Shifting Buying Behavior: Has Your Indirect Sales Channel Adapted?

By John Panaccione Posted on 9/1/16 1:50 PM

I just received my third unsolicited email of the day and it's 1:00 in the afternoon. This only includes the ones that made it through my spam filter. I’m not kidding just because it would be dramatic in the context of this article.  It happens pretty much every day.

1st one - Subject: Quik Chat.  Offering "..free software that helps small to medium sized businesses eliminate headaches & paperwork involved in administrative tasks".  

2nd one - Subject: Legal for LogicBay.  Offering: "...(several companies I never heard of) have relied on us to supplement their existing law firm – while saving 60% on legal bills..."

3rd one - Subject: Can We Help Build Mobile Products or UX/UI Design  Offering: (States they started up in 2013 and have all kinds of famous companies as clients). "Could you be so kind and let me know interest. If so, can I have your convenient time and contact number to set up a call & discuss further in detail."

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The fancy email engines that are driving these emails off a list that I’m obviously on are doing a fine job casting a wide net.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have a problem I need to solve in any of these three areas.  At all.  Not even on my radar.  I get these emails every day.

I also installed True Caller on my Android phone to stop the actual cold calls that I still get on my phone too.  I don't pick up my phone unless I know who it is, and I'm sure you don't either.  

Recently, I started looking at software to help my company track our recurring revenue and contract renewals.  This is an area where I do have some pain.  I did a Google search, and found a few companies that may have a good solution.  I had never heard of them before I did my search.  I checked out their websites, learned a bit more about their approach and features, and narrowed the field to a few viable options.  All in about 15 minutes.  Today, I'm actively engaged with sales people at two of the companies and I'll likely buy from one of them shortly. 

I'm sure we can all relate to this.  It's reflective of the hot topic of "change in buying behavior" that we’re all talking about these days.  In the "old days", the salesperson was the source of information.  We as buyers didn't "Google" the problem.  Now we can, and we do. 

READ MORE: PRM or CRM - The Right Choice for the Indirect Sales Channel

This shift in buying behavior has major implications for manufacturers/vendors that sell through indirect sales channels.  If you are in an industry that sells through a sales channel, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do people with the problems you solve look for solutions today?
  • If they Googled the problem, what would they find?
  • Would your company be found quickly through either a Google search result or paid digital advertising tied to the search terms?  
  • If so, what would a prospect find?  Would they find an offering valuable enough for them to give you their contact information – and become a lead?
  • Once they become a lead, would you have a process in place to deliver that lead to a partner if necessary?
  • If you have a process in place for lead distribution, do you also have a system that helps you keep track of those leads over time? Or do they disappear into a black hole until you take the time to follow-up?

Most indirect sales channels are loaded up with technology, tools and programs that assume the salespeople at the channel partner are still selling the old fashioned way.  After all, one of the main reasons you used to sign up channel partners is to have their salespeople do the selling for you.  While that is still true, what has changed is how leads are developed.  

Today, leads should be developed by the manufacturer/vendor.  These leads then need to get to the right sales rep at the right channel partner with lightning speed.  Face it - designing and implementing an effective inbound marketing strategy is not easy. It takes time, takes some significant investment to do right, and is easy to screw up the first time.  I know – we did.  But now that we’ve been doing inbound effectively at my company since 2010, we now help our customers do the same.  

In summary, manufacturers should help generate the leads (marketing).  Their channel partners take the leads and close them (sales).   Expecting the channel partners to do both the marketing and the sales within the context of how people research solutions to their business problems these days is rapidly becoming ineffective.  

As for cold calling or “cold emailing”?  You be the judge.  I know there’s a whole industry out there that advocates it, and I expect some negative comments.  Just because you can automate a flawed process it doesn’t mean you should.  The great neutralizer of the debate is to ask yourself how you buy today...and how many of those cold emails and calls you just clamor to answer.  

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