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The Cloud Services & SaaS Offering Land Grab

Enable channel partners on their terms, not yours

We are in the midst of the Cloud services & SaaS offering land grab.  As an ISV selling cloud services or SaaS offerings your objective is to get more partners selling more of your products faster than ever.  It’s up to you to ramp up new partners and make them effective right out of the gate.  So you have to figure out the best way to do this, especially in these rather chaotic times for resellers.

But there is a challenge. You see, resellers and VARs have always had a wide variety of products in their “bags”.  Yet with the channel explosion of SaaS solutions and Cloud services, the speed of new product introductions and product evolution has dramatically increased.  This means that channel partners are inundated with a constant flow of changing information from ISVs. Sales decks, product data sheets, webinars and price sheets are examples of items constantly changing.  Unfortunately most of these materials end up in  giant scrap piles that never make their way to the account executives.

As an ISV you tend to be stuck in the ways of the past when it comes to channel enablement and training.  You throw together every bit of information you know about your product and then toss that one hour webinar and zip file of tools over to your channel partner.  You hope that the receiver at the channel partner will take that information your provided and get it out to the sales team.  You also hope that the sales team reads all that material you send to them and somehow magically come up with new sales.  Unfortunately this old school enablement “on your terms” isn’t going to get you anywhere fast.

Partner’s account executives want you to help them, but on their terms.  They don’t really care about the theory behind your product and the feature lists and dozens of documents you have for them.  What they need in today’s business climate is a very different type of enablement that is supported by these materials.  The account executive wants hands on experience brought up along side of them as a selling companion. They don’t want to tackle a mountain of materials and have to figure out how to piece the story together themselves.

Recently I wanted to learn more about the way that channel partner account execs look at enablement.  I talked with partner account executives across a wide variety of resellers.  From the discussions I  compiled the top 5 ways the account executive want ISVs to think about when creating their enablement programs.

5. Help me identify opportunities in my patch by giving me explicit instructions on who to target.

Simply put, tell the account execs exactly who to cherry pick in their territory to find some easy wins.  Create a checklist of the information that will help the account exec pull the right contact list.  Better yet, you can craft a simple campaign in a box that helps each account exec to target a set of customers, provide that first contact intro letter and then recommend a pointer to a recent article or 3rd party validation of the business problem.  It’s all about finding the right people and getting the conversation started.  By providing this kit as part of your enablement program you can help the account exec get started that same day!

4. Provide me with background information on the business problem you are trying to solve.

This is your bread and butter, yet it usually doesn’t get put into consumable information for the partner channel.  It’s hidden inside your training presentation on slide 35 or somewhere in hour number two of your online “course”.  The suggestion from the account execs is that you need to pull together a simple description of the problem, information on how companies are solving that problem, and why your ISV should be the one considered for the solution.   This should be no more than a 10 minute exercise for the account exec to go through, understand and add to their everyday thought process.

3. Don’t assume that every account executive is junior, doesn’t know your domain or wants you to train them on solution selling.

Stop forcing account execs to sit through hour long sessions that tell them what they already know.  Give them a way to quickly skim your guidance so that they can pick up at the point where there find it most useful.  Long webinars and structured course-ware should be things of the past.  Start thinking in terms of playbooks, quick start guides and workbooks that are available at any time the account executive wants them.

2. Show me how to best present your solution and give me the tools to back up the claims.

Just like a personal trainer shows their client exactly what to do to get results, you should do the same for your channel partner account executives.  Break down the selling of your solution into easily consumable pieces and show them how to be effective.  Start with the basics and focus the selling on the problem you outlined.  Don’t worry about all those functions and features.  As long as the account exec can build a case around your solution for solving the problem you win.

1.  Give me examples of how others have solved the problem.

We all know that references and case studies help a lot during a sales process.  This gets even more important with your channel partners. They need examples that help them explain the solution in terms that the customer will understand.  Even if you don’t have approved case studies or customer testimonials, outfit your channel partners with examples and stories based upon types of customers or challenges that customers face.

It all comes down to getting much more personal with the account executives of your channel partners.  You have the sales tools, you have the product content.  Now you need to work to make all of that useful in context of your channel selling team.

[Image credit: http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=6856]

More Stories By David Abramowski

David Abramowski is a technologist turned product leader. David was a co-founder of Morph Labs, one of the first Platform as a Service plays on AWS. He was the GM for Parallels Virtuozzo containers, enterprise business, and most recently he is the leader of the product marketing team for the IT Operations Management solutions at the hyper growth SaaS company, ServiceNow.

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