Expert Interview: Nancy Sperry on Channel Partner Enablement
Channel sales are in the spotlight. Supply chain issues, global competition, workforce shortages, and rising customer expectations have pushed companies to look to partner ecosystems for solutions.
I joined Nancy Sperry, Allego’s Vice President, Strategic Partnerships and Business Development, on Zoom to discuss current challenges and opportunities for channel sales.
Nancy was recently named to the CRN Women of the Channel list for 2022. CRN is the #1 trusted source for IT channel news, analysis, and insight. The CRN Women of the Channel honors exceptional women for their strategic vision, thought leadership, and advocacy that impacts growth and innovation in the channel.
Nancy is an experienced technology sales leader with a history of accelerating partner growth. Her expertise includes SaaS, sales, sales management, marketing, and strategic partnerships. Nancy joined Allego in 2022 after over 20 years in channel sales, most recently as vice president, channel sales for Sage Intacct, Inc., a cloud accounting and ERP software provider, and Deltek, a global enterprise software company.
Channel Partner Enablement Q&A With Nancy Sperry
Ginna: “Congratulations on being named to the CRN Women of the Channel list for 2022.”
Nancy: “It’s exciting to be recognized by CRN, a well-established publication focused on technology. This award recognizes women at a certain level in technology who lead partner organizations. It’s great, after all of my tenure, to be in a pool of women who are highly skilled and talented professionals serving technology companies. It’s really cool.”
Ginna: “What current challenges are channel sellers facing?”
Nancy: “One of the biggest challenges channel sellers face is having the information they need accessible to them when they need it—in the moment of the sale. Partners need access to best practices, product knowledge, and content. All of this needs to be accessible from outside the vendor’s organization.
“With partner business models changing, vendors need to evolve their partner model to get and keep the attention of their partners. Understanding the partner perspective can help you adjust the model in a way that supports healthy partner business and ultimately a healthy business for you.
“And lastly, changes in the markets—trying to adapt to them and help your partners adapt so that you can both be successful together.”
Ginna: “How did the pandemic change channel sales?”
Nancy: “The pandemic accelerated things in many ways—especially for SaaS businesses. Anything that is cloud was drawn into a really fast-paced selling environment.
“Virtual selling became the norm, and everybody had to pivot and learn how to engage with prospects in a totally virtual way. All of that changed overnight. Partners were adapting their businesses at the same time as trying to absorb the changes vendors were presenting, all while the sales process was moving quickly. Technology supported this transition.
“Now that we’ve adopted the technologies that support a virtual selling process, we need to continue to innovate. Organizations have completely changed, their workforces have changed, their partners have changed, and those requirements are still evolving. The ebbing of the pandemic is allowing more face-to-face meetings. Every company at this moment is trying to figure out what the right balance of virtual and in person is. We’re going to continue to rely on technology to help solve that problem.
“Partners are in the middle between companies and customers. Looking ahead, we’re going to have a lot of challenges around enablement so that partners can meet their customers where they are.”
Ginna: “What new needs do channel teams have today?”
Nancy: “There’s a greater need for partner enablement. We see growth of sales enablement that naturally extends to partner ecosystems. Great partner enablement allows you to engage with partners and meet them where they have a customer need. The technologies that get partners up to speed, help them sell, and add value to partners are going to be critical.”
Ginna: “How can channel managers improve channel sales training?”
Nancy: “The traditional way of enabling partners was occasional and in person. The best programs provide in-depth training. But like any other sales training, managers must be able to leverage technology that empowers channel sellers and is ‘just in time.’
“Today, training must be accessible from the moment a company becomes a partner, through the entire lifecycle of their partnership, and through the entire sales cycle. The best way to keep partners engaged is to get them the information they need at the moment of need.”
Ginna: “What’s your advice for channel sales growth?”
Nancy: “My advice for channel sales growth is to find the right partners that can help support all stages of the pipeline—top, mid, and bottom of the funnel. Then, continue to focus on the partners that can have the biggest impact.
“You need to design your programs and your engagement around the mid-to-top partner performers. Then try to make the mid-performers better so that they can become your top performers.
“Build your programs around the partners that can support your pipeline growth at each stage and those partners whose goals align with yours. Sometimes you need to consider that not all partners can help you and you need to part ways with partners that are not able to help you scale.
Ginna: “What are the benefits of a strong partner channel?”
Nancy: “Partners add a lot of value to your solution, and they can be where you are not. The benefits of partners is an amplification of your reach and being able to leverage partner expertise. Expertise is huge. You may have a partner that can drive leads, but if they don’t articulate your value proposition and what you jointly bring to a customer, they are probably the wrong partner.
“Another benefit of partnering is providing a greater coverage model. If your company is trying to reach a new industry, you can look to a partner who already knows that industry. It can be vertical expertise, geographic, or other. It is really around the value they can provide that is different from your expertise. How do you complement each other?”
Ginna: “What is the value of the partner ecosystem?”
Nancy: “When you think about the partner ecosystem, we have all these different partners with different skills and connections. As a vendor, we can look to our partners to expand our reach and experience in a given market.
“I am a huge believer in partner-to-partner connections. Partnering together is incredibly important. Creating an environment of collaboration helps you and the partners.
“That’s ideal because it’s another added benefit of partnership—not just meeting new customers, but also meeting other like-minded companies. There can be competitiveness there, but there’s also opportunity to leverage each other as a resource.
“The number one thing in a partner community is trust. The right channel methodology is built on trust on both sides. Trust has so much to do with every successful partnership I’ve ever been in.”
Watch our webinar on demand How to Crush Channel Partner Sales in 2022 to boost the performance of your channel selling network.