How can the use of channel management software provide better sales effectiveness? Gordon Rapkin, CEO at Zift Solutions chats about this and more in this quick catch-up:
Hi Gordon, welcome to this SalesTechStar chat! Tell us more about what it’s like ‘’being CEO’’ at Zift Solutions!
Thank you for having me. It’s an exciting moment to lead Zift Solutions. Traditionally, our segment of the tech market has been made up of small software developers that each created a slice of a solution for its buyers. Huge companies had to stitch together a mixture of parts and pieces from a collection of small vendors. This community hadn’t seen much change in a long time. When I first joined Zift, we had a vision to rethink the industry’s problem and build a single integrated way for companies to achieve their goals without the complexity. That vision becoming a reality, and seeing companies big and small embrace what we have done, makes it a rewarding time to be the CEO of Zift.
Through this time and over the years, how have you seen enterprise channel management software and processes evolve?
There are about 100 things companies have to do to manage their channels. No matter what business a supplier is in, the majority of tasks remain the same. In the past, channel management divided all of these tasks into a handful of technology categories, and each category had scores of vendors providing pieces and parts of solutions. As our industry has evolved and started to approach suppliers’ challenges more holistically, companies have become much more efficient at managing their channel partners. This has created a shift in the balance of power from suppliers to partners. Zift recognizes this fundamental shift and enables suppliers to win the battle.
What are some of the perks mid to larger teams can experience when they invest in channel management software?
Companies need to manage channel partners, enable them to succeed, and generate business for the supplier. Channel management software makes this a more efficient process while reducing the cost of managing the channel. Also, most organizations have direct sales, marketing, and channel teams. Channel management software enables channel teams to transform direct marketing assets and content for use by channel partners, and provides the appropriate tools to manage indirect channel sales.
How do you feel partner relationship management tools will evolve and what needs from these technologies will become more prevalent in the B2B market?
75% of global commerce moves through channels, so effective channel management is critical across all industries. Partner Relationship Management tools will evolve to become more broad-based channel management solutions. The key to success here will be hyper-personalization so that each partner, and in fact each partner employee, experiences a unique and relevant experience that makes them want to succeed for the benefit of their supplier. AI and machine learning will be critical components of expanding the role of the channel management software to become predictive for forecasting purposes, and instructive with “next best action” recommendations that will increase sales effectiveness in the channel.
Take us through some of Zift Solutions latest innovations and upcoming features/plans that users can look forward to?
2021 was a big year for Zift. We unrolled Success Plans, a product capability that helps vendors and business partners better collaborate to create more successful go-to-market strategies. We also expanded our global reach with the launch of a data center in Stockholm to serve European channel programs interested in keeping their data in the EU.
Looking into 2022, we’re focused on how we can make customers’ lives easier. We’re doing this by creating a way for channel programs to promote and host virtual events. We’ll also be adding additional automation to ZiftONE for users who want to drive their own integrations. This will extend to improving our existing through-partner marketing automation (a crucial feature for partner marketers and CAMs.) Lastly, we’re also adding marketplace, distributor, and master agent support.
In the next three years, our company is focused on differentiation: creating versions of our product for key CRM marketplaces, improving ZiftONE to better automate processes and drive self-service, and updating our marketing offerings to provide an even better partner marketing experience.
What are a few martech and salestech predictions for 2022 that you’d like to highlight?
COVID has had a profound impact on how partners go to market. Digital marketing and virtual events have become the predominant path for partners. While we anticipate some return to live contact, most of the shift will be permanent. Therefore, martech and salestech that is digitally focused will become even more important in 2022 and beyond.
Secondly, we know that digital platforms are global. Suppliers will have much greater access to geographically-dispersed partners and markets. Projecting a consistent partner experience and distributing marketing assets globally will become much more relevant. At the same time, privacy legislation will continue to dictate decisions about hosting environments. This shift is what drove Zift Solutions to launch our new European instance, and we anticipate that this trend will continue to drive globalization of martech and salestech platforms.
As we look at new users of salestech and martech, we have to remember that these people are digital natives. They expect their experience to be as simple as using an app on their phone. Any supplier that does not focus on the partner experience will lose partner mindshare. Therefore, the supplier tech platform for partners has to be fast-paced, and much more predictive, if a supplier wants to maintain relevance.
Lastly, I predict that smooth integration of channel management with all of the other enterprise systems will become critical to suppliers. Connecting activities and data from the channel all the way through to the supply chain and manufacturing will become the key to supplier efficiency and profitability.
Some last thoughts and takeaways before we wrap up?
With the start of a new year, companies in every industry are focused on meeting their KPIs and executing marching orders. None of these matter without first considering the customer. As we head into 2022, committing to customer-centricity – from the ground-up within an organization – will always be the key differentiating factor for businesses.
Zift Solutions delivers one end-to-end platform for organizations that want to build and grow a more profitable channel partner program. Through its ZiftONE platform, Zift aligns and automates channel sales, channel marketing, and channel operations. It facilitates multiple functions that include channel program planning, partner recruitment and onboarding, sales enablement, demand generation, customer transactions, and life cycle management.
Gordon Rapkin is the CEO at Zift Solutions
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