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Top 10 Rules for a Channel Playbook



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April 7, 2010 1:49 pm

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Everyone loves a Top Ten list…..

Scott Campbell of Channel Web’s recent article for Channel Chiefs on the Top 10 rules for a successful Channel Playbook caught my attention and I thought it would be a good test to perform a self assessment on Novell’s performance against this list. There’s no doubt a good deal of subjective interpretation here but in the spirit of intellectual honesty and transparency I offer my assessment vis-a-vis this list below. Given the number of items I’ll split this post into two.

First the list…again from Scott Campbell’s point of view:

Rule 1: Support from the CEO

Rule 2: Field Sales Buy In

Rule 3: Solution-Savvy Sales Forces

Rule 4: Cut the Conflict

Rule 5: Fix Channel Compensation

Rule 6: The Right Deal Registration

Rule 7: Communicate, Communicate

Rule 8: Effective Lead Generation

Rule 9: Avoid Training Overload

Rule 10: Listen to VAR’s Feedback

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So how are we doing? Let’s start with 1 through 5.

Rule 1: Support from the CEO

There’s no doubt any strategic corporate initiative needs the support of the CEO. Being a Partner centric company is no different and without the support of the CEO being channel lead is often dead in the water. Every employee watches not only what the CEO says but more importantly what he does. Do the investments, actions, align with being partner driven? In Novell’s case, our CEO, Ron Hovsepian has never once wavered from not only talking the talk but walking the walk on returning Novell to its “Partner First” model. He would be the first to tell you we are not there yet and we’ve got much more to do. I’d also submit, it’s not sufficient for there to be support from the CEO and no where else. I’d expand Scott’s first rule to say “Support from the Leadership Team”.

Novell Grade: A-

Rule 2: Field Sales Buy In

There’s no doubt that successful partnerships happen at the field level. Programs, leads and enablement only matter if the field and partners are engaged and working together. At Novell, we’ve aligned field training, processes and incentives to drive this positive engagement with partners and we are seeing results. The message to the field is clear: When our partner’s business grows, so does ours. While we’ve made much progress on the field sales buy in, I still see too many examples where partners are not fully aware of all the benefits, programs, and resources available to them. This may not be an issue of buy-in nor ill intent by our field but it does suggest there’s room for improvement.

Novell Grade: B

Rule 3: Solution-Savvy Sales Forces

In the infrastructure software business a customer’s problem is not solved until our infrastructure products are combined with applications, business processes and expertise. There are “infrastructure problems” and “infrastructure solutions” for which Novell enables our field and partner sales forces to understand customers’ needs and position Novell and Partner solutions. There are also a wide range of solutions for which Novell products are components of a larger solution which is often integrated by a partner. By emphasizing a solution approach in our own sales training we not only prepare our field to have the right conversations with customers we also create a better understanding of the way partners deliver solutions with customers. We re-organized our go to market approach to emphasize common customer segments and solutions and have specialized our partner program around this taxonomy. Early returns are good but there’s a long way to go in the transition from product savvy to solution savvy.

Novell Grade: B

Rule 4: Cut the Conflict

Channel conflict can take many forms. Some are unavoidable but still require thoughtful management. Others should be eliminated altogether. A small amount of conflict or “tension” may even be desirable to generate the optimal outcome. When going to market with and through partners, the obvious form of conflict is between direct sales and partners. At Novel we leverage training, management objectives and compensation to create a partner positive field environment. We’ve also significantly reduced our professional services capacity thereby all but eliminating this potential source of conflict. Conflict can also exist across partner types and at tiers of distribution. Some of this is natural to a competitive market and as I stated above, may even be desirable. As a vendor our aim is not to unintentionally cause additional conflict and we actively manage our program elements in an integrated manner to accomplish this goal.

Novell Grade: A-

Rule 5: Fix Channel Compensation

I’ve never seen an employee engagement survey in my 26 years that said employees were totally satisfied with their compensation. The same is true when I meet with partners. That said, the changes we have made in our partner profitability model over the last 14 months have been dramatic and universally well received by our partners. There are many partner models to consider here. Some seek profit primarily from services. Others focus on license revenue. Still others balance both or have entered new models such as Managed Services or integrating SaaS solutions. Measuring and compensating partners based on their business model is important. If you have a great margin story but it doesn’t fit the business model of your target partner, you underachieve. At Novell, we’ve balanced invoiced and influenced revenue in our measurement and since February 2009 have been offering some of the highest total margin opportunities in the market.

Novell Grade: A-



So overall, one through five decent progress but much work to be done. Next post I’ll finish the self assessment with six through ten.

John

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