ChannelVision Magazine May-June 2018

at your service: Xaas While the channel holds promising benefits for nearly all SaaS vendors, implementing a go-to-market channel strategy requires the right processes. Successful partner programs take time, planning and smart investment of company resources. Among the many items on the checklist, here are four key things SaaS vendors need to know before launching a partner strategy. 1. Customer-ready products Many SaaS companies today fre- quently release new versions of their software, providing benefits to both the customer and vendor alike. The customer regularly receives new features and func- tionality, while developers continually pro- duce better, more innovative solutions. However, beta software often yields headaches for channel partners. Miss- ing features, poor design or a confusing user experience causes support issues, and thus threatens customer retention. This scenario places the partner’s and SaaS vendor’s reputations at risk, po- tentially leading to decreased revenue. Nonetheless, perfection shouldn’t restrain vendors from engaging in partner programs. Strong processes for recruiting, enabling and incentiviz- ing partners will have a bigger impact on success than a “perfect” product. 2. Repeatable and scalable sales processes Nearly all successful partner pro- grams have documented, repeatable and scalable sales processes in place. Establishing these processes for third- party resellers requires several key steps, including: Define the customer purchase pro- cess: How do customers currently buy your solutions? How do they discover your products, and what steps do they take when purchasing them? Define the sales process: Do you have defined sales stages that take into account the customer purchase process? Define actions needed for advanc- ing or winning the deal: Do your resell- ers’ sales teams have tools at their dis- posal that help advance deals through the sales pipeline, such as demos, in- person presentations, executive meet- ings, follow up calls and emails? 3. Resources for onboarding and training One of the biggest deciding factors in the success or failure of a partner program lies in channel partners truly understanding the solutions and the benefits they provide. For Booker, an all-in-one local service commerce plat- form, the “onboardability” of its software proved crucial in the company’s decision around launching a partner program. As Dan Chandre, the company’s senior vice president of strategic part- nerships, once explained at an industry event: “Having a reseller model is at- tractive because it’s a great opportunity to lower your acquisition costs. But the first thing we had to do was look at our software and ask, ‘is it resellable?’ It sounds so simple... but you have to look at how easy is it for a third party to make your software acquirable, to make it onboardable.” Sixty percent of SaaS vendors that work with partners have a team – usually the sales or a channel team – that takes responsibility for partner onboarding and training. Fifteen percent require partners to pass a certification test before they can start reselling a solution, according to a study by the Cloud Technology Alliance. Still, 10 percent of SaaS companies only give their partners materials to train themselves, while another 10 percent don’t provide any training at all. En- hancing the onboarding process leads to more effective partner programs. For example, Microsoft invested millions of dollars in partner training, market devel- opment funds, support and enablement, a fact that has helped make the com- pany one of the most successful cloud channel businesses, ever. Although few companies can invest as much as Microsoft, creating docu- mentation or marketing materials – such as user guides, data sheets, case stud- ies, demo videos – and planning for training sessions, either in-person or web-based, will significantly improve the onboardability of vendors’ products. 4. A clear business case for the channel SaaS companies launch partner pro- grams for a variety of reasons, including developing value-added services for its core product, expanding its global sales footprint, tapping into new verticals, reaching the existing customer bases that partners have, driving additional revenue, or some combination. Whatever the reasons, obtaining inter- nal buy-in and alignment on the business case remains critical, as each business case requires a different focus from your sales or channel team. SaaS vendors that succeed at working with partners for add- on services involve partners in roadmap discussions. Vendors looking to expand sales footprint and drive revenue benefit from co-marketing engagement. Having a clear idea of the purpose of your partner program increases overall effectiveness – for both your company and your partners. o Dan Saks is president and Co-CEO of AppDirect. SaaSVendors: AreYou Ready For a Partner Program? F orrester predicts the global public cloud market will reach $178 billion this year – up from its 2017 total of $146 billion. By Dan Saks Channel Vision | May - June, 2018 26