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Channel Sales

Channel sales, often referred to as indirect sales, is a crucial aspect of modern business strategies. This approach involves selling a company's products or services through third-party partners, known as channel partners, rather than selling directly to end customers. Channel sales create a distribution network that leverages the expertise, reach, and resources of these partners to expand market coverage and drive revenue growth.

What is channel sales?

Channel sales, also known as indirect sales, is a distribution strategy in which a company sells its products or services through third-party partners rather than directly to end customers. These third-party partners, often referred to as channel partners, play a crucial role in marketing, selling, and delivering the company's offerings to a wider audience.

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What are channel partners?

Channel partners are external entities or organizations that collaborate with a company to market, sell, and distribute its products or services to end customers. These partners operate as intermediaries between the company (the manufacturer or provider) and the ultimate consumers, helping extend the company's market reach and achieve broader distribution.

Channel partners can take various forms, and their roles may vary based on the industry and the specific goals of the company.

What is difference between channel sales and direct sales?

The difference between channel sales and direct sales:

  1. In a channel sales model, a company sells its products or services through third-party partners, such as resellers, distributors, affiliates, or value-added providers. While in direct sales, a company sells its products or services directly to the end customers without involving intermediaries. The company's own sales team is responsible for prospecting, selling, and servicing customers.
  2. In channel sales, the channel partners typically own and manage the customer relationship. They are responsible for customer acquisition, communication, and support. While in direct sales, the company maintains full ownership of the customer relationship. The company's sales team directly interacts with and manages customers, building and nurturing long-term relationships.
  3. Channel sales allow a company to leverage the distribution networks and market reach of its channel partners. This can significantly expand the company's presence in various geographic regions and market segments. While direct sales are more focused on the company's existing customer base and target markets. It may require a larger investment in building and maintaining a dedicated sales team.

What are types of sales channels?

Types of sales channel:

  1. Retail sales
  2. E-commerce
  3. Wholesale
  4. Distributor sales
  1. Direct sales: In a direct sales channel, companies sell their products or services directly to customers without intermediaries. This can involve online sales through the company's website, brick-and-mortar stores owned by the company, or a dedicated sales team that reaches out to potential customers.
  2. Retail sales: Retail sales channels involve selling products or services through physical retail stores. Companies may operate their own retail locations or partner with existing retailers to showcase and sell their products.
  3. E-commerce: E-commerce channels involve selling products or services online through the company's website or third-party e-commerce platforms. This includes online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, and Shopify stores.
  4. Wholesale: Wholesale sales channels target other businesses (retailers or distributors) rather than individual consumers. Companies sell products in bulk at discounted prices to wholesalers, who then distribute the products to retailers or other customers.
  5. Distributor sales: Distributors purchase products from manufacturers or wholesalers and then sell them to retailers or end customers. They often have an established network and expertise in specific industries or geographic regions.

What are channel sales best practices?

Channel sales involve selling products or services through third-party partners, such as distributors, resellers, or agents, rather than directly to end customers. This approach can help companies expand their market reach, leverage the strengths of their partners, and scale more efficiently. However, managing channel sales effectively requires strategic planning and execution.  

Here are some best practices for channel sales:

1. Develop a clear channel strategy

  • Define objectives: Clearly articulate your channel sales goals, whether it’s expanding market reach, increasing sales volume, or entering new markets.
  • Identify the right partners: Choose partners that align with your business values, understand your product, and have a strong presence in your target markets.

2. Establish strong partner relationships

  • Mutual goals: Ensure that your goals are aligned with those of your partners. This creates a win-win situation and fosters long-term relationships.
  • Regular communication: Maintain open and frequent communication with your partners to ensure alignment, share updates, and address any issues promptly.

3. Provide comprehensive training and support

  • Sales training: Offer training programs to help your partners understand your products, value propositions, and sales processes.
  • Marketing support: Provide marketing materials, co-branded content, and support for joint marketing initiatives to help partners effectively promote your products.

4. Implement a robust partner management system

  • Partner portal: Create a dedicated partner portal where partners can access training materials, sales tools, marketing resources, and performance data.
  • CRM integration: Use CRM systems that support partner management and integration, enabling better tracking of partner activities and performance.

5. Incentivize and motivate partners

  • Commission structures: Design attractive commission and incentive structures to motivate partners to prioritize your products.
  • Rewards programs: Implement rewards programs that recognize and reward top-performing partners, such as bonuses, trips, or special recognition events.

6. Monitor and measure performance

  • Key metrics: Track key performance metrics such as sales volume, revenue growth, lead generation, and conversion rates for each partner.
  • Regular reviews: Conduct regular performance reviews with your partners to discuss results, identify areas for improvement, and set future targets.

7. Foster collaboration and co-selling

  • Joint sales calls: Encourage joint sales calls and customer visits to combine the strengths of both your sales team and your partners.
  • Co-branded campaigns: Develop co-branded marketing campaigns that leverage the partner’s local knowledge and customer relationships.

8. Enable partners with technology

  • Sales tools: Equip your partners with the necessary sales tools, such as product demos, ROI calculators, and customer case studies.
  • Marketing automation: Use marketing automation platforms to streamline and enhance co-marketing efforts with partners.

9. Ensure consistent messaging

  • Brand guidelines: Provide clear brand guidelines to ensure that all partner communications and marketing efforts are consistent with your brand.
  • Unified value proposition: Ensure that partners clearly understand and communicate your unique value proposition to customers.

10. Adapt and scale

  • Feedback loop: Establish a feedback loop with your partners to gather insights and make necessary adjustments to your channel strategy.
  • Scalability: Develop scalable processes and systems that can grow with your channel program as you add new partners and enter new markets.

What are examples of channel sales?

The examples of sales channel are:

  1. Company website: Companies often have their own websites where they sell their products or services directly to customers. Customers can browse, select, and make purchases online.
  2. Brick-and-mortar retail stores: Traditional physical retail stores operated by the company where customers can visit in person to make purchases. Examples include clothing boutiques, electronics stores, and grocery stores.
  3. E-commerce platforms: Selling products or services on popular e-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, Shopify, or WooCommerce.
  4. Wholesale: Selling products in bulk to wholesalers who then distribute them to retailers or other businesses.
  5. Distributor sales: Using distributors to reach a wider network of retailers or customers. Distributors purchase products from the manufacturer and sell them to their own network.
  6. Franchise operations: Granting individuals or entities the rights to operate their own businesses using the company's brand and business model. Examples include fast-food franchises like McDonald's or retail franchises like The UPS Store.
  7. Online marketplaces: Leveraging online marketplaces like Alibaba, Etsy, or Airbnb to list and sell products or services to a global audience.

What are benefits of channel sales?

The benefits of channel sales are:

  1. Bigger network
  2. Access to new markets
  3. Built-in trust
  4. Amplified reach
  5. Lower overhead
  6. Customer satisfaction
  1. Bigger network: Partners can introduce your brand to customers who aren't in your existing circles, helping you scale up sales faster than you could on your own.
  2. Access to new markets: Partners who know specific niches or geographic areas can help you expand into those markets more effectively.
  3. Built-in trust: If customers already know and trust your partner, their credibility benefits you as well, making it easier to gain customer trust.
  4. Amplified reach: Partners can magnify your marketing efforts with their own by hosting local events, driving webinar registrations, or providing onsite training with customers.
  5. Lower overhead: Indirect selling doesn't involve many of the expenses associated with direct selling, such as employee salaries, health insurance, office space, and mileage, because partners are not your employees.
  6. Customer satisfaction: Partnerships can round out your solution with complementary products or services, allowing you to better serve customers' needs and preferences without having to build everything yourself.

Employee pulse surveys:

These are short surveys that can be sent frequently to check what your employees think about an issue quickly. The survey comprises fewer questions (not more than 10) to get the information quickly. These can be administered at regular intervals (monthly/weekly/quarterly).

One-on-one meetings:

Having periodic, hour-long meetings for an informal chat with every team member is an excellent way to get a true sense of what’s happening with them. Since it is a safe and private conversation, it helps you get better details about an issue.


eNPS (employee Net Promoter score) is one of the simplest yet effective ways to assess your employee's opinion of your company. It includes one intriguing question that gauges loyalty. An example of eNPS questions include: How likely are you to recommend our company to others? Employees respond to the eNPS survey on a scale of 1-10, where 10 denotes they are ‘highly likely’ to recommend the company and 1 signifies they are ‘highly unlikely’ to recommend it.

Based on the responses, employees can be placed in three different categories:

  • Promoters
    Employees who have responded positively or agreed.
  • Detractors
    Employees who have reacted negatively or disagreed.
  • Passives
    Employees who have stayed neutral with their responses.

What are disadvantages of channel sales?

The drawbacks of channel sales are:

  1. Less control over sales
  2. Brand risk
  3. Reduced profits
  4. Harder to manage
  5. Slower feedback cycle
  1. Less control over sales: In channel sales, you are not directly managing the sales process. This means your sales representatives might not have the ability to intervene if a partner is mishandling a deal. It can also lead to less control over the timeline of the deal, which can be frustrating and result in unpredictable revenue.
  2. Brand risk: Partnering with companies that have a poor reputation or treat customers poorly can reflect negatively on your brand. It's crucial to choose channel partners with good reputations and excellent customer service to avoid brand damage.
  3. Reduced profits: Channel partners typically receive a portion of the revenue from each sale they make, which means you earn less on individual sales. However, it's important to consider that partnering with channel sales can be more cost-effective than acquiring customers directly.
  4. Harder to manage: Implementing changes to your sales strategy, messaging, product offerings, or major shifts can be challenging in a channel sales model. You're not just rolling out changes to one internal team but multiple external groups, which can complicate the process.
  5. Slower feedback cycle: Because your partners are in direct contact with some or all of your customers, feedback can take longer to reach you. Additionally, the feedback may not always be 100% accurate or unbiased, even if your partners are trustworthy.

How to implement channel sales?

To implement channel sales:

  1. Define channel sales strategy
  2. Set realistic goals
  3. Identify target partners
  4. Recruit partners
  5. Onboard and train partners
  6. Define rules of engagement
  7. Implement key performance indicators (KPIs)
  8. Provide marketing support
  9. Regularly communicate with partners
  10. Monitor and evaluate performance
  1. Define channel sales strategy: Start by defining the purpose and goals of your channel sales program. Consider what you aim to achieve through channel partners, such as expanding into new markets or reaching a broader customer base.
  2. Set realistic goals: Establish specific, measurable, and realistic goals for your channel sales program. These goals should align with your overall business objectives.
  3. Identify target partners: Identify potential channel partners who align with your target market and product offerings. Look for partners with complementary products or services.
  4. Recruit partners: Develop a recruitment strategy to attract potential partners. This may involve attending industry events, leveraging your existing network, or using partner recruitment platforms. Reach out to potential partners with a compelling value proposition, emphasizing the benefits of the partnership.
  5. Onboard and train partners: Once you've recruited partners, provide comprehensive onboarding and training programs. Offer ongoing support and resources, such as product training, sales collateral, and marketing materials.
  6. Define rules of engagement: Establish clear rules of engagement, especially if partners sell similar or competing products. Define how partners should collaborate with your direct sales team and handle leads and opportunities.
  7. Implement key performance indicators (KPIs): Define key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the success of your channel sales program. KPIs may include the number of partner deals registered, average deal value, sales cycle length, and partner satisfaction scores.
  8. Provide marketing support: Offer marketing support to help partners promote your products or services effectively. This may include providing co-branded marketing materials, facilitating joint marketing campaigns, or offering funds for partner marketing efforts.
  9. Regularly communicate with partners: Maintain regular communication with your channel partners. Provide updates on product developments, sales strategies, and market insights.
  10. Monitor and evaluate performance: Continuously monitor partner performance and track progress toward your goals. Use analytics and reporting tools to assess the impact of your channel sales program.

How to measure channel sales program?

Methods to measure your channel sales program effectively:

  1. Total number of partners
  2. Recruitment quota attainment
  3. Partner attrition rate
  4. Percentage of partners recruited by channel
  5. Average cost of recruiting and onboarding a new partner
  6. Average length of time to recruit and onboard a new partner
  7. Total number of partner deals registered
  8. Average value of partner deal
  9. Percentage of accepted partner-submitted deals
  1. Total number of partners: This metric helps gauge the effectiveness of your partnership outreach and relationship-building efforts.
  2. Recruitment quota attainment: Measure how successful your recruitment efforts are in achieving your partner acquisition goals.
  3. Partner attrition rate: Calculate the rate at which partners leave or discontinue their partnership with your company. High attrition may indicate issues that need attention.
  4. Percentage of partners recruited by channel: Determine where your partnerships originate. This metric helps you understand which channels or methods are most effective for partner recruitment.
  5. Average cost of recruiting and onboarding a new partner: Calculate the costs associated with recruiting and onboarding a new partner. This helps assess the efficiency of your partner acquisition process.
  6. Average length of time to recruit and onboard a new partner: Measure the time it takes to bring a new partner onboard. A lengthy onboarding process may need streamlining.
  7. Total number of partner deals registered: Track the volume of deals registered by your channel partners to understand their sales activity.
  8. Average value of partner deal: Calculate the average deal value generated by channel partners. This indicates how effectively they sell your products or services.
  9. Percentage of accepted partner-submitted deals: Measure the percentage of deals submitted by partners that are accepted. High acceptance rates indicate partner effectiveness.

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