Working with Channel Partners is a great way to sell mature technology, especially SaaS software. However, deciding whether a channel sales strategy is right when you have new or emerging technology such as IoT, AI, drones or even privacy tech, takes a bit more consideration and effort.
Considerations for your channel sales strategy
When you have a new technology, you are most often going to be selling to early adopters rather than late adopters or laggards. Channel sales is quite effective when selling proven technology to late adopters who are looking to compare features, read product reviews, and read your deep content around the technology. It’s a great option when the technology is mature enough that the buyers are already knowledgeable and are proactively doing their comparison shopping. When you have a new technology, the feature set is still evolving, the capabilities and benefits may not be well known, it may be too soon for product reviews, and information on use cases are hard to find. Does that mean you should avoid the channel for new technology sales? Not necessarily, but there are some things that you will need to keep in mind help your channel partners be successful.
Who are the right channel partners for new technology?
Not all channel partners are experts in new technology or have the infrastructure to sell it. Look for channel partners who are specialized, either in the market segment you want to go after first, or who have deep experience in new technology sales. As Geoffrey Moore discusses in his seminal business book, Crossing the Chasm, the best way to gain adoption of your new product is by identifying specific industry or market segments and then dominating them. You can’t sell to everyone early on, so you want to find segments who are inclined to be looking for new technology. For instance, if you have drone technology, Precision Agriculture might be a market segment that’s going to be an early adopter, as they look for more sustainable, cost effective ways to meet supply chain demands. In that case, you’d want to look for channel partners with experience in Precision Agriculture.
You can also look for channel partners who have experience in new technology. It doesn’t have to be the same type of technology as yours, but they need an understanding of what early adopters want and how to support them when you don’t have a ton of references, reviews, or deep content built up. For instance, there are some cases where selling new technology doesn’t translate well to a market segment. For example, IoT may require network connectivity, but it’s a complex multi-factor sale (hardware, software, connectivity, platform, and application), so pure device channel resellers may not have the experience across all the aspects of IoT that are required to sell it or drive the complex sales process across multiple buyer personas. In the case of IoT, channel partners with experience in complex sales with multiple decision makers may be a better fit.
What can you do to support your channel partners?
As we mentioned, it’s going to be some time before you have a big pile of case studies, reviews, or references, so your partner needs to adapt to that. In this case, you may need to provide a steady stream of new materials, use cases examples, video, or other educational and informative content to support them. This is a true partnership. You need to keep the information flowing so you can learn from the market – that’s going to be vital to your continued product roadmap development. Keep engaged and be ready with sales engineering. You will need frequent interaction with your partner. Meet with them regularly for feedback and to keep them update date with new product developments. This will also enable you to confirm early on if this is the right partner for the market and technology.
Invest in marketing and sales support or sales engineering resources to help make your partnership successful. Do joint events and joint marketing. Invest in some “push” marketing to help drive leads to them. Help with them social media.
In summary, with careful selection and a strong partnership, you can find the right channel partner to help you enter the market with your new technology. Reach out if we can help you with your channel sales and marketing planning!