On December 10th, Zift teamed up with the experts at Vistex & AchieveUnite to talk about what the channel is going to look like in 2021. Why?

Because at no time has it been more challenging – or more important – to prove the value of the channel in driving revenue growth. While 2020 was the season of change, 2021 is the year where successful channel leaders need bold, new moves to reach buyers through skeptical partners.

We tackled topics such as:

    • What role will the Channel influencer play?
    • Why map and personalize the Partner Journey?
    • What am I missing with funnel and pipeline management?
    • Which programs are at risk of not surviving?
    • What is my untapped competitive advantage?

As it turns out, one hour wasn’t nearly enough time to answer all the questions in the (very busy!) chat. So, we’ve gathered them here. Without further ado, the answers to your burning questions, wrapped neatly with a bow. Happy Holidays.

Proving Your Channel’s Value in 2021 – Your Questions Answered

Can you talk more about incentives for multi-attribution models/teams?

Understanding the buyers journey and touch-points of a sale will help a channel chief put an incentive plan together that takes multi-attribution into account. Combining MDF, Rebates, Rewards and Deal/Opportunity Registration will create a solid incentive plan to help incentivize the proper individuals/company throughout the selling cycle. MDF and Rebates are generally table-stakes for incentive programs, but if you layer in Rewards to target the individuals at your partner organizations and Deal/Opportunity Registration at the company you have a way to layer in touch-points to incentivize throughout the sales cycle.


What do you see as the biggest incentives for cloud based partner programs?

When setting up a partner program specific to cloud based programs, MDF is the first priority. It’s a competitive market for cloud based tools and helping partners focus on marketing activities and build their pipeline is important as this market grows. Rebates, Deal/Opportunity Registration and Rewards will help, but getting in front of the sale and providing MDF will aid the partners in the initial stages of growing their businesses and selling your cloud based solutions.


How can we help partners be successful selling remotely?

The key is to help partners make their digital transformation so that they can use remote tactics like social selling, webinars and multi-touch marketing programs that can nurture leads. Sellers will rely more on marketing tactics today as they are not in front of the customer, so helping them in any way to communicate value to the customer using digital tactics is the way to go.


How do you work with partners who don’t know how to measure data for marketing, don’t want to share information or are just plain not interested?

Actually it’s the data that will convince them to join in your marketing efforts. Start by showing them how more and more buyers (up to 67% per Forrester) are using the web to find solutions. Next show them what they can do to attract those buyers and convert them into leads. Once you have done that, use the same approach to describe how much more expensive it would be to find that lead by just calling prospects — it would be hit or miss. Once they are convinced you can start measuring marketing productivity, e.g. for every $1 you invest in marketing, you can grow to $X pipeline. That will get their attention!


How do we best encourage our partners to leverage our educational pieces / trainings, when we’re not their only vendor? It’s common that they have ~4 vendors and they tend to pick and choose only a handful of the trainings.

Partners often complain that supplier efforts to train them are typically one-and-done. They also want to leverage training with their customers, for example touting their certifications. So I would combine the two to create an approach that offers partners some form of continuous learning that they can be certified once they complete. Make sure you answer “what’s in it for them” when you invite them into the training, showing them how other partners have gone on to grow their business. Nothing will convince a partner more than another partner reference who has succeeded.


Lots of discussion around leads, but what about pipeline marketing? Supporting in closing leads and contributing towards conversion.

I agree with your question, specifically marketing’s role in advancing leads in the bottom stages of the funnel. There are several places where marketing strategies can help you do better here, for example this is one areas where Channel Data Management can help. For example on the ZiftONE platform we’re using data to help make suggestions to partners who have deals that may be “stuck” in the funnel. By analyzing what other partners are doing to move similar opportunities, we can make suggestions on what next steps to take, e.g. invite the prospect to a webinar, suggest a social media blog, etc.


How would you approach SaaS products with traditional partners who have no-to very little competence in this area?

Similar to how to incentivize cloud based programs, beginning with MDF will help partners who have little experience in this area. Creating an individualized business plan with the partner(s) that focuses on marketing activities, training and certifications, etc. will help them be able to target the areas you believe, as a vendor, are important to bring a partner up to speed in SaaS products. Ensure the partners have the resources and understand if they are able to dedicate time to this new line of business. Providing them with the content and tools to be able to execute the plans will go a long way to help smaller partners who may not have in-house marketing support.


When you talk influencers in the industrial ecosystem, do you mean a third party that echoes your message, or influencers within your partners?

YES. It could be lead generation / referral partners, it could be third parties who influence during the sales cycle, and/or it could be individuals or companies who wrap services around your solutions and thereby influence your solution…think the Salesforce model.


Have you defined what the journey could look like for different LOBs and influencers?

Yes, as well as where they fit in each of the customer journeys and the touch points. Often the vendors leave out these influencers and partners and we don’t maximize the opportunity to leverage those partners through the journeys, especially as we get into line of business buyers.


Thoughts on expanding the Alliance approach into the rest of the partner ecosystem?

Yes, That is key!! Agree.