Today we offer the conclusion to our three-part blog series discussing industry trends that need to be taken into consideration for supporting your indirect sales channel. We see Partner Relationship Management (PRM) as a way of thinking with technology as a critical component to enabling a successful channel program. Part of that philosophy is understanding the dynamics of you partner ecosystem and how the evolution of your business is supported by systems and processes that can grow with you over time.
7. Compressed Product Lifecycles
As technological changes occur more rapidly, product life cycles themselves are getting shorter and shorter. No longer do you have months or years of dominance when you roll out a new product - the window in which we have to exploit the uniqueness of a product is getting shorter and shorter. So the speed in which manufacturers must support their channel partners selling and servicing those products is increasing.
An effective product rollout/launch strategy must be in place to effectively bring a product to market. There must be an efficient way to link product management with the supply chain, and manufacturing to the distribution chain, to enable a seamless flow of product information and consumer feedback.
8. Increasing Product Complexity
Product and service complexity are constantly increasing. While smart devices like cell phones and tablets are always becoming more complex, so too are products on the high end of the scale, like multi-million dollar heavy equipment machinery.
That means channel partners must have access to complex training more often to effectively sell and service these products to consumers (addressed in greater detail in last week's article). Manufacturers can’t rely on dealer employees reading the “training manual.” They need to provide a better and faster way to train their partners on complicated products, be able to effectively promote that training, and obtain the required feedback to make sure that content that is up to date and relevant.
9. Planning for Success
The partner selection and application process is complex in nature and requires a great amount of expertise to design, deploy, and execute as part of creating or improving an indirect sales channel. Building a channel program the right way takes time and resources. The alternative is adding channel partners quickly and without attention to the critical pieces of documentation which invariably leaves many companies supporting ineffective partners over time.
This leaves any channel manager reacting to partner requests rather than proactively building strategic relationships. Our foundational channel program places a strong emphasis on the crictical pieces of documentation that are necessary for long-term partner success: business and support plans from the manfacturer and thier partners, partner agreements, and rules of engagement to name a few.
The aforementioned trends, when combined, determine the success of any manufacturer in developing a strategy for supporting their indirect partners today, and into the future. The pace of business evolution continues to accelerate and those companies that fail to move at the same speed will invariably see a greater portion of their time reacting to market demands, rather than proactively meeting their customer’s needs.
Manufacturers are pushing their channel partners information and systems to help them survive in this ever changing world driven by these trends. But what their partners typically see from where they sit is a lot of information and a lot of data that lacks structure and meaning. They have trouble “connecting the dots” and it’s increasingly challenging for them to get the information they need to do their job well in this environment. It will be critical for the manufacturer to nurture and manage this new business ecosystem to prepare the entire channel for doing business in the future. At every step along the way, a manufacturer must ask itself how well they are addressing these needs to help their partners grow their business.