If your job involves managing your company’s critical relationships with its partners in the indirect sales channel, you have one primary goal: to maximize your partners’ engagement with your brand. Channel managers think of this in terms of “mindshare.” Your partners have only so much time, energy, and thought to dedicate to the manufacturers whose brands they sell and service. Your task as a channel manager is to grab as much of that brand awareness as possible and steer it toward selling your products and generating valuable relationships with the customers who buy your products.
1. Give Channel Partners the Tools to Collaborate
Workplace studies have shown that people work best in an environment that is supportive, similar thinking and friendly. The same goes for the indirect sales channel. Your dealers want to be able to share with you, and with each other, what they’ve learned about selling your products and services. Dissemination of best practices throughout the channel can reduce conflict and create a more loyal dealer base. When your dealers, VARs, or resellers feel empowered to share best practices with each other, and with your company, they feel more engaged with your brand.
2. Support Channel Partners with the Right Messages at the Right Time
Regular communication with your channel partners is crucial to making them feel engaged with your brand and supported by your company. But too much irrelevant communication will overwhelm and irritate your partners. The channel management best practice here is role-based communications. Don’t make your partners sift through their inboxes. Only send them the messages that are relevant to their role in your dealer network.
3. Make Channel Training Resources Accessible
To best sell and service your products and provide the level of customer service you want associated with your brand, your channel partners need to understand your products. A salesperson’s sense of engagement is reinforced with the opportunity to obtain training and certifications on the products and tools that they are involved with. Training initiatives can include instructor-led classroom sessions, webinars, e-learning, workgroup collaboration, and on-the-job performance support. Help your partners get the most out of their training by making it as easy as possible for them to access through a single training portal and certification program. Your training platform should be easy to use on your side, too: scalable to the global level, while still being centrally managed.
4. Keep Tabs on Channel Partners with Effective Performance Management
As a channel manager, you need to know which among your channel dealers are selling or servicing your products successfully and according to your company’s principles and which need improvement. Your partners, too, thrive on feedback. It’s important for them to know how well they are doing and what they need to do to improve. A channel management best practice is to implement a system to accurately track partner performance. A performance management system will give you the information you need to provide quality feedback to your partners and make data-driven decisions about your partner relationships, allowing you to deploy market development funds and manage incentive programs more effectively.
Unify These Channel Management Best Practices in a PRM System
The four channel management best practices discussed above don’t have to be implemented piecemeal. A partner relationship management (PRM) system is a set of tools that allows a company to better organize and manage its channel relationships. Modern web-based PRM systems unify every interaction between an enterprise and its channel partners through a single portal, personalized for the partner’s role in the indirect sales channel. That’s a single portal for the four best practices above: collaborating with your company and your other partners, receiving and sending role-based communication, accessing training resources and certification programs, and accurate performance tracking.