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Enabling channel ecosystems in MEA

Enabling channel ecosystems in MEA

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Elias Boughosn is the CEO and Founder of ChannelPro, a company with a history of solving channel management challenges from enablement programmes, motivational tools and rewards programmes, through data capturing systems, to the latest creation: REACH platform. Boughosn shares with us what REACH is all about and how the company is developing and enabling channel ecosystems in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

What is ChannelPro and when was it founded?

ChannelPro is a technology-enabled company whose aim is to overcome channel management challenges and digitally transform the way companies engage their indirect salespeople. With a combined 75 years’ experience in channel management across the EMEA region, we are a collective team of experts who have worked with vendors, distributors, partners, resellers, corporate resellers, retailersand channel influencers, making us all too familiar with the challenges of managing a business that depends solely on sales channels. This was the driving force behind developing a smart, simple and automated tool, otherwise known as REACH, which enables us to manage channel businesses more effectively.

Our aim is to improve the readiness and motivation of indirect salespeople across many channels, helping to drive channel sales, take company performance to the next level and gather sales intelligence. Through one simple tool, we can automate and simplify channel engagement of partners, sellers and influencers.

Companies choose ChannelPro for access to the most intelligent tool set in the market, drive channel sales revenue, boost levels of customer satisfaction and enable channel managers to launch successful incentive campaigns and make faster, data-driven decisions.

What is the REACH Platform all about and how does it benefit channel stakeholders?

REACH is a scalable and cost-effective SaaS solution or marketing-as-a-service that digitalises channel partner engagement and management through the automation of incentive recognition, sales enablement, live tracking of sales verification and delivery of business analytics. These features help improve the overall performance of channel ecosystems (including sales readiness, sales motivation, inventory, re-supply and lead generation), while drastically reducing the administrative handling – and related cost – of channel incentives management.

How is ChannelPro working with the channel stakeholders (vendors, IT distributors and resellers) in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) market?

We mainly target vendors/brands or distributors as our clients, although REACH creates benefits at each level of the channel ecosystem:

  • The distributor increases the number of sellers and resellers, improves seller loyalty and consequently, increases sales
  • The resellers receive a dashboard, where they can monitor and control what the vendors or distributors have deployed their salesforce to do in terms of communication, readiness or motivational schemes. This signals an increase of investment from the brand directly into their business, which consequently increases their revenue and improves customer loyalty

The field sellers increase product knowledge, larger commissions or rewards and job recognition, which improves their motivation and enhances job satisfaction.

Our experience as channel sales professionals tells us that, only by addressing every level in the channel will an impact be made and value created.

For distributors or vendors, the performance of the channel ecosystem is key to their sales growth and competitiveness.

In their latest study on Channel Partners, the PDAGroup found that most channel partners are not strategically aligned and engaged with their distributors or with the brand. In addition, they regularly struggle to acquire new customers due to a lack of preparedness, motivation and execution skills. Our solution will help reduce or even eliminate these limitations.

REACHs’ key functionalities are focused around customised engagement, delivering automated bespoke education and motivational programmes, as well as quantitative and qualitative results measurement (including sell-out) all in real time.

Why is the MEA market important for ChannelPro to develop a solid business and presence?

We are the only UAE-based company to be listed in the Forrester channel software stack for 2021. We have all lived in, enjoyed and embraced everything Dubai has to offer and travelled from Dubai to various destinations in MEA, Europe and beyond, hence why we chose to target the MEA market. Here, we have engaged with the brands, teams and distributors that we noticed needed help in improving their channel engagement. Although the MEA has roughly a one-digit percentage share of the money spent on channel marketing in comparison to other countries, it is still a growing, young and promising market.

According to Forrester, the automation of channel engagement is around 50% in the USA, proving that even the American market is still growing. Despite not having an exact figure, we have estimated that at least 65% of vendors and distributors currently do not use full automation for one or more of their channel engagement capabilities. Therefore, it is clear there is a huge need for platforms such as REACH in the MEA region and room for improvement in terms of faster and easier channel effectiveness, engagement and digitalisation.

Looking ahead, what is ChannelPro’s product roadmap plans in 2022 and beyond?

Our current capabilities are centred around the automation of channel learning and readiness and incentive management. We also provide channel data in terms of sell-out and sales validation, as well as customised qualitative data.

Around 80% of businesses in the world still rely on these channels and, whilst the world is changing rapidly, these channels are also changing. According to Forrester, channel partners will not disappear, but change into having different capabilities. Therefore, the reliance on the channel will grow whilst the capabilities and functions to each channel stakeholder will continue to evolve.

What business development initiatives and plans are in the offing for ChannelPro post COVID-19 in MEA?

One of the lasting effects of 2020 (COVID-19 era) for the channel will be the changing nature of partner profiles and channel programmes. We are seeing major changes in partner roles, as the number of non-transacting partners is increasing far more than traditional resale-type or service- type partner.

We have seen numerous large multinational companies announcing the use of a subscription model. Recurrent revenue style and cloud subscription versus product selling, even for hardware centric businesses, has accelerated even more due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Partner programmes are also going through a major change, as brands or their representatives need to engage with different types of partner.

According to Jay McBain, Principal Analyst Channels, Partnerships and Ecosystems, Forrester, traditional partner relationships are being disrupted almost overnight. The recurring business model may align well with MSPs and telco agents, but the majority of the VAR channel will experience material disruption. “In previous years, I have emphasised the importance of a ‘trifurcated’ channel model — moving programme investments before the transaction (influence) and after the transaction (retention) to support adoption, integrations, stickiness and upsell/cross-sell. Vendors are busy building ecosystems of transacting and non-transacting partners as well as traditional and non-traditional. They are not increasing channel investments (gross to nets) to do this but rather are moving the money around to where they can earn more customers with higher lifetime value,” McBain noted.

To sum up, ChannelPro’s aim, through REACH, is to help brands in MEA and their distributors be ahead of the game in terms of automating. This includes:

  • Partners sales enablement, social selling and their community so it can be scalable and measurable
  • To manage the design, allocation, tracking and distribution of financial incentives to the partner ecosystem, including market development funds (MDFs), sales performance incentive funds (SPIFs), co-ops, bonuses, rebates, and loyalty programmes. This includes non-monetary and motivational incentives
  • To collect sales and sell-out data, lead generation and numerous other aspects of sales and management data which will be analysed and transformed into more actionable data

What channel programmes, products, solutions and initiatives is ChannelPro planning for channel partners in MEA in the year ahead?

We are a young, agile company looking to increase our resources. Channel management has developed as a market over hundreds of years, with 80% of companies in the world relying heavily on it. Whilst the channel is and will continue to change, the fundamentals of a multi-level partnership is needed to transact, service, influence or to form other partnerships. As a result, the capacity and demands of each role will continue to evolve with time. It is clear there is a growing gap in the market and opportunity for us to replicate this change across the MEA region.

Our vision is to capture all of these changes and focus on improving our existing capabilities to better serve the distributors and vendors in order to meet the markets changing expectations.

REACH allows vendors and distributors alike to deliver dynamic channel engagement and management in the easiest, most efficient and scalable way. We have the ability to adapt, being a huge advantage in comparison to legacy systems or in-house tools as we are able to internalise this process so that companies can focus more on their core business activities and adapt and grow with channel digitalisation needs.

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