Channel Surfing Part III: Don’t Roll with the Tide. Harness It.

channel surfing


As reported in previous blogs, asking resellers to report POS info can be a serious challenge. Not just a few tech vendors/distributors find they’re not meeting revenue projections and it’s not because they haven’t had the products to feed customer appetites. 

Some of their biggest losses don’t come from unsuccessful sales. More likely, it’s because sporadic, inadequate and incorrect channel and internal reporting adds up to incentive overpayments, incorrect stock availability, gray market activity and audit penalties/fines.

Left unchecked, these losses roll in with every product, every service offered.  As dependable as the ocean, dumping sand and water back on the shore even though you’ve just seen it all roll out to sea.

Too often, companies try homegrown solutions thinking these will stem the tide.  While homegrown and spreadsheet solutions are enabling in theory, it’s the automated work flow processes that will do the most, most easily, helping optimize incentives, keeping a finger on inventory, sales and projection reports, compliance management practices, etc.

Staring at the sea may tell you who’s fishing, but it takes more than that to measure the “catch.”

The right Channel Data Management system not only frees up your Renewal Specialists for renewals, depending upon the business rules you fed it, it will let you know when the tide – sales – is high. 

Input is vital, so the programmed channel data process you invest in must be simple and readily available. Preferably, able to accommodate rules for Channel Partners to comply.  The more and more accurately your partners enter their data, the more and more accurately they’ll earn and he more and more accurately your company will avoid overpayment and/or fail to recognize top performers.

Information reflecting how many of the products sold through your channel to end users versus merely lost in unwieldly spreadsheets and inadequate CPQ and other isolated systems becomes easier to verify and track.  When that tide rolls in in the form of commission and other sales perks, you’ll know right away who caught the big fish. 

Sailing with the Tide identifies the ebb and flow of product lifecycles.

Computerized business processes (with their ease and convenience for internal and external staff alike) can generate accurate reports showing which products and services are well received in which market(s).  What previously overlooked niche market shows potential or perhaps where your products haven’t gotten the time and focus they deserve.

You’ll be able to better project future contracts.  Depending upon the rules you set, renewals can trigger automated reminders to end users and channel partners at the same time.  Updates and new products can also be triggered by product and market currents. 

Where the market is biting, which channels can bring in a record catch.

As valuable as the current market sales and trends may be, a smartly designed automatic workflow can also be programmed to give you an even more complete story.  Not just who is ordering, selling, using now – but also where they’ll be most apt to be biting next.  You’ll know how and when to deliver inventory to more productive channels, assuring them they’ll always have product to meet current and rising demand.

A demand those big channel partners often create themselves. 

Stay out of the shallows. Swim where the water is clear and open.

Another important aspect of proper channel reporting is one the Indirect Sale Channel often overlooks for anyone but themselves.  One as important to you, as it should be to them.

Publicly traded companies are required by law to verify they trade to legitimate customers.  In today’s global economy, this includes many entities not US based. 

The US Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) (1) requires all publicly held companies establish internal controls and procedures for financial reporting.  The purpose, to reduce corporate fraud by accurately reporting revenue.  The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) investigates similar issues (2).  US-style Anti-Fraud laws are also enforced in Australia (3) and many other nations.

Every time your staff manually enters data in to spreadsheets or other homegrown reporting methods, the danger exists for an undertow of incorrect reporting, transposed numbers and missed fields.  All adding up to a potential big trouble come audit time. 

Accuracy is vital to meeting US SOX and other global requirements.  A streamlined, automated process which makes it easy and cost-effective is an important step you can take to help ensure your company meets those requirements. 

Fish or Cut Bait:  Reeling in Data, whether they’re running or not.

To keep vital data flowing, Channel Partners must be part of your business process automation and provide the ability for anyone to easily and accurately enter POS data.  Bog down Channel Partners, Direct Sales, Renewal and other internal teams in unwieldy, time-consuming workflow systems or spreadsheets, your chances of a healthy catch go out with the tide.

For POS reporting and management to become a part of your company’s vital data, not just another business rule or government regulation, you must deliver a effective POS management system that’s easy and fast to use.

Although spreadsheets are most definately a step up from using a pen and paper to record data, they were never engineered for this type of data or process.  The extra man-hours they require for manual entry may well annoy the very people you are trying to incentivize for increased compliance.

An enterprise class system that streamlines the process for all, generating accurate reports, flagging due/renewal dates in advance, missed reporting dates immediately, is a good start.  One that can generate monthly consolidated Direct and Indirect Sales reports without additional work casts a bigger net, increasing the chances of a superior catch.

Investing in a smart enterprise system up front, making sure it allows for the needs and motivations of partners and compliance is the best way to guarantee its returns are accurate and financially beneficial.  Do the work at the onset, convert to (or establish) an automated workflow system smart enough, seamless enough, soon enough, everyone will be hauling in big catches!

  1. US Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, aka “Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act” (US Senate, 2002) and/or “Corporate Accountability and Responsibility Act (US House, 2002), commonly called SOX

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