An indirect sales channel is meant to be an invaluable resource to help you expand your sales force and reach new markets. But over time it can grow in complexity and become increasingly difficult to manage. We have compiled a list of challenges that we come across daily in the conversations we have with our prospects and customers to help you prepare for these bumps in the road.
1. Channel Conflict
Maintaining price integrity and avoiding channel conflict is something many partner management strategies focus on. The more complex your channel becomes, the more difficult this proves to be. Channel conflict can manifest itself between channel partners or between your indirect and direct sales teams. In either case, you’ll want to have insight into who the end customer is and help ensure your sales partners are maintaining price integrity.
2. Finding the Right Technology
Finding the right technology platform that fits your specific channel support needs can be a challenge. This can be overcome by identifying the areas that are your most pressing, leveraging the use of existing systems, and growing functionality over time. PRM systems offer each of these solutions through scalability and by integrating with existing third-party platforms to provide a single solution for your channel partners. Make sure your internal team is up to speed on administering the platform and has a good grasp on keeping your partners up to speed on how the system will make their jobs easier. PRM software works best when everyone is on board.
3. Under-performing Partners
At some point, it may become clear that some of your partners are not living up to expectations. Obviously, you need to have measures in place to determine which partners are performing and which aren’t (hint: it’s not all about sales!). Make sure you continuously evaluate your partner network and find a way to eliminate those that are more time than they’re worth.
One way to improve results is to provide the necessary training to their sales team. While training is often seen as an additional support cost, it can be worth the investment when executed properly.
4. Misaligned Goals
Establishing goals and communicating these to your partners is an important objective. When your goals are not aligned with your partners you are bound to see disappointing results. Many businesses have enough trouble doing this for themselves. However, working with channel partners means you have to consider their goals as well. Set goals that are measurable and can serve as best practices for improving other partnerships.
Working with a non-captive channel means understanding that you may be sharing sales partners with one (or more!) of your competitors. This is clearly a challenge but is an opportunity as well. The more effective you are at supporting these partners, the more you are likely to increase your market share at the expense of your competition. The more your partners recognize how valuable you are to their success the more they will think of your brand first. That’s mindshare.
6. Stagnant Business Model
At some point, your partner management strategy may be working so well that you you become complacent. In order to stay ahead of the competition, you need to focus not only on the demands of your existing partners, but the greater demands of the market in general. This is a constant challenge and requires flexibility in planning and support. While a successful channel program today is something to strive for, it is no guarantee of future success. Make sure you are engaging your channel partners in best practices and looking for ways to improve in areas that may help you expand your partner network and increase market share.
7. Partner Demands
It’s also very possible that someday a channel partner will approach you for better margins. Especially if this is one of your more successful partners, you may feel beholden to their requests. It is important from the outset that you consider what pricing structures (or tiers) you can work within and how frequently you expect to reevaluate these terms. Putting these terms into black and white will keep you and your partners on the same page. When you become too reliant on a few select partners, it is probably time to actively recruit new partners to help reduce your risk.
Thanks to various technologies and the numerous strategies available these days, managing partners doesn’t have to be an impossible task. However, it will always involve certain challenges, like those mentioned above, so it’s best to be prepared.