In direct sales, a company takes their services and/or products right to a client or customer. There is no middleman or third party playing a role. With indirect sales, however, independent parties are brought in to help with marketing and distribution. That may sound less than ideal—after all, they’ll clearly cut into your profits—but a majority of the goods and services sold globally are through an indirect sales channel.
Most indirect sales models begin with a few sales partners, but eventually need to expand. This expansion doesn't happen overnight. You don't wake up one day, decide you want to grow your indirect channel and have everything hammered out by the afternoon. You need to think strategically about what is already working and what gaps in the process need to be filled.
Evaluate & Explore.
Evaluate the success factors of your existing channel partners and use those to build on. Chances are, you will save yourself time and effort by leveraging what you have learned in these relationships early on. Make sure to have the proper plans in place and be ready to get your new partners up to speed quickly with existing sales tools.
A good place to start is by identifying regions or customer segments that show promise but are not well represented in your current channel setup. You may need to evaluate sales reports from your direct team or consult the marketing department for data relative to what areas of today’s market show the most promise. Note: the market is a dynamic force, so this is not always in alignment with your current customer base.
Be ready to explore new areas that show untapped potential. In addition to exploring new markets, be sure to consult existing partners and get their feedback on what improvements can be made to capitalize on current demand. This could be extremely helpful in identifying what new partners to target in other geographic areas.
Plan, then guide.
When scaling an indirect sales channel through the addition of new partners, you should have a reasonable expectation for the work required to bring your partners up to speed. This includes product training and expands into areas such as the business processes for registering leads and closing deals. This may feel like a lot of hand-holding up front -especially if you are onboarding multiple partners at once - so the more you can automate processes and deliver a streamlined approach to delivering the information on a self-service basis the better off you’ll be.
Lastly, appreciate the monumental task you’re taking on. It’s far from impossible, but your sales channel won’t simply come to life overnight. It is bound to be a process that requires soliciting partner feedback and evaluating areas of continuous improvement. Let your partners know that your goal is to help them build their businesses and they’ll likely reward you for those efforts.
Indirect sales channels pose a distinct set of challenges which can prove to be opportunities when addressed properly. However, without having a plan in place it will likely be a daunting and unprofitable endeavor. Follow the above steps and your path to a healthier bottom line will be a lot smoother.