For many corporations, particularly emerging growth companies, adding or expanding an indirect sales channel is a sound strategy for boosting sales and profits. By growing a sales channel, you can significantly increase your sales force without adding the overhead associated with internal staff.
Indirect Channel Partners
There is a catch, however. Indirect sales partners are independent dealers, distributors and resellers who usually market a wide range of products and brands, including those of your competitors. Your partners’ commitment to your company, and selling your merchandise, is only as good as the relationship you have with them. The best approach is a simple approach; when you make it easy to sell your products and reinforce good performance, channel partners become productive members of your team.
Conversely, indirect partners will inevitably gravitate toward your competitors if you don’t make this collaborative relationship work for both sides. Maintaining a positive connection in the channel is complicated by several factors, the most important of which is communication. Because indirect partners are not your employees, direct contact is generally sporadic at best and overall communication can be a challenge. Geography also plays a part since channel partners can be located in any part of the country or the world.
PRM Systems Promote Collaboration
In order to facilitate the type of two-way communication that fosters collaboration, many companies are using partner relationship management (PRM) software systems. Cloud-based PRM systems enable your channel partners to access important sales information through a single, user-friendly portal. This makes their jobs easier, especially for new hires or when dealing with new products.
With a PRM system, up-to-date marketing materials, product information, company news and industry updates are just a computer click away. When channel partners have questions or need support, timely and helpful responses from vendor managers are invaluable. This type of convenience can be a big factor in developing a collaborative relationship with your partners for channel partners, who have limited time, energy and (sometimes) commitment.
Partner relationship management systems also provide intangible benefits. When you build an environment that is supportive and collegial, partners will give their best effort. And by providing a simple—yet effective—way to communicate, a healthy exchange of ideas can take place. Salespeople, whether indirect partners or internal employees, thrive when they feel they are being “heard.” At the same time, constructive feedback helps them do their jobs better and is generally appreciated.
Lead Management is a Key Element
Lead management is an area where communication and collaboration is essential. PRM offers a pragmatic, organized system for registering and managing sales leads, virtually eliminating the chances of channel conflict. Lead management clearly defines sales territories and accounts so all sales personnel are “on the same page” when it comes to ownership of an account or the courtship of a potential customer.
Channel conflict is a highly unproductive situation in which indirect partners are competing with each other (or your direct sales force) for a sale. By registering and managing sales leads, and distributing this information to your partners, instances of channel conflict are pretty much nonexistent.
Partner relationship management software provides an easy, and effective, way to collaborate with channel partners on dispensing information about sales leads.
Engage Your Partners
Developing a successful indirect sales channel is a complex process that places a premium on partner engagement. And the best way to engage your partners is through good communication and ongoing collaboration. The more your partners view their roles as part of a team, the better their performance will be.
Partner relationship management facilitates easy, two-way communication and information exchange. Through PRM, your partners have access to the information and tools they need to succeed.