Any business that sells through an indirect sales channel has likely encountered the challenge of lead registration and management. If your emerging growth company is bringing on its first few channel partners you recognize the need to have some type of process in place to share leads. If you are looking to scale an already successful indirect channel you probably realize the complexity of maintaining control and insight into your pipeline. Regardless of how advanced your relationships are with your with channel partners, you understand this is a critical success factor. Our experience has shown us that some common challenges exist as it relates to lead management in the sales channel:
- There is usually no system in place for channel partners to register leads.
- Limited visibility of progress through the sales funnel makes it difficult to identify problems and provide the targeted support your partners need to help close the sale.
- Monitoring and reporting on lead status is often manual and extremely time-consuming.
- Channel sales reps focus on immediate opportunities, but are not good at managing longer term leads (lead nurturing is better handled by marketing).
- Turnover among sales people working for your channel partners can be high. If the interactions and history of the contacts with the leads are not tracked, it makes it very difficult for new sales people to get up to speed.
- Without the proper system in place to capture the appropriate data it can be difficult to clearly identify the source of the leads, making it impossible to track the effectiveness of marketing programs.
There are many Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) that can help companies support the lead management process with their direct sales team. Where a CRM typically falls short is in providing the support necessary for lead management within an indirect sales channel. That is where a Partner Relationship Managment (PRM) system comes into play. An effective PRM platform will integrate with your existing CRM to provide the following benefits:
- Once a lead is logged in the system, the channel manager maintains oversight on that opportunity.
- All interactions with the lead (email, phone calls, any proposals made, etc.) are stored by the system and accessible to any party that needs access.
- Bi-directional lead management workflows allow manufacturers to pass qualified leads on to their channel partners or allow partners to register leads for exclusivity.
- Lead qualification and scoring systems can be deployed.
- Lead nurturing can be implemented at any stage of the marketing funnel to help qualify the lead for the sales team (take a lead from “marketing qualified” to “sales qualified”).
- Managers can determine if the sales leads are being appropriately “worked” and take the necessary action if required.
- The information available to the sales management and marketing teams allows all parties involved to track the progress and make any necessary corrections. Sales management can identify any challenges in the sales process and address them quickly. Marketing can track the results of their programs and calculate ROI. Management will have sufficient visibility into the sales process to forecast revenue more effectively.
Effective lead management is more than just selecting and implementing a PRM technology. The right business processes and practices need to be developed and implemented to ensure success with your channel partners. Critical success factors all center around activities that increase engagement and collaboration with your channel partners. There are four core elements that help to define a successful channel partner relationship:
Marketing/Communication – This key area of support encompasses the large volume of messaging that needs to be communicated to the field on a continuous basis. Getting the right message to the right person at the appropriate time, without overwhelming them, is crucial. This includes just-in-time sales support for immediate use or co-branded marketing material for strategic initiatives.
Training and Certification – Being able to deploy, track and report on training and certifications at the channel partner level means more effective use of time and resources.
Collaboration – Perhaps the most critical component in the process is the collaboration that must take place between all parties. Any system that’s implemented needs to facilitate collaboration between the a company and its channel partners; allow for the channel partners to interact with each other and share best practices; and always include the ability to interface with the end customer.
Performance Management – This is the overall process of measurement and data-driven decision making. This core area allows for accurate tracking of which channel partners are following the playbook, and which are not. Performance management involves the use of dashboards that allow a company to sales, activity, and training programs more accurately. Improved insight at the manufacturer level leads to improved partner accountability.
A technology solution to manage these four core elements helps make your company easier to do business with. While a lead management system is a component of performance management and a CRM is a good lead management tool, you want to make sure that it fits within the broader context of a PRM strategy. A PRM solution can help in establishing and maintaining trust and open communication across your entire sales channel. PRM processes seek to identify and resolve conflict in every area of the channel partnership, creating a more efficient system of conducting business. The end result is improved collaboration and engagement for more effective and profitable sales performance.
Looking for more detailed information? Our Whitepaper entitled PRM or CRM: The Right Choice for the Indirect Sales Channel is a great resource.
If you are interested in a one-on-one demonstration of our technology, we have that available as well: