Top 7 Predictions for Channel Sales in 2016
As experts in channel programs with a base of more than a
million partner users, our organization, SaaS Partner Relationship Management
(PRM) technology leader Impartner is stepping up to the bar with our top seven
predictions on the factors that will influence channel leaders in 2016.
With Accenture estimating 80 percent of tech revenue already
occurring through indirect channels (and increasing), here are our top seven
predictions that will help channel chiefs succeed in 2016.
1. Channel Executives Become Part of the Passion for
The realization has dawned that Customer Experience (CX) is
imperative No. 1 in business. You simply have to get it right. Spending
marketing dollars to drive customers to a poor customer experience only helps
make sure they won't be back. Your partners know this as well as you do. If you
don't give your partners a good experience, your competitors likely will. There
are so many product choices and so many vendors for a reseller to choose from,
partner loyalty simply won't cover for a bad CX.
Leading analyst firms point to customer experience as the
new competitive battlefield, referring to CX as the most impactful area of
innovation available to businesses today, and urging vendors to make customer
experience and personalization priorities.
When you sell through the channel, the front door of your
partners' experience is the Partner Portal, and it is imperative they can find
what they need (and like what they see) when they arrive. You only get one shot
to get it right.
2. CMOs (Finally) Get Their Way
It's no secret that there has been a tug-of-war going on
between CMOs and CIOs in fast moving, digitally oriented companies. CMOs have a
huge need for rapid fire, metric driven IT that can embrace new marketing
technologies and turn them into revenue before they move into mainstream
adoption and hence lose their potential competitive edge. CIOs, on the other
hand, are driven by a contrasting need to run a reliable, secure network with
Gartner admonishes IT teams to be bi-modal and strike a
balance between the two extremes. But Impartner predicts the tussle will
end with CMOs victorious. By the end of 2016, headlines from analysts and
editors will proclaim that the balance of power has shifted to CMOs, and that
customer acquisition rules over stability within fast growing companies.
We predict CMOs will be comfortable with this. Modern
marketing needs to move in gigahertz, while IT tends to move in
megahertz. Interestingly, however, CMOs would likely prefer having a
strong IT colleague at their side, helping them quickly evaluate and "test
drive" new digital marketing tools and to provide insights on scalability,
security, reliability, etc.
3. Game on for Gamification
Gamification has been nibbling at the edges of the business
world for a few years and has leapt into the center of the customer
experience when it comes to engagement and loyalty. You don't need jumping
frogs to have a successful, interactive, engaging Partner Portal, but you do
need to make sure the experience you create for your customers is relevant and
contemporary, or they will question how well your products themselves are
Just as importantly, games are serious business when it
comes to sales. Leading analyst firms like Forrester point to the
programmatic use of gamification as key in accelerating targeted selling
behaviors. Your company can't afford to let others lead when it comes to
creating a compelling sales experience. No secret here - we predict
channel chiefs will gamify their interactions with partners in 2016.
4. Director of Onboarding Becomes the Hottest Job in
Getting partners to "click to accept" your program
Terms and Conditions is great and automating the process is key, but being able
to ramp them quickly to productivity and profitability is more important to
your success, and theirs. Making sure your organization has a focused, internal
champion who is 100 percent committed to bringing the best out of every partner
and not just bringing on more partners is critical to moving the needle. As
more companies turn to indirect channels to scale their revenue, the best
partners will choose vendors that give them the best chance of being successful
quickly. Companies who invest in processes, tools and the right people have the
best chance of moving ahead. If you haven't already, we predict you will hire
an onboarding specialist in 2016 (or at least make sure it is in someone's job
5. Big Data Comes to the Channel
The tools and the techniques used to manage sales teams
today are stellar: Sales Force Automation tools, Customer Relationship
Management tools, pipeline management and prediction tools, and more. Companies
sell solutions that will automatically scoop up your pipeline, feed it into a
Learning Machine, and spit out a prediction of what revenue you'll actually
realize from all the deals. And beyond tools, methodologies abound for running
pipeline calls etc. All of these capabilities exist for the direct channel. But
what about the 80 percent of revenue that comes from the indirect
In 2016, we predict that companies using their Partner
Portal only to push information out to their partner channel will be getting
only one-half the value they could. Ideally, the portal represents terrific
insight into how your individual partners, as well as your overall partner
channel, are performing.
We predict data analytics and data-driven business planning
with partners will land squarely on organizations "to do" lists in
2016. Data-driven quarterly business reviews will enact a dramatic
transformation in channel performance.
6. Vendors Will Solve the Problem of "Bad Marketing
In a recent webinar co-presented with Impartner, Forrester
Principal Analyst Tim Harmon pointed out how dramatically indirect channels
have moved into the spotlight. As the importance of the indirect channel
blossoms, vendors will begin to evaluate partners as much for their marketing
chops as their customer list.
Even with the adoption of TCMA tools (Through Channel
Marketing Automation) there is no guarantee the quality of marketing will scale
with the reach of the marketing. Forrester
refers to this as the problem of "‘bad marketing at scale' when channel
partners, left to their own devices, launch programs into the market without
the firm's branding - or they dilute, confuse, or...damage the brand."
We predict 2016 will be the year vendors awaken to the fact
that go-to-market strategies must include partners in order to adequately build
their business, and the capabilities of these partners will need to increase
along with the availability of marketing tools.
7. Channel Partners Will "Swipe Right" for the
In the era of PRHD (Partner Relationship Hyperactivity
Disorder), finding the right vendor can be a challenge for partners. They need
to know their investments in training, certification, and market building will
generate a short and long term ROI. Partnering with the wrong vendor can wipe a
Likewise, making it easy for companies to find a local
partner that complements that company's vertical and company size helps make
the strongest match that truly makes powerful connections and drives sales. We
predict a formalization of the vendor / partner dating process will emerge in
2016 to facilitate better connections between these two groups.
In all, if there were ever a time for channel chiefs to
buckle into their saddles, we believe 2016 is the year. In nearly every
interaction we are having with analysts and customers, we feel a groundswell of
momentum for selling through channels, and most especially for indirect channel
selling as a way to expand revenue more efficiently, particularly as it becomes
increasingly difficult to obtain top sales talent, especially in the IT space.
Indirect channel selling is the pedal that allows these organizations to scale.
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