The Most Important Management Tip for Today's Reseller Channel: Get Back Out There
Managing a reseller channel is different than it was in 2019. One of the biggest changes is the profile of your partners. The COVID-19 pandemic convinced some of your partners to close their doors or pass their businesses on to the next generation. The demographic of your partners may have shifted from older resellers with an above-and-beyond work ethic to a younger, more tech-savvy channel. The new face of the reseller channel will require new strategies to recruit, support, and motivate them, but there’s one thing that shouldn’t change: Meet in person.
In the first few years of the 2020s, virtual meetings were necessary. Also, people tended to replace face-to-face Zoom or Teams calls with a quick phone chat or a text. The lack of in-person interactions has created a distance between channel account managers and partners, and if you aren’t able to overcome that hurdle, your channel’s performance could suffer.
The Benefits of Recruiting Face to Face
Recruiting from behind a keyboard may have seemed like a more productive way to work. Instead of spending your time on the road or in airports, you could make more contacts and check more boxes. However, once you have a face-to-face meeting, you often develop a different impression of a potential partner. You’ll have a better sense of what you can expect from working with that person and whether the partnership could be successful.
You can also confirm that prospective partners are representing themselves accurately. You want a reseller channel of established, qualified partners. Visiting their offices, meeting their teams, and watching them interact with other people firsthand will tell you more than a virtual meeting. Regardless, you need to do due diligence. It’s smart to work with people you’ve known for a while or that come highly recommended by colleagues. You’ll want to invest time in partnerships where you’re confident there is a good chance of success.
Remember, though, that when you’re vetting potential partners, they’re also evaluating your business, your products – and you. The need to sell your solutions to a partner to convince them to sell them to your market isn’t anything new. But you need to adapt your approach to today’s channel. Stress how your business is different. For example, if you can get products to market quickly, overcome supply chain or labor challenges to fill orders, and provide excellent customer support, let them know.
Also, make sure they understand the benefits of selling your product and how it can help them grow their businesses. As your partners diversify to meet all of their market’s needs, for example, digital signage, point of sale, and physical security solutions, they won’t be as focused on selling one solution. Give them good reasons to put their time and resources into selling your solutions.
Resellers that make the commitment to working with your business will also want to know that you are different from other channel managers. They’re looking for partners who are genuine, who have passion for their work, and who care. Be prepared to listen to potential partners to understand their challenges and work through ways to overcome them. And these are discussions that are best-handled face to face.
Setting the Stage for Partner Success
Another thing to keep in mind with today’s reseller channel is that many of your partners are struggling. They’re facing economic pressures and a lack of skilled IT talent. Additionally, they have new competition, some from vendors or distributors who sell directly to end users. Five or ten years ago, channel players knew their lanes, but now the lines are less clear. They need your help to find strategies that work.
Also, consider sweetening deals with higher margins, discounts or rebates, discounted demo units, and deal registration, anything that can help them with a better bottom line. One-to-one meetings can help you understand your partners’ needs and tailor a plan that can help them overcome barriers. If the opportunity to meet is limited, organizations like the Retail Solutions Provider Association (RSPA) can help. Their in-person events give you opportunities to connect with partners of all sizes so you can take a pulse check on how they’re doing.
Advice for a Channel Program that Delivers
The most important advice for managing a channel in 2023 is to be flexible. You’ll still need to provide your partners with information, training, and tools, technical and sales support, and encouragement and recognition. A channel manager’s job will look different than it did a few years ago, but you can take the best of what traditionally made your channel successful and blend it with a strategy that resonates with today’s channel.
And remember, get out there, find the right partners with a focus on your niche, and meet with them face to face.
About The Author
Bill Nulf is the VP of Channel Sales for MicroTouch. Nulf has more than 25 years of experience leading sales, marketing and business development initiatives for business and industrial hardware technology and consumables solutions. Since joining MicroTouch in February 2021, Bill has constructed a channel team with industry-experienced members. Before MicroTouch, Bill held senior leadership roles at Henkel Electronics, Christie Digital, and Elo, where he built channel sales and marketing programs. Bill also has extensive experience in securing large OEM and end-user programs.