The have-to-have program for the first decade of this century may be running out of steam. A survey we recently conducted to capture insights on various channel programs from Vendors and Partners alike revealed that both audiences are dissatisfied with the perceived effectiveness of the deal registration programs they provide (for vendors) or that they participate in (for resellers). The result is that most vendors who responded to the survey listed “revising deal registration” as one of their top initiatives for 2011. Why is this happening? It wasn’t that long ago that deal registration was the silver bullet of all channel programs, essentially creating a gold rush for all vendors to offer one.
Let’s investigate some possible causes for this newfound dissatisfaction.
From the resellers’ perspective:
The popularity and proliferation of deal registration programs essentially commoditizes the concept. If the average reseller participates in programs offered by 8-15 vendors (or more), they are administering these multiple programs from disparate systems and processes. What’s more, differentiating one vendor’s program from that offered by a competitor may not be promoting the brand preference that either of those vendors may be seeking. As a result, administering these programs are extensively adding complexity by forcing the resellers to spend more administrative hours for little perceived benefit. After all, continually updating deal registration information every time the sales stage changes, then performing a separate process to validate the final transaction only to ultimately wait weeks for reward reimbursement (sometimes months) is not anyone’s idea of fun—especially when that process is multiplied by the many vendors offering that reseller a program.
From the Vendors’ perspective
As I often said, when offering incentive programs (and Deal Registration is an incentive program) that last thing any vendor wants to do is to provide an incentive for behavior that would be happening any anyway (sort of like handing out free tickets to a movie to people already standing in line). Well, when your competition offers a similar program, then Deal Registration becomes a cost of doing business and less of a differentiation strategy. Second, based on our own informal conversations with various vendors, many vendors have lost sight of the real purpose for deal registration and the program has morphed into just another incentive program—sort of like a SPIF program that requires applying for the reward BEFORE the sale is made. If that sounds like your program, your program adds a lot of complexity to what may be a more basic incentive program. As conceived, deal registration programs were designed by vendors to achieve at least one of these three benefits: 1) Provide pipeline visibility to sales that will occur in the future, 2) convert your channel partners to “hunters” from “farmers”. Or 3) help manage channel conflict both between channel partners, as well as with direct sales. As a tool to reduce channel conflict, the partners that responded to our survey reviled that deal registration programs are suspect. Perhaps partners believe that Deal Registration programs are actually a catalyst to take open deals direct, as “taking more deals direct” was mentioned as one of the top fears expressed by partners in our survey.
My Suggestion: Vendors should look at their Deal Registration programs with fresh eyes–beginning with the revisiting of program objectives (those stated above should represent a good foundation). Then work with your partners to get insight as to how to make the program mutually beneficial—after all, “mutually beneficial” is what good channel programs are all about.