We’re Flying Blind! But not for Long!

Guest post by Craig Booth, Technology Sales Executive & Author

In 2004 I was driving through the Rocky Mountains when I hit fog so dense, I couldn’t see the road in front of me. Visibility was 2 feet at best, and my family and I were traveling down a mountain road at 55 Mph. I had never experienced such road blindness. Knowing there were cars in front and behind me on such a curvy road created a major dilemma. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t speed forward. I had no idea where I was going. As I slowed to a crawl, I lost all sense of direction, speed, and spatial awareness. There was no visual data, I was driving blind in distress. It was fifteen minutes of white knuckle driving before the fog cleared. The lack of visibility created several accidents.

Anyone that’s driven in thick fog can relate to the impacts of poor visibility on decision making. In every walk of life, “The greater the understanding of our environment, the better we’re able to make impactful decisions.” The same principle holds true for Channel Sales. In today’s dynamic channel sales environment, visibility and channel analytics are more important than ever. Mature channel organizations collect lots of data including Point of Sale (POS), Compliance, Forecast, Survey and CRM data to determine the health and performance of their Partners. Even with robust channel analytics, the average channel leader is still flying blind! What do I mean? Today’s post discusses the current state of channel analytics and introduces Strategy Execution Visibility as the next evolution for partner ecosystem analytics. I will make the case for why this is so important for improving partner sales performance. I also want to highlight Delta Channel Servicesand share some exciting things we’re doing together to address the visibility gap with partner strategy execution. I am working with Delta Channel Services on an application (TapApp) to capture a complete view of the channel sales process, including both traditional partner performance and strategy execution metrics. Before discussing solutions, let’s review the current channel analytics model.

I. CURRENT ANALYTICS MODEL: Channel Analytics for most channel organizations are categorized as either:

  1. Sales Metrics—Historical Point of Sale and Forecast Revenue Performance.
  2. Program Performance—Program Compliance.

While these are important metrics to capture and analyze, traditional sales and program performance metrics provide a snapshot of past results and potential sales. The problem is they provide little insight into how the results are achieved. The question “Why?” is almost never answered with traditional channel analytics. For example, partner sales performance metrics are provided to most channel leaders. The metrics usually focus on analysis of a partner’s sales performance by year, quarter, and product line. In the case of partner sales data, channel leaders identify positive and negative sales trends by product line, but are left to guess at the cause of the trend. Without context, the data itself can be misleading. To illustrate further, a positive sales trend assumes the partner is performing well. The assumption is that the partner has generated the demand. However, if the partner is only fulfilling demand created by the developer, or if sales were based on a one-time event that skewed the analysis, then the data and the metrics are misleading. Another challenge with traditional channel analytics is data capture. Channel analytics often include data from both point-of-sale (POS) data and CRM systems that capture sales bookings and sales forecast data. Point-of-Sale provides a good history of sales performance, while forecasting helps determine future performance. These are both important sales and channel analytics, but these metrics are designed for opportunistic channel environments and fulfillment models. The challenge with opportunistic channel model metrics is they never answer “Why?”

II. ANSWERING “WHY?” More important than data and trending analysis is answering “Why?” Channel analytics must evolve from capturing opportunistic channel performance to capturing structured, real-time insight into a partner’s execution of your channel sales strategy. Capturing partner prospecting data, marketing, market development, sales play execution, and opportunity development metrics is key to answering how and why we are seeing a trend. Channel Force Inc. has recently partnered with Delta Channel Services to address the visibility gap for channels providing a life-cycle view of a partner’s performance. See illustration below.

III. STRATEGY EXECUTION METRICS: Modern channel analytics add measurement and accountability to your Target Account Planning Process. In today’s data driven channel, real-time analytics starts with capturing the Partner’s Sellers activity to create new opportunities. For channel leaders, capturing this data is an important step for measuring the partner progress to pipeline new business. Capturing Partner Seller Strategy Execution helps create accountability. The below illustration outlines the data to be collected and the types of reports that can be generated. 

Reports can be segmented by Account Manager, Channel Manager, Partner, Solution, etc. Developing comprehensive dashboards provides the foundation for accountability. Each party benefits from visibility of the progress toward the plan.

  • Partners—Benefit from sales efficiencies, capturing the progress of their account managers and sales engineers toward generating high-margin net new sales.
  • Channel Managers—Benefit from a structured process with measurement and accountability to evolve the partner community from fulfillment to sales development. Capturing real-time prospecting activities finally answers the question “Why?”
  • Sales—Benefits from a structured coverage model designed to generate new sales. 

Think about the power a life-cycle view gives leadership (demand creation to sales close). You would not only answer the age-old question “Is the partner creating sales value?” You would also answer “Who are my best partner sellers?” Capturing Strategy Execution allows you to stack rank Partner Sellers to determine who your champions are and who needs more attention. Through evolving Partner Performance Metrics from Program Compliance, Point of Sale, and Forecast Data to Strategy Execution and Partner Seller Activity, we can create a true picture of the strength of the partner and the effectiveness of our solutions channel sales strategy. By measuring Strategy Execution, there’s now a way to see through the metaphorical fog, capturing POS/ CRM andPartner Strategy Execution data giving channels a complete past, current, and future view displayed on a single Partner Manager dashboard. 

IV. CLOSE & OFFER: Whether driving blind speeding down a mountain or analyzing channel metrics, any lack of visibility impairs our judgement effecting our decision making. For Sales and Channel Sales Leaders, capturing, displaying and analyzing the right data can make all the difference for developing highly effective partner ecosystems. Life-cycle Analytics is really an exciting new evolution in channel sales metrics and Delta Channel Services is leading the way in this new world of ecosystem data capture and reporting. If you would like to learn more, schedule a demo, or trial Partner Manager Dashboard and the TapApp (Target Account Planning) reach out to me at craig@channel-force.com or John Miller at johnmiller@deltachannels.com 

To learn more about Delta Channel Services please visit www.deltachannels.com. I am excited to announce a partnership with Delta Channel Services! They are a phenomenal compliment to Channel Force Inc’s Training and Consulting Services.

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