The Power of the Sales Channel

By Sheen Khoury, EVP Global Sales, Virtual Instruments

While it’s known that selling technology is dynamic, complex and increasingly chaotic, it should never distract us from the fundamentals of good selling – especially when expanding markets.

All too often people tend to overthink the importance of selling direct versus leveraging the channel – often boiling it down to an either/or decision. This is particularly true in new breed of “as a service” sales constructs – unfortunately to the exclusion of what’s tried and true. The tendency to rewire an entire strategy to get out ahead of predictions and market conditions becomes the strategy, and somewhere along the line, the choice is made to not leverage “the power of the channel.”

Yes, the success of SaaS and ‘as a service’ models is shifting the scales from indirect to direct, but shifting is fluid and cyclical – not static – especially in non-XaaS models. Successful sales teams that “get it” realize it’s not an either/or decision. They invest in the right channel model, maintain vigilant awareness of the shifts, and adapt flexible strategies to capitalize on them.

In so doing, they unleash a tremendous machine, and unlock routes and flows to market that help them gain and keep the upper-hand.

Maintaining this awareness throughout every quarter is what helps keep me acutely focused in my job running global sales and field operations for Virtual Instruments, where we sell and enable app-centric infrastructure performance management (IPM) solutions for leading enterprises in every vertical. These enterprises, our customers, continue to deploy and operationalize our software, hardware and services as a platform-approach – helping them to adapt and enable their core application strategies across IT and DevOps to align with and drive the business.

Knowing this, it’s no wonder that I wake up excited to come to work every day – and this excitement keeps me humble and focused on the basics. During our early stages of growth, we focused on developing the channel by committing significant talent and resources for conducting business with and through OEMs, VARs and alliances globally. Though we drove revenues, we overlooked – or rather tried to shortcut – some basic and essential steps that are critical for creating traction.

During that time, when I joined VI and realized what I was seeing, it was clear the corrections and adjustments that could quickly be made to unlock and accelerate kinetic channel motion. Fortunately, the answers weren’t and aren’t rocket science; they are simple fundamentals that I learned a long time ago never to overlook – because overlooking them for the excitement of an immediate sales win costs everyone the game.

It boils down to the below two outputs that I happily and readily swear by and stand by every time someone suggests a better, faster way around the channel – rather than a stronger, more sustainable and profitable way through it.

  • Growing FROM Channel Leads: Assuming you have the right programs, partners and leadership in place, the volume and velocity of qualified opportunities derived from channel introductions and efforts will not only increase – they will become a major contributor to funnel and bookings growth.
  • Virtual Team Establishment: As you build the right collaborations and results with known groups of A-players, they become an extension of your team. Once this transformation happens, you can drive programmatic awareness, value and growth through a well-developed and committed team – resulting in a force multiplier effect.

Of course, the time, focus and actions that you apply to the channel is no guarantee of success – reminding, shifting is fluid and cyclical – and so must be your strategies and actions.  Practicing and focusing on the fundamentals doesn’t mean you get to rest on them. True growth comes when you enhance efforts and expand upon a solid foundation.

As we continue to enhance our world class channel program to drive results, we’ve incorporated some new elements in our approach:

  1. Leverage: In addition to having all the basic systems and workflows operating smoothly (portal, lead registration, deal protection, tiered treatment, etc.), it’s critical that we enable our partners with the leverage required to achieve results – whereby we reinvest dollars to affect optimal pricing. As the channel invests in our business, we reward them with an increase in dollars to their bottom line by helping them earn greater than 8%.
  2. Transparency: This is critical – as flexibility and leverage cannot exist without transparency and the resulting collaboration. Promoting transparency and collaborative dialogue creates the solutions for handling non-standard pricing, resolving difficult channel conflicts, and managing deal flow when discounts exceed expectations.
  3. Trust: Of course, the #1 driver of any success is staying laser-focused on continual partner alignment and the PROCESS that makes this work. Trust is everything, and any world class program that hangs their hat on being 100% channel focused must do what it takes to develop and assure that every action is trust-centered. When this happens, trust becomes a viral force multiplier.

Driving market growth is a function of ensuring that every relationship within the channel is built upon a solid foundation of trust, transparency, education and alignment. By applying the rigors of constant analysis and adaptation, channel productivity and growth becomes inevitable, and the power is truly unleashed.