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6 Tips for Cloud Sales using Channels

I attended Jeff Kaplan’s Cloud Channel Summit today. It was a very interesting conference. Clearly cloud channel sales is in its infancy, but there were some companies here with successful channel strategies including Salesforce.com (1400 partners and counting), Scribe and others.  What follows are six tips that stuck with me:

Lesson 1: Think how you will compensate cloud channels
By: Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director THINKStrategies @thinkstrategies
Jeff opened the conference by highlighting the 4 Common Fears of the use of the Channel in Cloud: Cannibalization, Confusion, Disruption of the corporate environment and operations, and Channel conflict. After listening to most of the conference, I would have added to his list: How to compensate the channel to create a win-win relationship (as we discussed in our blog post on 3 Recommendations for Sales Compensation for SaaS from earlier today).

Lesson 2: Your job starts when you sign-up a new customer
By: Ron Huddleston, SVP ISV Alliances, Salesforce.com @Rhuddles1
Your job just begins when you sign-up a new customer: you need to focus on customer success (as a vendor and also working with your partners).  With cloud and subscription based businesses, you have to build deeper relationships that last much longer. This is true not only for partners, but also for your relationships with your customers. Also in this context: don’t overestimate ramp & return, don’t underestimate initial investment.

Lesson 3: In the cloud, you have to earn your business on a daily basis
By: Gil Zimmerman, Founder & CEO of CloudLock @giljzim
This one speaks for itself and is re-iterating Ron’s lesson in different words. Customers can vote with their wallets and cancel their subscription, often on a month-to-month basis.  I have written on this topic on this blog as well such as in my blog on Customer Engagement is Key for SaaS.

Lesson 4: The primary role of the cloud channel today is integration
By: Carolyn April, Director of Industry Analysis, CompTIA @CarolynAApril
In a CompTIA study Carolyn found that the primary role for channels in cloud today is integration, not sales.  This makes sense considering many attendees and speakers felt that we haven’t figured out commission plans for channel sales yet. That being said, I believe there will be major opportunities for the channel in on boarding new customers as well as sales, both initial and up selling, that will increase Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Experience.

Lesson 5: Use the coloring book approach to onboard cloud channels (and customers)
By: Brian Anderson, Global Business Development, Dell
The best way to onboard new partners (but this could also be new customers): take the coloring book approach – give them direction, success stories and examples. I really like this analogy and plan to maybe write about it in the context of on boarding new SaaS customers.

Lesson 6: Let customer success own the relationship with the customer
Michael Blaisdell, The Customer Success Management Initiative
Who owns the customer: sales or support (customer success)?  If customer success owns the customer it really changes the tone with the customer and creates much more trust with the vendor.  In reality, customer success probably doesn’t own all of the relationship, but it should at the very least be responsible for the ‘farmer type sales’: renewals and incremental sales. Totango is sponsoring some of Michael’s research and we recommend you check it out. It’s fascinating stuff and an important area.

So there you have it.

Thanks Jeff, for organizing a very insightful conference! We hope to be back next year. Perhaps we could even present our experiences on how cloud vendors are sharing customer trial and usage data with their partners in order to increase cloud sales?

Guy Nirpaz

Guy Nirpaz is a Silicon Valley-based Israeli entrepreneur and CEO of Totango, a Customer Success software platform. A pioneer in the Customer Success field, Guy established the Customer Success Summit and is a well-regarded industry speaker and community contributor. Guy loves people and technology and has dedicated his career to improving the way in which business is done through innovation. Fun Facts: Guy moonlights as the lead guitarist in a rock band based out of his garage in Palo Alto and used to command a tank battalion...as well as having grown oranges.

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