More effective & future proof channel sales operations
1. How To Transform Your
Channel Sales Operations
To Make It More Effective
Product Pricing Partners Resources About us
There are many technological tools that can help your channel sales
operations undergo a digital transformation. But if your partner busi-
ness plan process includes working on spreadsheets and paper-based
quarterly business review templates (QBRs), the impact on your chan-
nel operations could be more dramatic than you think.
Mc Kinsey, Bain & Company, Forrester and Ernst & Young, summarized
why you must upgrade operations involving sales channels, strategic
alliances and ecosystem management.
How To Transform Your Channel Sales Operations
To Make It More Effective And Futureproof
"With the rapidly shifting partner landscape, channel leaders and
B2B marketers can no longer succeed with manual,
human-centric processes or rely on spreadsheets to manage
their partner programs." Forrester 2020.
How to adopt amid the rapidly changing B2B landscape?
In this ebook, we discuss how heads of operations, digital transforma-
tion officers and managers, program managers, heads of channel dis-
tribution, COO’s,... can build a futureproof global channel management
3. How To Transform Your
Inidirect Sales Operations
To Make It More Effective
The New Reality in Sales and the arrival
of new Strategic Alliances
Make a comprehensive overview of your
channel operations for efficient internal
Make a pragmatic gap-analysis about
your different departments and make a
one pager roadmap
4. 1. The New Reality in Sales and the
arrival of new Strategic Alliances
Before we roll up our sleeves and discuss some best practices and
methods, we must take a step back. Yes, we all know that the glob-
al channel management and channel sales industry has dramatically
changed in recent years, but let's look at some of the main reasons,
based on these insights from Bain & Company.
The problem is probably bigger than you think.
• You probably started your digital journey
a little too late: Without a digital footprint,
prospects would screen you out due to a lack
of credibility. Hence, sales representatives
won’t have a chance to meet prospects and
offer your solutions.
• Sales & Marketing still working separately?
An integrated “smarketing” function is the
new trend. Synchronize your sales and mar-
keting teams’ operations to make persuasive
promos and pitches for target customers.
5. • Data is the holy grail: Your customers will
spend a considerable time assessing your
offerings and contemplating their purcha-
se. Utilize analytics tools to understand their
• Premium partner and end customer
experience becomes the standard:
A competitor may offer your customers
better, more seamless service through lo-
wer-touch or lower-cost channels. As a re-
sult, they improve their overall market share,
customer loyalty, and retention.
• Upgrade capabilities: The need for generalist
reps without a specialization will disappear.
• Firefighting account managers will lose
their jobs: You will be forced to either retrain
or turnover more than half of your current
channel sales reps to keep up with competi-
tive sellers. It will be difficult to compete with
sellers who focus on adding more value, ra-
ther than just merely communicating featu-
res and taking orders.
6. • Spreadsheets & templates must disappear: Sel-
ling costs will grow faster than revenue without a
deliberate effort to avoid complex processes and
decrease administrative burden.
Whether you are a financial service provider, an IT company or a manu-
facturer, it is crucial to change your mindset about partnerships.
Transforming the old partnership model
"For 38 years, the channel has been synonymous with resellers and
transacting partners. Programs have been anchored on precious met-
al (gold/silver/bronze) pyramid schemes, and the partner journey has
been predictably linear from recruitment to onboarding, incentives,
co-marketing, and management. In 2019, we saw Microsoft announce
that 7,500 new partners were joining the program each month. What
it didn’t announce is that 80% of those partners are non transacting."
7. Forrester introduced the trifurcated model which considers the big
role online channels play in the buying journey. This model lets us look
at partners, strategic alliances and ecosystem through a futuristic
Besides the aforementioned commercial related partnership models,
we need to consider forming strategic alliances.
New technologies like IOT, open API's with plug & play functionalities
and cloud services have changed the business landscape and in-
creased the need for diversification. To adjust to the new normal, form
strategic alliances with organizations offering new types of products,
services and channel of distribution.
Introducing the trifurcated model
Prepare for new strategic alliances
• The influencer channel: affinity partners, referral agents, affiliates,
advocates, ambassadors, and strategic alliances.
• The retention channel: As companies move towards a subscripti-
on-based model, businesses must partner with consultants, in-
tegrators, adjacent ISVs, accountants or digital agencies to boost
• The traditional transactional channel: traditional resellers will
not disappear but the ones who will thrive will likely focus on more
than just reselling.
SENIOR MANAGEMENT COMMERCIAL TEAMS BUSINESS PARTNERS
8. What is a strategic alliance?
Lawrence Landeloos from EY VODW believes the strategic alliance
Here are the types of strategic alliances that can evolve over time:
Definition strategic alliance
Types of strategic alliances
"An alliance between two very different organizations that gather
their assets -knowledge, products, technology, customers-
to achieve a common goal or solve a problem."
• Non equity partnerships: Most strategic alliances start with a
formal or informal agreement between two parties. This can invol-
ve knowledge sharing, building trust and credibility, new product
developments, providing technological advancements, customer
• Joint venture: A formal or informal agreement with a cost compo-
nent. There is P&L responsibility from both parties.
• Equity partnerships: Parties decide to contribute to the capital of
the other company and vice versa.
9. Let’s move on to the strategic alliance examples:
Strategic alliance examples
• A telecom provider and a bank sharing a customer base for
cross-selling purposes due to the launch of a newly-developed
• A retailer forming an alliance with a manufacturer to ensure quali-
ty of a newly-developed product.
• A traditional manufacturer collaborating with a tech company to
co-create IOT devices with a new pricing model.
10. 2. Make a comprehensive overview of
your channel operations for efficient
Companies often debate on solutions to specific channel operations
issues. During the discussion, precious time is lost in meetings be-
cause stakeholders don’t have a clear understanding of the problem.
Sometimes people repeat the same thing, but due to a lack of a clear
definition and a coherent statement of the problem, these get lost in
translation. You can avoid this situation by getting everyone on the
same page to provide clarity.
To get a consensus, utilize McKinsey’s method for creating a one-page
problem statement to tackle complex problems in an organized man-
ner. Here’s how it’s done:
Next, send this one-pager to all stakeholders and ask them to com-
ment and suggest modifications, until you're all on the same page.
This document can ensure relevant stakeholders agree with regards
to your transformation, so you can hold each other accountable and
change course if necessary.
How to get everybody on the same page: make a one-
page problem statement
• Situation: List down 3-5 bullet point statements that don't ge-
nerate controversy. Use words and definitions that everyone will
agree on to avoid confrontation.
• Challenge: List 3 to 5 bullet point statements about the most im-
portant challenges or opportunities.
• Message: List 3 to 5 bullet points which incite the audience to act,
propose a solution or hypothesis.
11. Before you contemplate productive work strategies, standardized pro-
cesses and train staff, you must achieve alignment with your partners
regarding the vision and mission. How will the world of partnerships
look in the next 3 to 5 years? What will be the role of your partner ac-
Create a mission statement for your partners which will serve as a
guidance for your future strategies.
The most successful partnerships utilize a two-way approach. Iden-
tify what your partners need and ensure it matches with your mission
statement. You can tell you’re on the right track if your mission state-
ment and big pain points align with your partners’.
Most companies believe partnerships are all about money. However,
you’ll be surprised about the quality partnership you can create by fo-
cusing on domains not directly related to incentives and rebates.
What's your partners vision?
What does your partner want?
12. Let’s take a look at the domains where partners expect you to deliver:
• Business Relationship Management (BRM): Do you provide your
partner with an overview on the status of your partnerships, com-
mon objectives and key results? Like in any good marriage, trust,
communication and no fear of conflict are the key to success.
Consider utilizing a BRM software to improve partner communica-
• Sales Enablement: Do your partners have enough training and do
they have the right enablement tools and partner tools?
• Lead & opportunity Management: How does your lead qualifica-
tion, lead management and opportunity process look like? Do you
agree and support your partner throughout all these steps?
• Marketing Development Funds: How dynamic and creative are
you when managing your budgets with your partners? Do you pro-
vide insight with regards to the ROI?
• Incentive management: Is the taxonomy of your incentives and
partner programs easy-to-understand for your partner? Do they
have access to calculators? Do they have a real-time overview on
13. Here's an example:
At this stage, you have a clear problem statement and partner mission
The next step is to prepare for change and transformation. You can
begin by setting priorities, a roadmap for success, then creating a
comprehensive and visual overview of your channel operations. This
information will be the base of your analysis. What’s more, it will allow
you to transform your organization with clear communication and da-
Synthesize in a comprehensive way
14. 3. Make a pragmatic gap-analysis
about your different departments
and make a one pager roadmap
Moving on to the next phase, it's time to identify your platforms and
Creating awareness and a sense of urgency is one of the most im-
portant aspects of any change and transformation. Even when you
get advice from consultants, this phase will take time. Instead, we
highly recommend getting your department or team leads to make a
STEP 1: Create awareness and involve teams
15. A common mistake businesses make is looking for new tools before
conducting a thorough and data driven analysis.
If you don’t have time to aggregate the data, here's a short process
that will get you a long way.
STEP 2: Make a gap analysis on the following three di-
"Companies have long struggled to objectively assess their market-
ing and sales capabilities, analyze the productivity of their sales reps,
and identify areas in which they are falling behind. As a result, sales
managers end up taking a manual approach to assigning reps and of-
ten go for capability building altogether." McKinsey
PEOPLE: Do you have the right Profiles? Are your
people trained? Do you need external or internal
PROCESSES: Do you have a comprehensive un-
derstanding of the critical processes and the big-
TOOLS: Are there any processes that require out-
dated spreadsheets and paper-based quarter-
ly business review templates (QBRS)? Does your
company have a clear vision in terms of best-of-
breed technology, API-management and effective
For each of the domains, identify what goes well and what can be im-
16. Based on the most critical pain points of the three dimensions, build a
roadmap with three scenarios.
For example, your organization hopes that in 5 years you’ll have 50%
more direct sales and 50% more sales through new strategic alliances.
This implies different transformations with different scenarios. To
achieve this goal, you could consider rebuilding your back-end tech-
nology stack for direct sales over the next 5 years. In addition, build
your front-end portal gradually over the course of the next 3 years.
Plus, train employees and reassess job descriptions from next year.
Any transformation in your operations should pass the "MAYA" test
The "MAYA" principle stands for “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”. It's a
powerful principle which stems from the world of product design and
introduced by the father of Industrial Design Raymond Loewy. It can
be used to make a big transformative change in you organization:
STEP 3: build a roadmap on 3 horizons (0,3,5 years)
17. "The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical
solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a de-
parture from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the
This approach will help you accomplish transformation-related tasks
right away in the most pragmatic way.
Once you have a clear overview about the priorities of your channel
organization, think about your complex processes and administrative
STEP 4: Align your technology stack with your strate-
18. When you adopt new technology, debates may range from whether to
adopt different tools for different business processes or to buy from
At this stage, companies will recognize that the one-size-fits-all ap-
proach is a myth. Different critical business processes require differ-
ent tools and UX.
If channel operations are critical to your organization, we recommend
reviewing these five main technology categories:
Best of breed vs. One size fits all
1. What is CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
2. What is PRM (Partner Relationship Management)
3. What is BRM (Business Relationship Management)
4. What is BI (Business Intelligence)
5. What is SSO (Single Sign-on)
More about it : blogpost 5 best sales tools
Test your channel organization efficiency here
19. 4. Best Practices
McKinsey has been a long-time leader in helping companies become
more effective and efficient. When McKinsey takes charge of a compa-
ny, its usually because teams are not able to apply the aforementioned
The good news is that you can replicate McKinsey’s results by follow-
ing this process:
5-20% increase in revenue at reduced churn
• Get clarity on your problem.
• Structure your areas of improvement.
• Conduct a gap analysis.
• Make a roadmap.
• Communicate up and down the chain.
According to McKinsey, putting this methodology into action helps
them achieve 5 to 20% increase in revenue and reduced churn.
20. Many Qollabi customers still struggle with inefficiencies with partner
planning made through spreadsheets and templates.
Here are some other common issues they encounter when creating
their channel partner business plan template:
Qollabi’s Business Relationship Management Software
(BRM) provides one single source of truth on all
partner business plans
• Channel account managers struggle to find a balance between
becoming operationally available for their partners and working
on the partnership business plan.
• For most important partners, channel account managers have
quarterly business reviews. For other partners, follow-up is less
• Updating partner business plans takes a lot of time:
• Channel account managers feel as if they lack commitment
from their partners because of irregular follow-ups and vague
• Gathering CRM data/reports
• Updating the action plan (different mails, documents)
21. Solution: Qollabi’s BRM software centralizes and
provides transparency on all partner plans
Business Plans are centralized and unified in Qollabi.
CRM Data connected to Qollabi provides an instant
overview of the most important objectives and the
underlying actions and activities.
New partner segmentation based on two axes:
potential and willingness to collaborate.
Standardized way of working for all account managers
based on three steps:
plan, collaborate, measure.
Download use case
Download use case
22. Bain & Company provides a great overview on the domains companies
must take into consideration due to the new reality of direct and indi-
"Companies need to take a fundamentally new approach to sales, and
quickly. Bain’s experience and analysis point to six imperatives for
generating repeatable growth (see Figure 1). With the right approach
that integrates these imperatives, companies have realized EBITDA
growth of 20% to 25%."
Choosing Your Next Go-to-Market Investment, EBITDA
growth of 20% to 25%." (Bain & Company)
Stay on target. Develop a sales system that matches the right
offer at the right time to the target segment and delights cus-
tomers based on a deep understanding of their priorities.
Know customer value and values. Enable your front line to un-
derstand a customer’s value to the firm’s growth and profitabil-
ity, as well as the customer’s decision dynamics.
Re-imagine the channel mix. Invest in low- and high-touch
channels to match sales capacity with opportunity and cus-
tomer preference, then double down on self-service digital
channels to help customers help themselves, earning loyalty
and a high ROI.
Align resources across marketing and sales. Seamlessly inte-
grate marketing priorities with sales channel mix and capacity.
Rethink where marketing ends and sales begins, as buying pro-
cesses begin earlier than ever.
Raise the bar on talent. To build the next generation of sellers,
elevate expectations and strenghten capabilities. Recruit peo-
ple with relevant expertise, and train sellers to make the most
of their time with customers.
Get the wiring right to unlock sales capacity. To reinforce new
behaviors and track effectiveness, invest in data and analytics,
system linkages, compensation and tools.
Six imperatives for the new reality in sales
Source: Bain Company
23. Welcome to
a New World of
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24. Qollabi helps you to build stronger relationships with your business
partners. We call our software BRM: Business Relationship Management
We especially developed it for professionals managing sales channels
like agents, branches, distributors, dealers, brokers, resellers etc.
Our customers choose Qollabi BRM because of increased commitment
and accountability. Both, within their own organization as between them
and their business partners. Want to know more? Discover what Qollabi
can do for you.