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Tuning in to Channel Partners’ WIIFM

It’s a cardinal rule of sales and marketing to make sure your audience, customers, prospects, and those who may become prospects know WIIFM – “What’s In It For Me.” And it’s the same for channel partners: if they aren’t crystal clear about exactly what they get out of selling your product, they won’t bother. Keep in mind that this is different and ultimately less important than your product’s value proposition, at least when it comes to dealing with the channel.

Partners certainly need to understand how to sell your product, but if all you talk about is your product and not your program, it’s not the right way to bring the best partners on board. To get those top performing partners, you need to be very clear on the “what’s in it for me” piece: how the program works and how the incentives are built.

Vendors are wondering, “Is this product going to help me land more business?“

“And are you, as the vendor, going to help me land more business? Is working with you going to help me be competitive in my marketplace? Do end-users like your product? Do all of these things align with your partners’ cost of customer acquisition?”

If your partner’s cost of customer acquisition goes down because of you, if your product is easier to sell, then you’re easier to work with. They don’t have to add administrative staff.

A lot of the things that are “WIIFMs” are really plain and simple and include things like, “Here’s our commission structure.” These are the overt foundational concepts that go right in the Powerpoint.

Then there’s the behind-the-scenes “WIIFMs.” You want the partner to know you’re an easy vendor to work with, that you’re here to support them, and that you have very simplified processes.

If I have to sell one cloud storage product over another cloud storage product, I’m going to sell the one offered by the company that allows me to easily get information, easily quote and easily setup.

Partners want to work with the vendor that’s easy to work with before, during and after the sale.

Here’s an example: Not long ago, a colleague of mine partnered with a web analytics company to sell their application. Their application was priced by clicks, by page views. It was a very accurate pricing model and their systems were set up that you had to pre-buy clicks.

My colleague had hundreds of customers that he resold this to and when he would run out of clicks, everyone’s analytics would get turned off. He went back to the managers and voiced considerable concern. Their response? Well, he just needed to buy more clicks.

He replied, “I know I need to buy more clicks. Could you notify me that at the rate at I’m spending clicks and page views, that I’m probably going to run out by X date so that you’re not turning off the analytics for hundreds of my customers?”

“I’m sorry,” they’d say. “Our system doesn’t work that way. We’re using XYZ system…”

The issue that they couldn’t seem to see was that he couldn’t control his client’s page use – and of course he hoped they were going up so he could sell more. So he decided to inquire if they could bill him after the fact for the full amount, but again he was told that their system just didn’t work that way. This essentially forced him to hire somebody to sit there and dumbly mother over that system because whenever it turned off, it basically blinded all of his clients to their web analytics. And it didn’t just turn off the view – it turned the entire thing completely off, causing a loss of data.

Despite his go-getter attitude, his willingness to be flexible, and his numerous suggestions for improvement, he continuously heard, “Our system doesn’t work that way,” and so he finally just walked away from the partnership. Interestingly enough, the company doesn’t seem to exist now.

Being easy to work with also means not mucking up the works with counterproductive SPIF programs.

If you make money for your partner, that’s good. If you make money for your partner and doing so requires low energy, that’s really good. If, on top of these things, you’re also not complex to deal with, they’re going to sell your product every time. It’s pretty cut and dry.

There’s not a whole lot of rocket science here but people try to make it more complicated. If you’re constantly changing your pricing and spiffing your incentive, that makes it hard for every partner to deal with you.

Vendors generate a lot of noise in the channel in reaction to numbers not coming in as they thought. But those programs really only make it more complicated for partners to deal with you. “Well, wait a minute. I was just about to close this deal and you went out and published some end-of-quarter discount bullshit. You just threw a wrench into my sale cycle. What the hell did you do that for?”

Trying to fix things the last week of a quarter, from bad decisions that stemmed from two quarters ago, is a losing proposition. Read your data, take your lumps and make a new strategic decision – and learn from it. Otherwise, you’re just gaming your own metrics to tell you what you want them to tell you, and you haven’t really changed things fundamentally.

Sell partners only on the incentive, and they’ll come on board only for the incentive.

They’ll stop selling your product because of the unwritten, unspoken things and the hassle. It’s the ease of use of your program, the ease of use of your product and your ability to train and support partners. That’s what keeps them selling.

 

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About Stacy Desrosiers

Stacy Desrosiers is an accomplished channel expert with nearly 20 years success in engaging, enabling and marketing with VARs for technology companies. Her work with Channeltivity, stems from the belief that having a strong foundation will enable any organization to successfully manage and support their growing partner base. Through her years in the channel, she…