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Alignment of channel program goals with overall business objectives

Like a good spring cleaning, an economic downturn presents an excellent opportunity to thoroughly reassess and, if necessary, reorganize existing channel programs. But be careful! Unlike sorting items in your basement or garage and placing them in scrap heaps or “keepers,” judgment decisions regarding channel programs and partnerships are more complex than the question “Should I stay or should I go?” ” posed by The Clash in a popular song from the 1980s.

Underperforming distribution channels are a major source of frustration, though lagging sales during tough times is a little easier to understand (but not accept). Before you rate your partners’ performance, and certainly before you recklessly wield your red pen to indicate your failure, take a deep breath and ask yourself the first of many questions: “What were you hoping to accomplish through this channel program?”

While the response(s) may be highly predictable, for example, earning consistent incremental revenue, increasing geographic coverage, reaching new end-user groups, or simply achieving greater market coverage without hiring additional internal staff, these objectives are essential elements for an effective evaluation and possible reorganization of your channel program.

Don’t stop there. You may need to convene an all-inclusive meeting of the minds, encouraging open and frank discussion between your own company’s senior executives and sales staff and your channel partners. Just as important, you need to survey a full spectrum of end users, from your best and oldest customers to budding buyers who need attention to grow.

Only after everyone is involved can you accurately and objectively assess the original and existing business goals and determine if and how your channel program needs to change. In addition to the synergies with your overall business goals, ask yourself and your partners the following:

o What is the rationale for your existing channel program? Have you unnecessarily deviated from your original intent or goal? Or have changes in your business or the economy in general dictated changes?

o Are there effective criteria for measuring the success of your program? What changes should you make to achieve a more meaningful and accurate measurement?

o Aside from increasing sales of products and services, what behaviors are you trying to inspire among your channel partners? Are the carrots you provide tempting enough? Or are they the size of a sandwich?

o Is your suite of products and services up to date and in demand?

o Do you have a channel program execution strategy firmly tied to your overall business goals?

There’s no question that your channel program and partners are the keys to your organization’s success. Your encouragement of an open dialogue between all partners will clear up any misconceptions or misunderstandings, providing a level of satisfaction and mutual benefit that far exceeds the temporary good feelings evoked by a decluttered garage or basement.

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