead to BIG rewards.   And those smaller behaviors lead to BIG loyalty from you Channel Partners.

How do you design the right channel incentive program?

What are the Steps-to-the-Sale in your particular sales channel? And are you properly rewarding for your channel’s most important behaviors?

As always please reach out with questions or comments!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Transforming your Channel?  Here’s the Secret. 

change tranformThe Secret to change is to focus ALL of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.   – Socrates

This is certainly true when it comes to transforming your channel.

I’ve had many 2015 planning sessions with clients the last few weeks.  The overlying theme from these meetings and Channel Chiefs seems to be “how do I Transform my channel.”  This week alone I’ve met with two senior executives of industry-leading organizations who both suggested that transformation of their channel has become a priority.  Although this is not a new idea, most of my channel initiatives in the previous years had involved trying to inspire MORE of an existing behavior within the channel. But transforming the channel is about “Building the New”.  And it’s not just about a tweak here and a turn there. These executives want to fundamentally change how their channel partners and partner salespeople do two things: a) How their partners interact with their company, and b) How their partners Engage and sell to the end-user.

Part of the art of channel marketing is being able to influence key stakeholders in the channel without having the most powerful tool of compensation. Our channel stakeholders aren’t employees and therefore we don’t control our channel partner’s compensation plans. That being said, we do have significant control at the partner firm-level, and therefore we have the ability to adjust pricing discounts, offer rebates, and create MDF thresholds, all of which can encourage the partner to take their channel in a new transformative direction. If we want to change our business-as-usual approach to the channel, we must not be afraid to use every tool in our toolbox.

Another powerful instrument that can be used to transform your channel strategy is a wisely crafted channel incentive program. We’ve already talked about levers you have that can impact your partner at firm-levelBut what about motivating the Point Of Influence (POI) of our sale? The POI typically identifies the partner’s sales people or Sales Engineers that interface with the end-user/end-buyer and own the relationship. The question is: How do we reach and engage these important channel influencers?

With a well-designed channel incentive program we can focus on building the new and accelerating the transformation of our channel. Some transforming behaviors we can start to influence?

  • Building the New — Training. There are many different degrees of training. There is everything from “Readiness” lessons and quizzes to full-blown Accreditation programs. Of course while any readiness initiative can be rolled out in weeks, a more significant accreditation program will usually take significant time & effort. Also, we know if Partner Salespeople (POI) invest their time in these training initiatives—whether its 15 minutes or 15 hours—this mindshare WILL ultimately translate into market share.  Readiness initiatives should be hosted in your Channel incentive or engagement portals that target the POI audience.  transformational-chess-pieces
  • A New Partnership — Transformation of the channel isn’t just about how our channel goes to market but how the channel partner works and interacts with us (the manufacture or distributor). This may be asking our channel partners and channel partner salespeople to change how they engage, where they engage, and what they engage at our organization. For example, for years manufactures and distributors have been investing in various partner resources including partner portals, partner marketing automation, etc. Although these “portals” are certainly still valuable resource centers, most organizations have started to realize that the “Do it yourself” approach makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness.
  • A New message for the End Buyer — As mentioned above, the DIY approaches haven’t worked as planned. There’s a concrete need to guide our channel partners especially at the POI to market and communicate the New…. products, services, and approach.  When and how end-buyer communications are executive is often a trackable behavior and therefore one that can be incentivized in your channel engagement portal.
  • Selling to a New Stakeholder . . . the Decision Maker — It’s not only what we’re selling that is New: it’s who we’re selling to. Setting up meetings with the right people or the New decision makers is something else we can influence. With a decent CRM setting meetings with right people is a trackable behavior and therefore one that can be incentivized in your channel engagement portal.

These are just some examples of trackable and rewardable behaviors that can help you transform your channel. Remember, the Secret is to focus ALL of your energy on building the new, or what will transform your channel. A well-designed and properly managed channel incentive program can help you do that.

Have you been tasked with transforming your channel? Are you reaching the partner firm-level as well as at the Point of Influence (POI)?

As always, send me an email with questions, comments, or to set up a call.
Move the Channel,

Travis

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First Fight with your Channel Partner? Now you’re getting somewhere!

arm wrestWho doesn’t love those first idyllic months of a new relationship? You’re enamored, giddy and can do no wrong in one another’s eyes. But then whammo! One not-so-fine day the bubble bursts. He forgets a major commitment or she shows up an hour late for the third time and suddenly, instead of kissing, you’re sparring. Hello, reality.

If the above sounds like it might be the start of a blog from Match.com or some other dating advice site, it’s because it is.

Just like in personal relationships, channel partner relationships tend to go through stages of development that, although not without their challenges, can ultimately lead to healthy and mutually rewarding partnerships.

In my opinion, here is a rough outline of the 5 stages that any healthy relationship will go through:

  1. The Romance Stage
  2. The Power Struggle Stage
  3. The Stability Stage
  4. The Commitment Stage
  5. The Co-Creation or Bliss Stage

The Romance Stage is easy. If you have recently entered into an agreement with your partner, chances are to this point there has been lots of courting and a focus on all of the positives that the partnership can bring. At this stage both parties are probably excited, and may even possess some unrealistic expectations about the potential of the relationship.

Without a doubt, you should enjoy and make the most of this Romance Stage—but be careful not to stay in it for too long. The fact is that if you remain in this stage, it could mean not much actual business is getting done. If there is no friction, there is a good chance a big deal hasn’t forced you into the weeds of the partnership.  And therefore the partnership has never truly been tested.

I know this is going to sound crazy (and maybe even a bit strange), but your first “fight” with your channel partner could be the best thing to ever happen to the relationship. A fight might be a disagreement over the margin of a deal or who should “own” the end-customer relationship, etc.   Things might get a bit rocky for a time, and some partnerships might not even survive the first fight.  But you can work through it, you will have the foundation needed to build towards the highly lucrative and mutually beneficial partnership.   It isn’t until the partnership had been tested or until each party’s colors have been exposed they the relationship will enter into the Co-Creation or Bliss Stage. But remember: patience here is critical. While this final stage probably won’t be reached right after the first “fight,” it almost certainly wouldn’t happen without it.  sb10062994aa-003

The first “fight” is probably the best and most honest learning opportunity you will have with your partner. From this opportunity comes understanding, from understanding comes acceptance, and with acceptance comes a much easier path not just to longevity, but growth and success.

 

Are some of your best partnerships the ones that you have had a “fight’?

I wouldn’t ever go looking for a “fight”, but I might start questioning the partnerships that haven’t led to some kind of disparity or scuffle.
As always, please reach out with questions of comment!
Move the Channel,
Travis

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Channel Partner Incentives: The Ultimate Reward for your Channel Partner

Ultimate RewardAs many of you know, I have been in the business of recommending, designing, implementing, and managing channel incentive strategies for my clients for a long time now. Over the years, this experience has enabled me to recognize some of the most critical components of a successful channel incentive program, including identifying the behaviors you want to drive, developing the right rule structure, targeting the right “player” in the channel, and executing a sticky and engaging communications. However, I’ve also noticed that one component that can sometimes get lost amidst all of these program nuances is the actual incentive reward you choose to offer in order to MOVE YOUR CHANNEL. Hiding in plain sight, the most obvious and central element of your channel incentive program—the incentive itself—can become secondary in importance if you’re not vigilant about it. Take it from me, your program can have the best rules structure, the snazziest incentive portal, and all of the right engagement bells and whistles, but if you don’t have a reward that truly motivates the participant, it will all be for naught.

In my experience, there are two important factors to consider when providing a great incentive reward:

1.) The value, or the “perceived value” of the reward. Is the reward enough to engage and change behavior? Making sure that the actions you are requesting are worthwhile for the program participants is obviously vital to the success of achievement of those actions. When the participant asks “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)…..   the answer needs to be something exciting, desirable, & clear.

2.) The type of reward. This is often the main driver of significant gains in these channel incentive programs. Depending on the demographics of your program audience, there are many appealing rewards options. Most of the programs I recommend and manage allow the channel partner to choose what reward motivates them the most. By promoting this sense of autonomy, I’ve found that partners assume an added sense of ownership over their programs, which ultimately drives performance. They earn program currency (points) by achieving their goals or increasing certain sales driven activates (Steps-to-the-Sale). This award system is very effective and gives the participant the choice of endless merchandise, real-time travel options, online event tickets, a plethora of experience awards, and a personalized concierge service.flowating

So what’s the best type of reward? Is there a “best?” Without question, I’ve found that the undisputed champion of Channel Partner Rewards or Incentive is Group Travel Incentives. If your channel incentive program rewards its top-performing sales and channel partners with an incentive program then you know there is no greater form of recognition than achieving “President’s Club” status and taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic destination. Typically, these trips are more than just your average vacation; to be sure, they afford unique opportunities for fun, relaxation, and adventure, however they also provide the perfect networking opportunities in which to mingle with other high-achieving coworkers, peers, partners, and executive management. The memories and personal connections that these types of programs offer can very often lead to a lifetime of loyalty and lasting friendships.

Does your Channel Marketing Program Include and Group Travel Incentive Component?

Move the Channel,

Travis

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10 Channel Marketing Program lessons from Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir AlexToday I bring to you a story from a different hemisphere.  A story about arguably one the most impactful figures in all of sport.  You have heard me speak with passion about American Football, Baseball, Basketball, and the people in those sports that have changed the game.  Today I share Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s secrets of persuasion and turn them into Channel Marketing lessons.

I found the story at one of my favorite blogs spots http://influence-people-brian.blogspot.com/ .  Brian Ahearn is a friend and master of persuasion and one of only 20 Cialdini Method Certified Trainers® (CMCT®) in the world.   He recently shared a post from Sean Patrick a fellow Cialdini Method Certified Trainer.

Each number (1-10) references and matches a passage from the story below.   Here are the lessons I took away from this wonderful piece on SAF:

  1. Move the Channel:  Do your channel partners put themselves before winning titles?  Culture. 
  2. Move the Channel:  To find the best partners, we need grassroots “talent scouts” too.  Recruiting.
  3. Move the Channel:  Have you developed an academy and channel training strategy the produces the most successful teams?  Training.
  4. Move the Channel:  Does your organization have you finger on the pulse of every area of the Channel Ecosystem?  Pulse.
  5. Move the Channel:  Are you holding your channel partner accountable and “coaching them up”?  Goals and QBR Process.
  6. Move the Channel:  Have you fired a channel partner recently and focused on ones showing great potential?  Should you?
  7. Move the Channel:  Do you demonstrate respect, fairness, and empathy toward you partners?
  8. Move the Channel:  Do you invest to retain and coach your partners that have potential to be great?   Coaching. 
  9. Move the Channel:  Do your channel partners feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves?  Inspired.
  10. Move the Channel:  Do you have a channel rewards and incentive program that helps your channel partners hear “well-done”.  Channel Incentive Programs.

 

Here’s the story from Sean Patrick, Sales Coach:

In May 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson or SAF as he’s otherwise known as, stepped down as manager of Manchester United.  He had just won his 13th Premiership title, the most successful and highly decorated manager in English football.  This ended his 26th season in charge of one of the biggest sporting franchises in the world.

During his time at Old Trafford he won 38 titles including two UEFA champions league trophies. 1.) Ferguson took control of the club at a time when player status was more important than winning titles, over the course of four seasons and under severe pressure to deliver, he transformed the club from the inside out.  2.) He employed countless talent scouts to find the best youth players at grassroots level and 3.) developed an academy that produced one of the most successful teams in English football history.  4.) Every season a major development was installed inside the club that cemented United’s ability to find and retain the best playing staff.  Ferguson was well known for having his finger on the pulse in every area of the club.  Only Matt Busby, a legendary former United manager had any such influence across the entire club.

So how did he do it?  Ferguson was well known for his ability to psychologically influence the players around him and rival managers.  Ferguson believed that the key to success was to make sure that every player put in 100% during training.  He never allowed a bad training session as this proved a player would find mediocrity acceptable, he knew bad habits form quickly.  5.) He ensured that every player who under-performed at half time became aware of their poor performances thus the legendary motivational skills reared itself in the dressing room.

Former rival manager Jose Mourinho claimed Ferguson was the master of the ‘second game’, sing the media to motivate his team and to begin, as he put it, ‘to play the next game before it starts’.

The club and everyone around him knew he was the authority figure.  If a player tried to take over the dressing room or put in a poor performance he was either swiftly removed from the club or was given a severe face-to-face screaming which had become known as the hairdryer treatment.  His authority was without question embedded into the organization. 6.) Over the course of his 26 season reign he made difficult choices and this came in the form of releasing established world class players such as Roy Keane, Jaap Stam and David Beckham to make room for untested younger players such as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo who became medal winners at United.

There was another side to 7.) Ferguson, he was liked and respected.  He was treated respectfully by senior management and back-room support staff and reciprocated respect by demonstrating fairness and his ability to empathize.  These skills were tested during the season of 1995-96 when maverick player Eric Cantona attacked an opposition supporter Kung-Fu style and consequently given a heavy suspension lasting several months.  8.) Over the course of this period, Ferguson mentally coached Cantona, firstly to retain his services and secondly to mentally motivate and prepare the player for his return.  Subsequently, Cantona blossomed to become a model player and became club captain helping United secure more silverware.

This method of psychologically preparing and motivating players culminated in United’s first UEFA Champions league title in 1999.  They faced a tough fixture against Germany’s Bayern Munich.  At half-time United were trailing, he reminded his players that if they lost the match they would not as much be allowed to touch the trophy, just amble past at a safe distance wearing their losers medal.  9.)  One of the players later recalled that Ferguson’s inspirational speech turned fearful men into world-beaters.  During that same season, United became the first side from a major league to win the treble of Champions league, English Premier league and League cup in a single season.

sir-alex-ferguson-hd-wallpapers

Ferguson understood the importance being consistent. One of his key skills in improving the preparedness of his players was his use of storytelling and being to talk to each player individually.  He liked to change the themes of his team talks with regularity.  “I once heard a coach start with ‘this must be the 1000th team talk I’ve had with you’ and saw a player quickly respond with ‘and I’ve slept through half of them!’  If a player was to sit out a game, he gave a personal and very frank conversation that conveyed empathy and instilled confidence in the player.

10.) Ferguson emphasized on the use of instilling confidence on the training pitch.  “There is no room for criticism on the training field’.  ‘There is nothing better than hearing ‘well-done.”

Channel Marketing: In With The Old, and The New (Part 1)

old-vs-new-21313880The old model of channel marketing features three main components: partner benefits, sales resources and training, and quarterly goal setting.

On the other hand, the new model of channel marketing focuses on channel community/collaboration, educating (not just product training), and motivating the POI (Point of Influence).

Well guess what? The old model is still the foundation for a successful channel.  The new way simply AMPLIFIES the old way.

As much as the channel has evolved in recent years, there are still many aspects of it that remain the same. For instance, you still need benefits that offer profitability to the partner at the firm-level. You still need serious ease of selling resources to move the partner’s sales and sales management. You still need clear goals to make sure everyone’s objectives are aligned.

Although these continue to be pillars of a channel partner program, we now find ourselves strengthening and enhancing these areas in new ways.

Program benefits now includes being part of a channel community where ideas are shared, experiences become best practices, and solutions to the end-user are delivered collaboratively.

Time-honored sales resources and training now also tend to include industry knowledge-sharing and value-creation training that is elastic and able to be delivered in timely, relevant “lessons.”  The process of “Educating” is developed by the training department but in conjunction with the channel marketing and sales teams that are in the field selling.

Finally, the Partner Firm-level is still typically the target of many incentives and communications; but now we have also extended our engagement and messaging to target the POI (Point of Influence), which is mainly the partner’s sales or sales engineers that interface directly with the end-user customer.   Before, it used to be the touch to the POI was with Cash Spiffs.  Today, a true engagement and incentive program enables you to reward the partner’s sales people for behaviors that lead to sales or Steps-to-the-Sale (STTS)!

Sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same. Are you embracing the New, or is your channel program just getting Old? Maybe it should be a bit of both. . .

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

Channel Partner Programs don’t matter unless you target your Partner’s Sales People

POI Book CoverI know many of us in the Move the Channel community tend to focus on Channel Partner Programs that deal in Partner-level or firm-level benefits. Now don’t get me wrong, these can certainly act as critical foundations for the formal partnership between you and your supply chain partners. BUT these types of programs don’t always differentiate you from your competitors, and they often don’t move the channel or grow market share as well as you might like. The exception here would be if your Channel Partners are made up of small companies, where the principal also happens to be the salesperson. You see this with many companies that sell through small contractors, dealers, or consultants. In these cases, the firm-level benefits are actually targeting the firm’s salesperson, which, I will argue, is really where you can strike with your program.

What are these important but industry standard firm-level benefits?

  • Quarterly & Annual Rebates
  • Manufacture Development Programs
  • Pricing Discounts Schedules
  • Registration & Demo Programs
  • Training Minimums and Requirements

I know these kinds of benefits are not easy things to design, and they can certainly be a lot of work to manage and articulate. But at the end of the day,

Miguel Carerea POI

Miguel Cabrera POI

90% of your Partner/Firm-Level Programs are actually made of the same components. Sure your discount might be more exciting or your MDF program might be appreciated, but even if your program is superior to your competitor’s, it’s probably only a month or so away from being matched by the competition.

So where do we see real impact?  How do we actually MOVE THE CHANNEL? The biggest impact and most measurable movement can be realized when you effectively target, engage, and incentivize performance at the Point of Impact (POI). Also known as the Point of Influence, the POI is the person in the channel that can best influence the sale—to YOUR END USER. Believe it or not, the POI is almost always your channel partner’s salesperson or sales engineer. It is the individual who interfaces with your end customers, the person with influence who can take advangtage of THEIR relationship with YOUR end customer. Each Industry and every company has its own vernacular for this person, but we at Move the Channel have coined this strategic player the POI.

Behaviors you may want to impact at the POI

  • Increased Deal Registration
  • Training Completions
  • Individual Sales and Goals
  • Target Prospect Engagements
  • Customer Introductions
  • POC or Evaluation Placements

When you design a program and performance incentive strategy around the POI, you are engaging at the most valuable touch point in the channel—the Point of Influence. Programs that can engage and motivate at this level are much more difficult to duplicate, and thus they have a more profound impact on the sale and overall market share.

Make sure your Partner/Firm-Level benefits are top-notch, but also quickly turn your marketing genius and resource to the people in the channel that have the real influence you are looking for . . . the POI.

Move the Channel,

Travis

Your Channel Partners need more Coaches, Not Discounts

This was a terrific sports weekend for the Smith house. March Madness is always a favorite time of year, but this week was especially fun. First, my wife’s alma mater, the University of Dayton, beat my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the big dance. Then they went on to upset the mighty Orangemen of Syracuse to move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time in almost 30 years. To top that off, our local high school made an amazing run in the State basketball tournament to earn Division I State Champion Runner-Up. But by far, the highlight of the weekend was witnessing my old high school basketball coach finally win a Division II State Championship.Coach Gray cutting the net

Of all the big sports news from the weekend, why was this so important to me? Even though it has been 20 years since I graduated from high school, I still feel a great deal of loyalty, appreciation, and pride for Coach Gray. Many of the lessons he imparted to us as juniors and seniors have stayed with me to this day, and it seems a bit strange now to think that in the course of my life, one of the most important and inspiring teachers I ever had was a coach. Somehow, through his leadership, he was always able to get the most out of us, his players.

Leadership is a skill that is required in business as much as it is in sports. Take channel marketing and sales leaders, for example. Much of your efforts are spent designing, implementing, and marketing the perfect partner program. Discounts structures, rebate tiers, MDFs, CO-OPs, partner benefits, etc., are all foundations for any Channel Partner Program. In fact, Move the Channel has published its own Channel Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart to serve as a sort of “playbook” for all of these critical features.

But even if you have the best playbook in the business, it’s difficult to get the best results without an effective “coach” to implement the plays and motivate the “players.” These coaches are the people in your channel organization who interface directly and consistently with your channel partners. They are the people selling in the field whose compensation is linked to the partners they support. In many organizations, their main role is to “manage” their accounts; but if they’ve never managed (or coached) before, they might have a hard time doing this efficiently, with deals only getting done when they are heavily involved.

The people that interface with your channel partner need to have a coach’s mentality. All too often in business we have a first practice, hand out the playbook, and check back in the next quarter to review how many rebounds, assists, and points the partner and partner’s salespeople scored for our team. These partner “coaches” need to recognize the partner’s strengths and weaknesses in order to identify how that partner might best contribute to the “team.”  This takes time, energy, organization, and leadership—basically a coach’s approach. In the short term, this can lead to increased mind share, market share, and sales. In the long-term, you will have a partner who is loyal and appreciative, and who takes pride in working with your championship-caliber organization. Just don’t expect them to call you “coach.”

Enjoy the rest of March Madness and make it a great week!

Move the Channel,
Travis

The first 45 KPIs or indicators of a good Channel Partner according to… YOU.

Last week I asked you to list your Top 3 Channel KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) “here”.  I asked this question throughout the various LinkedIn groups and our very own Move the Channel Community.   And YOU delivered, with countless KPIs ideas.  Here are the first 45.

These are only first 45.  It’s interesting to pick out the unique KPIs like “employee turnover”.  And to point out the most popular KPI, “training/enablement investment”.  Training and Enablement is the clear winner with 17% of the first 45 KPIs mentioned.

I will be providing commentary and analysis on these submissions, but wanted to provide the initial feedback ASAP.

Click here to participate in the discussion.    HERE

Enjoy!

Move the Channel,
Travis

Here are the first 45 in YOUR own words.

  1. Money they spent (out of their own pocket) in promoting my portfolio to their customers
  2. Deal registrations and corresponding conversion rate
  3. Enablement investments (time, money) for their sales and sales engineering teams.
  4. Pipeline growth and velocity
  5. Strategic opportunities. For instance, I may have a partner with a small volume of opportunities, yet they are all sourced from a key vertical or market segment we are trying to penetrate.
  6. Unique IP jointly developed by our respective organizations
  7. Certifications in product or technical support
  8. Customer complaints or redos (how often do they get it right the first time)
  9. Employee turnover
  10. Share of wallet
  11. Certification investment
  12. Portfolio breadth
  13. Tenure
  14. Transaction frequency
  15. Sales skills,
  16. Market knowledge,
  17. Loyalty
  18. Number of dedicated Head counts.
  19. A clear business plan
  20. Integration with its other line of business
  21. Marketing Know-how – simple branding, or social media or in-person events.
  22. Take interest in talking 1X p/month about the business, their needs and future direction
  23. Proactively prepare for all discussions and include the right members of their team
  24. Solicit vendor input on their business ideas, offerings and go to market strategies
  25. Accept constructive feedback and feel empowered to deliver it
  26. Utilize the training, marketing and sales tools we’re providing
  27. Number of specialists / engineers that have been “trained”
  28. QoQ or YoY pipeline growth from those people
  29. Number of new sales appointments set (IMPORTANT)
  30. Learning investment with our products / solutions.
  31. Exclusivity (Are we their sole product for the application?)
  32. Partners who willingly participate in quarterly business planning sessions with the Vendor and jointly establish measurable goals and activities to achieve same
  33. Partners that are committed to real growth as opposed to just maintaining their current profit levels, pre-retirement
  34. Partners that view hardware and technology as enablement platforms for longer-term, solutions-based selling, rather than a sales goal in and of itself
  35. Have the ability to market/attract new customers
  36. Have knowledge of your product and where it’s a fit
  37. Have knowledge of the industry
  38. The reps get “enough” (simpler than alternatives, more margin, etc.) benefit from selling your product
  39. Present our products FIRST on their line card
  40. Engage us in training, strategy and ramping to market
  41. Stay engaged in active prospecting and business planning.
  42. Which partners are actively executing programs?
  43. What topics are driving customer interest?
  44. Which partners are leading customer engagement?
  45. Which media channels are delivering results?
  46. competitive affinity (how closely is the partner aligned to my competitors)
  47. social/external behavior in response to a specific program
  48. Quarterly Growth (People/Revenue) of the partner

 

 

Super Bowl Edition: Share your playbook with your channel

superbowl-trophy-hed-2013I started my Super Sunday evening the same way I start every Sunday evening.   I read my good friend Anthony Iannarino’s weekly Newsletter.  Beyond being a good friend, Anthony is an author, professional speaker/trainer, and writes daily at The Sales Blog.   If you want your sales organization to have an edge and become a “Level 4 Value Creator”, you need make Anthony apart of your Sunday too.

Anthony starts today’s newsletter reminding us when a team acquires a new player, that player is given a playbook. Inside that playbook is every play the team runs and the player is expected to memorize the book and its plays, cover-to-cover. He or she is expected to know how to execute his/her role so that the play—and team—succeeds.

A good playbook integrates all of their product knowledge, their sales process, their buyer’s roles, the necessary sales dialogues, and competitive information in some format the salesperson can actually use. Anthony goes on to point out the challenges facing sales organization who do not have a playbook or are not fully utilizing their current playbook.  He presses further on the importance of the playbook issue by sharing ideas for developing a playbook.

But WE go-to-market through a Channel.  Our channel partners are the ones that execute the plays in the field.   This is where most channel organizations fall short.  If you don’t share your playbook with your channel partners you will not make it to, let alone win the Super Bowl.  Share with them the playbook that got you to be a leader in the industry.  In a meeting, share the goals for the entire channel ecosystem, and why their role is so critical to the channel’s overall success. The companies that are able to do this well tend to have the best and most loyal channels.playbook-ipad-chalkboard

A great way to share the playbook with the channel through a Channel Incentive Program that rewards for Steps-to-the-Sale behavior.  Reward for knowing the playbook and executing plays that win new business.

Similar to a new NFL player and coach, do you share your playbook when you acquire a new partner?

Let’s make it a great week moving the channel!

Move the Channel,

Travis

Enter your name and email address to download Move the Channel Guide and RIMES Chart

Name: Email:

Your channel engagement program is only as strong as your weakest link

weakest link gameshowFirst to be clear, when I refer to the “weakest link” I am not talking about channel stakeholder but the communication to or engagement of that channel participant.

I recently had a great conversation in the DMR – Channel Professional Network group in LinkedIn regarding my “Several Shades of Grey” post I made last month. It was a friendly, healthy exchange between two people that have extremely different views on what elements are needed and not needed to deliver the most effective engagement in a channel marketing program.

This conversation occurred over a number of weeks, and although I disagreed with much of what my challenger was expounding, I will admit that he did have some great points along the way. In fact, one point in particular even inspired me to write about it.

The individual argued that if “you missed one ‘link’ in the chain of a program, the entire program could fail.”

It always amazes me how many programs fail to recognize the importance of each “link,” or tier, in their channel when designing performance improvement programs. Almost all of the programs I work on attempt to engage their channel at the various POIs (Point of Influence). I coined the term POI as a way to identify the people in the channel who wield the greatest influence over a sale. They usually are the VAR or Dealer’s Sales Person or Sales Engineer. Indeed, this is where 70% of the effort, design, and investment of channel incentives should be focused.Weakest Link Host

Although the Points of Influence are the primary target, they are also traditionally the group that the manufacture or distributor are least connected to. So it is important to strengthen the links (secondary targets) that connect you to this group of individuals. For example, below I have listed some potential POIs and secondary targets within the channel, and proposed some different ways to strengthen your “link” to them:

  • Your Regional Manager  (secondary)  Giving them a rollup up and dashboard reporting of their teams’ performances
  • Your Salespeople & SEs  (Secondary)  Providing leaderboards and other gaming elements, and overriding the initial and after-market sales
  • Distributor (secondary or primary)  Discounting for access to detailed POS data
  • Distributor Sales (secondary or primary)  Overriding of Sales
  • VAR/ISV  (primary)  Reward for Sales, KPI, Training, and other behaviors that lead to sales STTP
  • VAR Salespeople and SEs (primary)  Reward for Sales, KPI, Training, and other behaviors that lead to sales STTP

Notice: In order to engage the primary target, it doesn’t necessarily mean allocating a percentage of your incentive budget to the secondary targets.  For example, you can get many of these tiers engaged through reporting, leaderboards, and other unique “gamification” elements.

What are some other creative ways to engage these secondary audiences?

As always, give me a ring or shoot me a note in LinkedIn to discuss!

Move the Channel,
Travis

Channel Conduit: What 28 Million People Learned About Giving Gifts from this Video

I love Westjet. We have a couple of clients and developers based in Toronto, and Westjet is always our favorite carrier that flies there. Why? Take a look at this must-watch holiday video about gift-giving that Westjet put together, and maybe you’ll understand:

When Santa asked people what they wanted for Christmas, what did they say? Big-screen TVs, cameras, toys, etc.

Why didn’t they say cash?  Because when Santa asks, it’s magic, and if there is magic involved, why not ask for something you normally couldn’t afford or wouldn’t splurge on? You’re not spending your own family’s money—apparently this is goodwill currency & equity you’ve built up all year from being “good”. You and your family have earned it. Live it up!

Gift Giving

 

Can you imagine Santa giving out cash? Where is the joy, the fun in that? What type of experience would the receiver of the cash have had while everyone else was opening their gifts?

Happy Holidays, Channel-Movers!  When rewarding your channel partners for being “good” all year, make sure you don’t flop by giving them cash. Give them something that builds loyalty and goodwill toward your brand.

Move the Channel,

Travis

PS Thanks for sharing this video with me Anthony 

 

#1 Reason For Implementing Channel Reward Programs: Partner and End-User Data Insight

On TargetWhat is the main reason channel organizations are implementing Channel Incentive Programs?

To motivate the channel?  To engage partners?  To reward for incremental growth or proven Steps-to-the-Sale (STTS)?  Surely it must be to gain loyalty by impacting future buying behaviors?

Nope. All of these used to be leading drivers of investment in channel rewards programs, but in today’s channel ecosystem they have become merely residual benefits.

Manufacturers and distributors have started to realize that in order to more effectively achieve all of these residual benefits, they need to design custom messaging and communications to the channel members who are responsible for buying or selling their solutions. And to accomplish this, or to do so successfully, they need to take advantage of the vast troves of end-user data that have become accessible in our digitized world.

Here, then, might be the evolving function of channel rewards programs. By utilizing a channel program to discover and target the right partner salespeople and sales engineers, channel pros (or “Channeleers,” as I like to call them) can get right up next to the sale and end-user. The nestling can be achieved through a well thought out claims process.   A claims solution creates an opportunity to gather key information about the sale and end-user, and, armed with this information, a channeleer can put custom messages directly into their audiences’ hands (in the case of mobile, literally).

As always, please feel free to share your challenges with communicating to your channel partner employees or the end-user. I look forward to the dialogue.

Move the Channel,
Travis

A great reminder to the Channel from Mrs. Disney: “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

walt-disney-florida-mapwalt-disney-with-map-of-florida-olp-travel---news-viewsolp-zzuys1w3On October 1, 1971, five years after the great Walt Disney passed away; Disney World had its grand opening. During the dedication ceremony, someone turned to Mrs. Walt Disney and said, “Isn’t it a shame that Walt didn’t live to see this?” Mrs. Disney replied, “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

Walt Disney World sits on forty-three square miles—nearly twice the size of Manhattan—of some of the most valuable property in the state of Florida. Originally, it took seven years to plan, and more than four years to build. Such an enormous undertaking, I think you’ll agree, could never come to fruition without a great mind having a clear vision.

When a channel professional lacks vision we lose in two ways. One is not having a vision at all, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I think we can all agree this is true for every aspect of business and life. Many times I have seen good companies with good products try and go-to-market through a new channel. But they don’t have a plan; they haven’t refined their vision beyond the basic premise of selling and distributing their products to a larger universe. They don’t know what to expect from their partners, nor do they fully realize what their channel program could become. It seems like 100% of the time these new channel efforts fail. WDW Opening Day 01

For the more mature channel we can fall short in a different way. Often times we as manufacturers or distributors will fail to cast or properly communicate our goals to our partner. If we don’t explicitly show them the mutually beneficial vision of the partnership and the larger channel ecosystem, we risk leaving partners behind or worse: they switch to a competitor that has more effectively communicated a strategic vision.

How do we know Walt Disney effectively communicated his vision to his partners? It’s a fact that he spent seven years planning and communicating his dream of Disney World to those people who could turn it into a reality. And that’s exactly what they did. Five years after he passed away, his partners continued to carry on the relentless pursuit of Walt’s amazing vision. Today, Walt Disney World is one of the most recognizable icons in the world.
Have you shared your goals and vision with your channel partner? Do they understand how they are an important component of that vision, and why it is exciting for them to share it with you?

Channel Incentive Programs: Are You Implementing Soft Benefits?

Hotel and airline rewards programs undoubtedly have their issues. For one, their currency is so diluted these days that it takes over a year to earn a single reward. With that being said, there are certain things that they are doing well. For starters, they do a terrific job of offering “soft benefits” to their customers. These are the little extra bonuses that keep us talking and always keep us coming back.

fisrt class

These soft benefits come in the form of First-Class upgrades, complementary luggage allowances, priority boarding privileges, free access to their VIP lounge, or maybe even a chance to fly the plane! Okay, so they aren’t exactly letting us fly the plane…yet, but you get my point.

I mean think about it–what keeps you engaged with your preferred airline carrier or hotel chain of choice? Great prices, sure, but what else? It’s the soft benefits! We are always encouraging our clients to

incorporate these soft benefits into their channel incentive programs, and the strategy is continuing to pay gigantic dividends.

So what are some examples of these benefits as they pertain to channel incentives? Let’s take a look at a few that can have a huge perceived value to your potential program participants:

  • Platinum Customer Service
  • Invitation to a Leadership Roundtable
  • Participation in Beta product builds & testing
  • Partner locator privileges
  • Hotline to the CEO or CTO
  • Penthouse Upgrade at a Partner Conference
  • Dinner with the CEO
  • Priority-status for low availability Rewards like a Rolling Stones concert in London!

fine diningBy integrating soft benefits into your channel incentive program you can distinguish your business from the competition and deliver a personal touch that leads to deeper, stronger relationships with your partners. Not all soft benefits are published or explicit, but even these can still act as qualifiers for which partner deserves the reward. One way to ensure this is to create Partner Tiers (Platinum, Gold, Silver) for your program, which can help you easily determine which partners qualify for which soft benefits. Regardless of the method, it’s important to have a system in place that selects the partners who especially deserve the high-value rewards. By establishing this system as a prime component of your channel incentive program, you will be able to acknowledge these exceptional partners with minimum hassle.

 

Here is a good tool or checklist to compare your current soft benefits:

Enter your name and email address to download Move the Channel Guide and RIMES Chart

Name: Email:

Channel Conduit of the Week: The Altruism of Sharing: It’s “like” a Pat on the Back

  • Small gestures that make big impacts on channel behavior
  • Commonsense reminders that make the difference b/t you and your competition
  • Elements that should be considered in a Channel Incentive Programs

Pat on the backWhy do we “Share” ideas, video, blogs, articles, and press releases with our network? Usually, when we press the “Share” button on any of our social media sites, its because we’ve come across information that we think might be valuable to our network. But that’s not all. It also acts as a digital “Pat on the Back” to the original poster. So in this sense, “sharing” an item is doubly altruistic, and this is one of the most important components of these social networks. Pat on the BackWhile past studies have shown that the most effective kind of recognition is public recognition, we still have yet to see substantial research regarding the impact of Social Network recognition. But whether or not we have the data to back it up, I think we can all agree that “sharing” information is becoming an essential part of the way we do business online.

If you are a channel account manager and you see that your channel partner is in the news or has recently disseminated a press release, why not give it a tweet linking to the article or that person’s twitter account? Or if mange the entire channel marketing program and have access to your companies LinkedIn Company Page, give it a share & a tweet!

But the power of sharing can go even further. Are you rewarding or incentivizing when you partner tweets about you and your company? You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to track what people are saying about you on LinkedIn and Twitter. So, go ahead and retweet, share, or better yet, include these altruistic gestures in your next Channel Incentive Program.

Happy Sharing!

 

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