Having channel partners can be a huge advantage for your business. However, they can also be the source of unnecessary stress and even costs. Sometimes, this is the channel partner’s fault. They simply aren’t holding up their side of the bargain, even though you may be using your own funds in an attempt to help them. A lot of times, though, the responsibility may lie with you. After all, channel partners can only perform as well as you let them. Here are a few things to remember when engaging with partners, and ensuring success.
There are more software tools than ever available to help companies effectively market and sell their products and services. By now, most companies that do any amount of sales have implemented one of the popular customer relationship management (CRM) packages to organize the selling efforts of their direct sales force. Let’s take a closer look at the functionality of a CRM. After that, we’ll discuss why a CRM is not suitable for all types of distribution strategies, the indirect sales channel, in particular.
If you're looking for a quick way to sum up Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, or pitch it to results-focused execs, the best way might be to simply say "It's CRM for an entire channel ecosystem."
Customer Relationship Management software can be a valuable resource in data-driven marketing. The allure is obvious. You get a central database of every customer interaction which can be used to make informed decisions on the effectiveness of sales and marketing efforts. Some CRMs have strong marketing automation capabilities, which track every website interaction, every email sent, as well as deep and robust analytics for digging into that data. Together they provide so much potential for creating actionable ideas for pulling in new leads and closing more sales.
Businesses who don't sell direct, relying on third-party resellers to handle sales to end customers, face challenges in lead conversion that direct-sellers don't have to worry about. One of the biggest problems is having leads fall into a black hole once they're passed on to partners.
It's certainly a common enough occurrence. After all, most indirect-sales organizations still maintain a website for collecting leads and, possibly, nurturing them through the top of the funnel via content marketing. But eventually, those leads neeed to be passed onto an appropriate partner to continue moving them along the sales process.
But do they? Does your organization have any way of tracking those leads once they leave your sight?
If your company relies on an indirect sales channel to market and sell its products, the last thing you want is channel partners competing with each other (or your internal sales staff), trying to sell the same products to the same customers. This duplication of effort is not only unproductive, it will drive down prices and profits, not to mention the friction created among employees. Lead management is an absolute must, especially if you also have an internal sales staff.
Are you at a point where your operations are suffocating under the weight of all your software systems?
It's a relatively common problem these days, especially among companies who've been continually trying to stay on top of modern technology for the last ten or twenty years. For the longest time, B2B software was very much in a "wild west" state of affairs. There were few standards, and incompatibilities were rife. In many cases, businesses ended up building their own point solutions that worked for a single internal need, but weren't compatible with other homegrown solutions or the needs of their business partners.
This is a major problem when it comes time to collaborating with independent businesses and organizations who are part of your larger channel partner ecosystem. If a group hasn't planned ahead for inter-compatibility with other systems, they could be facing significant hurdles for channel sales communications and collaboration, which endangers the bottom line of all parties involved.
Basically, those ad-hoc systems built up over the years could easily be weighing you down, making your company harder to do business with than the competition.
With so many businesses facing a fast-changing and uncertain business environment, many are turning to consultants to help them grow their operations.
As a management consultant, you develop comprehensive strategies to increase your client's business revenue and strength in the marketplace. This becomes especially important - and complex - as it relates to your client's indirect sales channel. Developing the plan is the first step, implementing it can create another set of challenges.
You're going to need every tool at your disposal to implement the plan you develop for them, and Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software does exactly that.
PRM is more than just updated CRM software. It's a platform designed from the ground up to meet the needs of consultants and growing businesses, matching old-fashioned business networking with the newest software-based management and analysis systems. Partner Relationship Management software takes channel marketing, sales, and training to the next level, providing the tools needed to grow thriving partnerships between your clients and their own channels.
A key part of any strategy is understanding your resources and planning so that your people, tools, and processes are equipped and aligned. When all of the resources at your disposal work together they allow you to achieve specific goals, like your 2016 Marketing Goals.
When we look at some of the things we know, it helps us to better understand the shape of our strategy and, in turn, this allows us to align our resources. Some interesting takeways include:
Companies with a large distributed sales channel (reps or distributors) often come to us struggling with how to grow sales and manage the channel effectively. Under performance is often caused by a disconnect between the manufacturer or service provider and the realities of the buying environment. In an age of information parity (buyers often have as much information available to them as the salesperson) successful companies drive interest and engagement in ways that match this change in buyer behavior.
There are two particular stats that help to illustrate this point:
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: