Unleashing the Power of Collaborative Channel Analytics

John DeSarbo

Sharing insights and collaborating with partners to target high-potential growth opportunities is one of the most effective ways IT vendors can move the revenue needle and earn loyalty with partners.

A channel operations team that can conduct advanced channel analytics can be a
powerful competitive advantage. Not only can sophisticated channel analytics help
high-tech vendors identify opportunities to fine-tune channel programs, but also yield
insights to help channel partners grow their businesses.

In earlier articles, we’ve examined the importance of the channel analytics capability overall ( http://www.zs.com/publications/articles/Removing-the-Blindfold-Accelerating-Growth-Through-Data-Driven-Channel-Management.aspx ) , and identified some of the critical building blocks high-tech vendors need to implement channel analytics capabilities ( http://www.zs.com/publications/articles/quant-jocks-vs-process-poets-the-evolving-channel-operations-competency-model.aspx ) . This article examines the progression of
channel analytics from a strictly internal function to collaboration with channel partners.

“Collaborative analytics” has been a hot topic for several years. Tools that simplify data sharing, coupled with powerful business intelligence applications, have created unprecedented opportunities for organizations to collaborate on the analysis of Big Data. And for decades, consumer packaged goods companies and retailers have collaborated to optimize pricing, manage inventory and develop winning promotional strategies through collaborative analytics.

However, it hasn’t been until recently that B2B high-tech vendors have applied these concepts to improve collaboration with their channel partners.

In high tech, channel analytics has traditionally been a one-way operation: Vendors gather data from channel partners and then use the information to improve their channel programs. But today, channel analytics has developed into more of a team sport, as partners share data with vendors, and vendors generate insights to enable mutual success, such as when customers are likely to be shopping for replacement products; which customers are more likely to purchase high-margin service offerings; and when offerings should be bundled.

So collaborative channel analytics is not a fanciful, pie-in-the-sky idea. In fact, leading high-tech vendors are using it now to empower partners to help identify cross- and up-sell opportunities.

Sage: Empowering partners, identifying hidden sales opportunities

By analyzing customer purchase transactions across a large number of customers, high-tech vendors can identify their customers’ next logical purchase and, in turn, make that information available to channel partners. For instance, vendors might realize that when customers purchase Product A, they are more likely to purchase Product B or a complementary service.

Sage, a leading enterprise software provider, is helping its partners identify cross- and up-sell opportunities like these through collaborative analytics. Even though many Sage partners have relatively few customers, these partners may lack insight on their customers.

To address this deficiency, Sage launched the Sage Product and Company Scoring Initiative in early 2013, with the goal of predicting customer needs and their propensity to purchase additional Sage solutions.1 By showing the probability of a particular customer needing specific solutions, Sage identifies the most promising cross-sell opportunities within a partner’s customer base.

Sage analyzes data on approximately 190,000 customers, taking into account products purchased, customer vertical industries, geographic location and other variables. It then scores the results and provides insights that pinpoint new revenue opportunities for partners, and help them engage in personalized, consultative sales with customers.2

“We’re taking advantage of the business intelligence that we already have to empower our partners to be more prescriptive and effective through cross-sell efforts,” Joe Langner, Sage North America’s executive vice president of midmarket solutions, said at a conference. “With this, smaller businesses can leverage the power of Big Data without having to be a data company.”3

In April the company launched “Sage Advisor Dashboard for Partners” to provide real-time data showing how customers use Sage software each day. The dashboard also gives partners the ability to obtain customer support call history and upcoming renewal opportunities for soon-to-expire contracts. Partners can download this information directly into their CRM system to direct their sales and marketing efforts.4

Tapping into channel operations for growth

Channel operations teams will become a much more vital component of high-tech vendors’ sales and marketing organizations—and their channel partners. Gone will be the days when channel operations teams are confined to cubicles, struggling with incomplete data and managing their partner programs by art more than science.

Instead, armed with quantitative analysis and insights, channel operations will sit front and center in helping drive growth for their companies and channel partners.

But in order to fully leverage the power of collaborative analytics, high-tech vendors must make these analytical insights practical and effective, and inspire channel partners to take action. This requires formalizing the concept of collaborative analytics, and promoting channel analytics capabilities to partners. Those vendors that do so will see their partners find new customers and generate additional revenues from the existing customer base.

About the Author

John DeSarbo

John DeSarbo leads the ZS Sales Channel Strategy & Management Practice, and has more than two decades of consulting and industry experience focused on sales and marketing strategy and operations. His areas of expertise include multi-channel go-to-market strategy, channel analytics, alliance and partner programs, and sales force design. John works with clients across a variety of B2B industry sectors with a particular focus on the technology industry.

1Source: Sage, “Sage Channel Program Enhancements Help Partners Accelerate Business Growth, Stay Competitive and Transition to Evolving Business Models,” March 7, 2013

2Source: Sage Summit 2013: That Was Then, This Is Now, August 8, 2013

3Source: Sage Drills Down Into Customer Data, Helping Partners Upsell, Cross-Sell, CRN, March 7, 2013

4Source: Sage Introduces Advisor Dashboard for Partners, Accounting Technology, April 17, 2014