For emerging growth companies, developing and maintaining a smoothly functioning and profitable indirect sales channel is critical for achieving business objectives. It’s the “growth” portion of that phrase where the channel really makes an impact. Often, indirect sales through a network of dealers, resellers, or VARs are the quickest and most efficient way to grow a business.
- Mindshare means just what it sounds like. It refers to the amount of brain power available to a channel partner to dedicate to the various brands it represents. More mindshare means more time spent selling and servicing your company’s products. This is especially important in the non-captive channel, in which partners represent multiple (often competing) brands.
- Engagement is the fuel the drives channel performance, generating mindshare. We think of engagement as a direct result of how hard or how easy it is for a partner to do business with an emerging growth company. When a company is easy to do business with, partners are engaged and more likely to sell that company’s products. When a company is hard to do business with, partners get frustrated, they lose interest in selling the company’s products, and they choose to focus a greater portion of their mindshare on a competitor’s brand.
The Best Approach for Emerging Growth Companies: Focus on Engagement
It’s clear, then, that emerging growth companies that are developing or optimizing their indirect sales channel to spur business growth need to look closely at where they are failing to engage with their sales partners and improve in those areas. From our work with several companies in the growth stage, we’ve identified the four most critical areas:
- Collaboration: Giving partners an avenue for contributing their expertise to improving products and sales processes.
- Marketing/Communication: Providing relevant, targeted communication (and nothing else) and support marketing your products in their territory.
- Training and certification: This is essential for getting partners and their employees up to speed on the features of your newest products and the best practices for selling them.
- Performance management: Good data on dealer performance is a necessity for planning sales strategies through the channel.
While it might seem difficult to attack these four core areas for improving channel partner engagement all at once, emerging growth companies don’t have much of a choice if they’re interested in expanding sales rapidly. Fortunately, channel management methods have been refined and consolidated in recent years under the framework of partner relationship management (PRM) systems. A modern PRM system is built on web-based software that unites all the best practices for a smoothly functioning indirect sales channel and conducts them through partner portals, contextualized for a partner’s specific role in the network.