In the indirect sales channel, not all leads are created equal. This is channel management 101, but it’s worth revisiting. There are two basic types of leads in the channel: leads generated by partners and leads that are generated by the manufacturer or OEM.
In the first case, leads are often generated through traditional means: advertising, cold calling, direct mail, and so on. In the second case, it is becoming increasingly common for manufacturers to use inbound marketing techniques to attract well-qualified leads online and then distribute them among their partners for closing the deal. We’ve written before on this blog about the need to centralize inbound marketing efforts. Now we want to discuss how to make sure both types of leads will be handled successfully. This requires a different approach for the two different types of lead:
- For partner generated leads, giving non-competing partners the ability to share best practices with each other will enable them to be successful. As each individual partner learns the best way to sell your products, the group, as a whole, performs better.
- For leads generated by a manufacturer through a centralized inbound marketing campaign, partner performance should determine where you send them.
Ideas shouldn’t flow through the channel in a single direction. What you might be overlooking in your meticulously crafted training and certification program is that your partners might have a thing or two to teach you—and the other partners—about selling your company’s products. It is, after all, your partners who make the most frequent contact with end users. They know what questions customers have and how to answer them to close a deal. This knowledge can only benefit the entire channel.
If you want your partners to invest in their training as much as your company has invested in creating the training program, empower them to contribute to the educational process by sharing their ideas throughout the channel.
Partner Performance Data
Inbound marketing is a great way to generate leads, but how do you know which leads to send to which partners? Let the data guide your decision. The kind of data you need for each partner should include:
- How they’ve performed overall as a partner for you. Naturally, those that produce for you and “walk the walk” should get the leads first.
- What training they’ve received and completed or which certifications they’ve achieved.
- How they’ve performed previously with different types of leads.
A partner relationship management (PRM) system that integrates training and certification data with sales data will put this information at your fingertips. It should provide you the tools to distribute leads among your partners without causing channel conflict—fostering collaborative relationships in the channel, rather than competitive ones.