Everyone wants a well-optimized channel sales program, but you don’t get there without clearing away some of the common challenges that can lead to gridlock and a general lack of productivity.
It's not at all uncommon to be aware that your sales channel is under-performing, but knowing where to begin to address this issue is another challenge altogether. This can be tricky, since in many cases, the underlying cause of inefficiencies can be separate from the underperforming areas. In other words, it’s easy to mistake symptoms for the disease. But without identifying and addressing the underlying “diseases,” the symptoms will never entirely go away.
So, based on our own experiences, we wanted to talk a bit about common issues we see in channel ecosystems leading to larger systemic issues preventing true efficiency. And one piece of advice if you find more than one of these apply to your organization: start by focusing on one area of improvement and work on that until you have gained a competitive advantage.
Watch Out For The Following Inefficiencies In Your Channel Sales
1 – Communications
It’s a broad topic, but few issues within indirect sales channels can end up causing more wide-ranging problems than an inability to communicate effectively throughout the system. Now, more than ever, it’s absolutely vital for lines of communication to be open and easy to access, to ensure smooth flow of information to everyone who needs it.
In particular, look to these areas:
- Sales and Marketing: Are these two departments able to collaborate effectively and share information as needed? If they’re too separated, they’ll start stepping on each others’ toes.
- Channel Manager(s) and Partner Contacts: It should always be easy for a channel manager to get ahold of their primary contact at each sales partner, and vice versa. A “hands off” management approach is generally a poor idea in modern channel sales, and partners need to feel they’re receiving proper support.
- Sales Representatives and Vendor Departments: Buyers are often in a hurry, and don’t want to wait long to have tricky questions answered. Ground-level reps need to be able to reach appropriate departments within the vendor’s organization to answer difficult questions, such as speaking to engineers about technical details.
- Sales Partners and Each Other: Collaboration -or at least cooperation- is of growing importance to a functioning partner ecosystem. Partners should be able to reach each other as needed, to collaborate on initiatives or share materials such as marketing content.
Sort out these areas of communication and it’s virtually assured to bring big across-the-board benefits.
II. Data Collection and Analysis
Data is the lifeblood of any modern sales system, whether direct or indirect. A channel sales system without good data collection and analysis capabilities is unlikely to ever be truly optimized. Running Excel spreadsheets and functions is an easy solution at first, but over time it becomes too difficult to manage.
There’s no quick and easy fix here. The sooner a company invests in a dedicated data centralization suite and implements it, the better. There are simply too many benefits to data-driven sales to pass up, even if it means some up-front costs obtaining a good software solution.
III. Training and Onboarding
Few tasks within a channel ecosystem are more burdensome -and downright annoying- than training, and that’s on both sides. The vendor dislikes having to spend a lot of money flying reps around the country to conduct training seminars, and sales staff at the partner dislike being pulled away from their desks for multiple days to sit through them. It’s inefficient, wasteful, and often not all that effective since so few people at a training seminar actually want to be there.
The good news here is that online training systems are a robust and effective alternative. Classes can be put online, complete with full video coursework or articles to read. Tests can be implemented and performed entirely within a web browser. Even better, these systems allow tracking of individual results both during initial onboarding and during continuing education later.
These “learn at your own pace” e-learning systems are far more effective and much cheaper in the long run than face-to-face classroom learning. Save the in-person stuff for when it’s absolutely necessary, not for something which can be pre-recorded and largely automated.
IV. Outdated Sales Tactics
This is something that can easily go overlooked by channel managers, since they aren’t often directly overseeing sales efforts at the partner level. Generally, the first clue that outdated sales tactics are a problem is if a particular partner begins to consistently underperform relative to the rest of the ecosystem.
Times are changing. Buyer behavior is changing. Younger “Millennial” buyers, in particular, require radically different approaches to marketing to be sold to effectively. If you suspect a particular partner may not be keeping up with the times, it may be justified to send out a representative to oversee their reps for a day or two, then conduct training on newer sales methods which work better on current buyers.
Tie It All Together With PRM Software
PRM software offers a wide range of solutions to meet the challenges outlined here. But we don't suggest you try to tackle them all at once. If you're looking for more specific advice about what it takes to positively impact your channel sales program, let's talk!
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