Most companies start with a direct sales team to bring their product to market. This is the method the majority of people think of when it comes to selling anything. A company takes their services and/or products right to a client or customer. There is no middleman or third party playing a role.
With indirect sales, however, independent parties are brought in to help with marketing and distribution. That may sound less than ideal—after all, they’ll clearly cut into your profits—but a majority of the goods and services sold globally are through indirect sales.
Evaluate What is Working and What’s Not
Assuming you already have at least a few sales partners, there will come a time when you know you need to expand. You can’t just wake up, decide you want to grow your indirect channel and have everything hammered out by the afternoon. You need to think strategically about what is already working and what primary holes need to be filled.
Evaluate the success factors of your existing channel partners and use those to build on. Chances are, you will save yourself time and effort by leveraging what you have learned in these relationships early on. Make sure to have the proper plans in place and be ready to get your new partners up to speed quickly with existing sales tools.
Pick a Channel That Makes Sense
A good place to start is by identifying regions or customer segments that show promise but are not well represented in your current channel setup. You may need to evaluate sales reports from your direct team or consult the marketing department for data relative to what areas of today’s market show the most promise. Note: the market is a dynamic force so this is not always in alignment with your current customer base. Be ready to explore new areas that show untapped potential. In addition to exploring new markets, be sure to consult existing partners and get their feedback on what improvements can be made to capitalize on current demand. This could be extremely helpful in identifying what new partners to target in other geographic areas.
Expect to Guide the Sales Process
When scaling an indirect sales channel through the addition of new partners, you should have a reasonable expectation for the work required to bring your partners up to speed. This includes product training and expands into areas such as the business processes for registering leads and closing deals. This may feel like a lot of hand-holding up front -especially if you are onboarding multiple partners at once - so the more you can automate processes and deliver a streamlined approach to delivering the information on a self-service basis the better off you’ll be.
Don’t Go Too Fast
Lastly, appreciate the monumental task you’re taking on. It’s far from impossible, but your sales channel won’t simply come to life overnight. It is bound to be a process that requires soliciting partner feedback and evaluating areas of continuous improvement. Let your partners know that your goal is to help them build their businesses and they’ll likely reward you for those efforts.
Indirect sales channels pose a distinct set of challenges which can prove to be opportunities when addressed properly. Without having a plan in place, however, it will likely be a daunting and unprofitable endeavor. Follow the above steps and your path to a healthier bottom line will be a lot smoother.