The most frequently asked question I hear from vendors is:
What do I need to do to be successful in the channel?
First, some background on what has shaped my perspective. I spent eight years at CDW, with exposure to channel programs from vendors of all sizes. I then started 3Eye, where our focus is on vendors who fall into one of these two categories:
1. “Emerging” – what I define as new or relatively new to selling through indirect channels
2. “Mid-market” – what I define as less than ~$50M in annual channel revenue.
Disclaimer: I’m not going to go into detail on the pros and cons of selling through the channel in this post, rather I’m just going to focus on the characteristics demonstrated by successful emerging and mid-market vendors. For now, if you’re interested in a brief read on the pros and cons of the channel, check out this write-up and stay tuned to this blog a future posting on the topic.
Whether you are selling hardware, software, or cloud services, you need a critical mass of customers who have already bought your product. You’ll need some customers to go on record stating that your product helped them achieve a better business outcome. Before you engage with the channel, you’ll also need a well-defined sales process that is clear and straightforward….and you must be able to translate it into something your channel can easily digest and repeat.
According to CompTIA, “Estimates suggest that 65-75% of IT products and services sold to businesses in the United States are delivered through or influenced by the indirect channel…Channel-influenced sales then equate to $350-400 billion of IT product and service sales in the United States.”
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼If you focus on the customer experience, many customers prefer to purchase through a channel partner. There is often less friction for your customers to buy through a channel partner, perhaps due to contracts, supplier consolidation, the difficulty of new vendor setup, pricing, or relationships. The channel helps you meet your customers where they are.
With that said, channel partners are not market makers. They are best viewed as demand amplifiers. You have to be able to generate demand that your channel partners can fulfill. Channel partners want to work with established technologies that have defined markets. Many vendors think they don’t need to market through partners, but they are mistaken. You’re going to have to invest in through-partner marketing and demand gen activities. Which leads nicely to my next point…
Like any go-to-market, selling through the channel takes time and money. Signing up resellers is the easy part (and signing up resellers is no small feat). Activating those resellers takes time, money, and a focused strategy. In addition to margin for your channel, you’ll need to invest in programs, to-partner and through-partner marketing, content development, and staffing. If you want to check out our approach, here’s a page that shows how we funnel programs to our partner community.
This should be obvious. However, there are a lot of ambitious sales and business development execs who try to build their own partner networks without executive buy-in. Your executive leadership needs to be aligned with your channel strategy, plain and simple.
Companies that are serious about succeeding in the channel take the time to get their sales compensation plan aligned to a pro-channel model. This is often referred to as “comp neutral” when your sales rep is paid the same commission no matter which channel the deal is sold through. Many channel leaders even create a “channel uplift” where their sales force is paid a higher commission for partner sales.
Some companies transition to a 100% channel model, where all sales flow through their partner network. The bottom line: if you compensate your sales reps more for deals they take direct, it will add a lot of friction to your channel engagement, and often create conflict between your channel and your direct sellers. Your channel partners have a long memory – the perception that you compete with them is a very tough one to overcome. Take the time to plan your sales compensation model now, with the channel in mind.
Just like the 50/50 raffle at the Friday night ballgame, you must be present to win. You have to engage with your partner network. Capturing mindshare is an ongoing battle. Like Woody Allen said, 80% of success is showing up. Of course, aligning with your channel partners’ strategies, bringing the right enablement tools and knowing how to engage across the organization all helps too. But it starts with being around.
These strategies have been used by channel leaders both large and small to grow their business. Channel success, while not easy, is not a mystery – embracing these concepts will increase your probability of success.
I hope you found some helpful advice and/or inspiration! I’ll be back with another post soon.
CompTIA. (2016, October). 5th Annual State of the Channel. Retrieved from CompTIA: https://www.comptia.org/resources/5th-annual-state-of-the-channel
When I was asked to write “Why 3Eye?” I really had to think and then collect my thoughts. Not because there wasn’t enough to say, but because there are SO many reasons why I love to work here and why I think others should want to work here too. How do I get all those things down and make it into one cohesive piece for people to read? Well…. I narrowed it down to my top 3.
#1 – Culture
When you think of what you want to find in a new job, culture may not be the first thing on your mind but in truth it can make or break your experience at a company. Culture is defined as the sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. The culture makes the company. The culture at 3Eye is unlike any that I have been a part of in my working life history. It is a culture built on hard work, caring about one another, and fun. It is unique, it is special, and it is something that we pride ourselves on and work to preserve with each passing day.
How do we do this? Well, we focus on teamwork, Team Fun, and family. The teamwork comes from collaboration between all departments and transparent and timely feedback in all situations. The Team Fun comes from activities and potlucks that are planned by E2, AKA myself and my awesome co-chair, Frosty. Potlucks take place in our cafeteria and are often themed with the time of year or national holidays. They are known for way too much food and maybe a game or two. The activities have been things like trivia night, bowling, and visiting local attractions, such as the bird sanctuary. And then we have family; family may be mentioned last here but it doesn’t come last to anyone at 3Eye. We believe that there should be a balance between work and family. Family is important and should be treated as such. 3Eye is a place that is excited about your child’s soccer game, your significant other’s promotion ceremony, and even your dog’s visit to the vet…and we don’t want you to miss those things. You don’t find that outlook everywhere.
#2 – Industry
3Eye is a value-added distributor of mobility and cloud solutions. Confused? I was too at first. What does that even mean? Mobility is the quality of being mobile or moving around. We don’t sell the computer, tablet, or phone that you or your company uses but we do sell all the other parts that make it awesome. Hardware to mount and protect it, antennas to enhance the connection, software to keep it connected and programs to keep your information safe. What good is any of that equipment nowadays if you can’t move around with it? One of the things you can guarantee with technology is that it is ALWAYS changing. So why not work in an industry that is always working with the next best thing? It is never dull, it is growing rapidly, and there is always something new and exciting around the corner.
#3 – Growth
3Eye is growing, rapidly year over year. You should work here because you would be joining a company that is still small but does BIG things. There is a chance for upward mobility and the ability to try new things. We focus on not just the job, but career development. We want to train you to do your job the very best that you can and if you set your sites on another job here we want to help you attain that too. We see your success as our success and your happiness as ours. Our team is our most valued asset and we strive to have our actions show that.
I really could keep going, and if you decide to apply for one of our openings now or in the future I would be glad to share even more with you. You should go to our careers page and check out the positions we have open right now. We would love to hear from you!
This week marks the final week of our internship program. As this chapter comes to a close, our ERP Administrator Brian Turk looks back on everything they accomplished and what’s next for them.
Brian Turk – Let’s start off with some introductions. I’m Brian Turk, the ERP Administrator at 3Eye. I am a passionate Detroit Tigers fan. I had the pleasure of guiding Alex and George on their projects over the last 5 months as part of their IT Internship.
Alex Boehmer – My name is Alex Boehmer. I am a senior at Olivet High School and I also attend the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center. My favorite subject in school is math. Outside of school and work, my favorite hobbies are golfing and playing video games.
George Almeida – My name is George Frangipani Almeida. That middle name is Italian and the last name is Brazilian (I knew you were wondering). I go to Lakeview High School and The Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center as well. Math and science are definitely my favorite subjects in school. My favorite hobby is tinkering with computers. I have three computers at home that I have built myself. I also really love to play soccer and golf.
From left to right: Brian, George and Alex.
BT – How did you both hear about 3Eye and what made you want to intern here?
AB – I heard about 3Eye through my counselor at the Math and Science Center. I was interested in working here not only for job experience, but to learn what the IT employees do at a company like this and how it might apply to other jobs I will have in the future.
GA – I also learned about 3Eye from my guidance counselor at BCAMSC. I took AP Computer Science first semester which telepathically told my counselor that I love messing with computers. I was asked if I wanted to intern here and I have always wondered what it’s like to work at a small, emerging, technology company and so I immediately said, “Duh!”.
BT – What are some things you learned during your internship?
AB – I learned several things while working for 3Eye, but the best part for me was learning a lot about coding and the significance of coding in the business.
BT – You worked on a lot of projects over the last few months, and you both did really great work. What’s the accomplishment you are most proud of?
AB – I created several working programs that worked together to record steps that the employees take during a day. These programs allow employees on the 3Eye Wellness Committee to then approve the records so that the employees can earn points in the business.
BT – Those are great choices. So after all this time at 3Eye, what is something that none of us here know about you?
AB – I took piano lessons for ten years, and I still like to play.
GA – When I was in middle school, I used to be killer playing the saxophone. I loved playing improv and jamming out on some blues scales. I really want to pick it back up and start playing like I used to.
BT – Well our company band is always looking for new members….other than your top-secret music careers, what are you going to do next?
AB – I am going to Valparaiso University where I will major in Civil Engineering. After that, I would like to be a structural engineer, testing on buildings to determine whether a structure can be built and be safe.
GA – I plan on attending MSU this fall, working on a major in Computer Science and a minor in Business. I’m hoping that with a minor in Business, I will be able to pack up and move to California with one bright idea and start my own company.
BT – Very exciting! Do you have any parting thoughts about 3Eye for other students looking for an internship or a job in the future?
AB – I would recommend 3Eye for other students looking for an internship because the employees at 3Eye are respectful and kind. My advice would be – don’t be afraid to ask questions, or try something new. The overall environment at 3Eye is relaxed and open and everyone is there to help. Plus, The potluck parties are always fun!
GA – I would tell a student to come intern here because it gives you real life working experience in a great place. Everyone that I got to know was so nice to me. I don’t know if it was the putting set or the weight room, but everyone always seems so happy to go to work every day. I loved the atmosphere of collaboration and the general “good vibes” feeling I felt when I walked into the office. And if you wear a Tigers hat, you will quickly get on Brian’s good side.
BT – Congratulations on graduating and thank you both for all your hard work this year, it’s been fun!
If you are interested in an internship or other positions at 3Eye, visit our Careers page. If nothing is posted, you can send us a note separately by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and expressing your interest. We are always looking to add to our team.