While indirect-sales organizations have been around for a long time, in recent years they’ve become increasingly attractive to a wide variety of businesses which, previously, had been focused on direct sales. Improvements in communication methods and quicker access to new markets has made channel-based ecosystems much more viable on large scales, while offering fewer trade-offs in terms of loss of oversight and management.
As a result, there is more demand for the best sales partners in your industry, and they can be more selective in choosing which brands want to represent.
In order to effectively grow your ecosystem into one that’s capable of sustainable growth, extra effort is needed to convince partners to join your program. From there, you will have help your partners focus on pushing your products ahead of other vendors, especially in a competitive offering.
Needless to say, a clear value proposition is needed. Your partners will be rightfully asking themselves, "What's in it for me?" They must be convinced, and then continuously reminded, of why it makes good business sense for them to work with you.
1. Focus On Their Needs
Just as it’s a buyer’s market in general, channel sales partners’ needs also should be catered to. We’ll be covering this particular topic more in-depth in an upcoming blog, but suffice it to say that the more work you put into understand their particular market niche -including factors specific to their local geography- the better able you will be to present an argument for why you are good for them, specifically.
One-size-fits-all pitches should be avoided. Look to tailor your pitch to their needs, and be willing to make slight adjustments in contract negotiations to create an offer that’s right for them. Small compromises can bring big boosts in partner sign-ups.
By understanding their business model, and helping them realize how they can wrap their own products and services around yours, you will be able to better meet the needs of the customer while helping your partner grow their own business.
2. Differentiate Your Product & Services
One of the biggest challenges in the market right now is the flood of offers which seem to be largely parity products\services. Just in the realm of marketing-based services, there are literally thousands of providers out there, and that’s not counting all the new startups appearing every day.
Buyers and partners alike are going to be struggling to differentiate between products on the market, particularly when their sales pitches are drenched in buzzwords that may or may not have actual meaning. As a few tips:
- Keep it real with your partners. Don’t go overboard on buzzwords, even if you find them effective in buyer-targeted marketing. Make sure partners understand what your product actually does.
- Have specific use cases in mind. Understand what core problems your product solves, and how it solves them.
- Know your competition and the capabilities of their products. Be able to explain the areas in which your offerings are superior, and why. This is particularly crucial when dealing with partners who work with several competing vendors.
- Don’t be afraid to specialize. Too many products out there try to be all things to all people, leading to confusion and (often) disappointment.
- Let them in on your future plans - go so far as to ask for their input! - to keep them in the loop on future product and service enhancements in the months or years to come.
3. Offer Benefits Beyond The Usual Percentage Plans
When we work with companies directly, this is a mistake we often see them making: thinking that they should be competing solely on price/percentages. Sales percentages are certainly an important aspect, but it’s not the only aspect you can use to sell yourself to partners.
Keep in mind that pretty much anything that lowers their overall costs of doing business basically translates to extra profits. An obvious example would be providing a large repository of marketing materials, particularly elements such as videos that they may not have the resources to create for themselves. Such materials cut their own marketing costs, while boosting sales, and can therefore be a very compelling sales point on their own.
A smart partner will be looking past the percentages and to the total costs of partnership. Play to this.
4. Enable Your Partners Through Training
There’s probably no more problematic area when it comes to dealing with partners than the issue of training. Keeping partners well-trained on your products is key both to bringing in new sales, as well as keeping them invested in your product. However, at the same time, training is often time-consuming and costly. This should be minimized.
Electronic training solutions are often the key here. You can have a variety of modules, ranging from introductory to advanced topics, and track the progress of each individual sales staff as they work through the modules. Allowing for self-learning also limits their time away from their desks, minimizing the losses incurred by lengthy training sessions.
5. Make Sure You're Easy To WOrk With
In our own dealings, we’ve found that for many partners, simple ease of doing business is the biggest determinant in who they partner with. Even if a competitor is offering higher percentages, or more rewards, if they have a particularly burdensome workflow it’s often not worth it for partners. They want to be working with vendors who give them what they need to do their jobs properly, with minimal extra effort.
This also dovetails with point 3. Beyond any specific implementation, merely being able to say “Working with us is hassle-free!” is a major selling point because they understand that translates to lower costs of doing business. Anything you can do to streamline your workflow, unclog communications bottlenecks, and get vital materials to your partners more smoothly will help maintain their own loyalty to you and your products.