Startups' business plans often focus on direct sales, aiming to sell as many products and solutions to as many consumers and end users as possible. The right channel sales strategy can, however, give Irish companies of all sizes and stages of maturity a wider reach. A successful channel strategy gives Irish exporters unique technologies to harness sales opportunities at scale, driving business results in the US market and beyond.
Enterprise Ireland recently held a Sales and Channel Strategy Seminar in Dublin that featured US industry thought leaders and senior executives. It was designed to advise and guide high-performing Irish startups to expand into the US through the channel ecosystem. World-class experts on sales planning and channel strategy shared tips and success stories, while the event showcased Irish companies that are already capitalising on the potential of the channel ecosystem.
A 'Best Practices in Channel' panel featured Kevin Morata, Global Channel Strategy at Dell EMC, Gerard Sheridan, Global OEM Sales Director at DataStax, and Kurt Hoppe, Global Head of Innovation at GM. The panel discussed how true collaboration is key to building successful relationships with channel partners. Companies should be aware that not all channel partners are created equal. With 20pc of partners driving 80pc of sales, Irish companies should allocate more time and resources to partners that will help to maximize business results. One tip for building trust is to feed leads to new channel partners at the beginning. That will allow them to gain experience in selling your product while developing a strong understanding of your value proposition.
Tiffany Wagner, Global Head of Sales Planning at SAP, described how a successful strategy must focus on your value proposition, rather than on the features and functions of your solution. At SAP, design thinking is key to well-orchestrated enterprise sales planning programmes. All enterprise sales require a '3 x 3' influence model - three decision makers and three influencers must contribute to the process.
Insights were shared by Irish companies, including AltoCloud, Channel Mechanics and PlanNet 21 Communications, that have scaled by partnering with the channel ecosystem. Kenneth Fox, Channel Mechanics CEO, described the three points of the channel triangle: vendors, distributors and partners. The Channel Mechanics solution sits at the centre of the triangle, providing automation that runs the entire ecosystem.
Barry O'Sullivan, AltoCloud CEO, described how his company was formed with the channel in mind. Leveraging the business and personal relationships of partners has allowed AltoCloud to build a strong partner channel. One tip for Irish exporters is to have a 'corporate vendor resources' presence in the US and not attempt to drive it from Ireland.
When launching as an ambitious company almost 20 years ago, PlanNet 21 Communications convinced partners to accept them into their channel programme. The strategy has delivered revenues close to €50m, with the company on a mission to hit €100m within the next two years. Denise Tormey, co-founder of PlanNet 21 Communications, described the strategy that drove its success. "Trust is hard won. We manage communication face-to-face, over the phone and by mail, to build those interpersonal relationships. We listen. We respond in a timely manner. We ask 'Why?' We care. We are true partners," she said.
The insight echoed the guidance of many of the day's Irish and US speakers. A foundation of trust must be established to build effective relationships. Otherwise channel partner alliances are destined to fall flat and fail to deliver the growth promised. For channel strategy support, contact Enterprise Ireland's Strategic Marketing Review programme, which acts as a mechanism to review and develop your market development strategy overseas.
Máire P Walsh is SVP Digital Technologies at Enterprise Ireland's Silicon Valley office