If your company relies on non-exclusive channel partners, that makes for a difficult balancing act. Obviously, you want them selling as much of your product or service as possible, BUT they have businesses to run, and it's only natural that they're going to be making the choices that benefit them best. Those choices might or might not involve promoting your company's products and brand.
Guide your partners to success.
If you're wondering about how your channel partners are differentiating your products, perhaps the first question to ask is "Do they have the knowledge necessary to differentiate it?"
When managing an indirect sales ecosystem, it’s vital to remember that you are competing with other vendors for sales partners. This is true both in terms of recruiting partners in the first place, as well as maintaining mindshare when a partner may be working with multiple vendors.
The more attractive you can make your channel, the easier it will be to both recruit partners and keep them enthusiastic about the partnership. We’ve worked with plenty of vendors and partners, so we’ve seen a lot of commonalities between various vendor\partner relationships. Here are three ways to ensure the happiness of your sales channel partners in an extended ecosystem.
Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software is the most powerful tool currently available for vendors to oversee, document and improve the performance of their sales partners. In the past, running an indirect sales ecosystem often meant simply trusting partners to get their sales accomplished, without too much ability for direct oversight. Today, however, PRM allows partners to be managed almost as closely as a department in your own company. There are numerous ways that PRM can improve vendor\partner efficiency, below we listed a select few.
1. Data tracking and analytics. PRM has all the data-crunching power of a customer relationship management (CRM)system, but rather than only tracking customers, it can track customers and partners. This gives you the ability to see exactly what is happening with your partners’ leads and sales in granular detail, along with the ability to share those insights with the partners themselves.
Keeping track of the success of your vendor ecosystem can be difficult, particularly as it grows. A channel manager may be tasked with keeping track of dozens, even hundreds of sales partners. Even with data-crunching partner management software on your side having a quick overview of how things are running can be very valuable.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are one of the best ways of doing this. KPIs are hand-picked metrics which are selected specifically because they’re considered a good indicator of overall performance. An obvious KPI in most cases would be monthly sales numbers. KPIs are often individualistic to a company, however, simply depending on their own short- and long-term goals. Here are some tips for finding the right KPIs for your ecosystem.
In recent blogs we discussed how the use of visual marking materialsis expanding, even in the B2B sphere. Multiple surveys have indicated that C-level execs are as likely as anyone to be watching promotional videos on YouTube as a way of garnering information. Creating content via a YouTube channel in your particular market niche can greatly benefit your operations, as well as those of your vendor partners. Most companies are taking strides to produce more video content while keeping costs down. In this blog we provide four tips for producing effective and marketable promotional videos on a small budget.
A growing company that’s comfortably proceeding through the stages of successful channel program development will encounter the need to put someone in charge of identitying, recruiting, and engaging with new potential partners. In most cases, the best choices for this role are going to be those who are already part of your organization. After all, your own internal workforce know your products, corporate philosophy, and the right types of partners for your ecosystem.
In our experience, there are four other key traits you should look for when developing the role of Partner Recruitment Manager:
For years, one of the biggest pain points in the sales process for both companies and their buyers has been the fundamental disconnect that too many organizations have between their sales and marketing departments. Both are usually treated as separate entities, with separate budgets, and often with mis-aligned - or worse, competing - goals. Combined with a general lack of communication, it creates a situation leaving both sides equally dissatisfied.
The internal conflicts that result are hard to resolve. Sales staff often feel that the leads being sent to them by marketing weren't well qualified (often due to conflicting messaging), or that marketing was taking a “quantity over quality” approach to lead-generation. This, of course, can often be counterproductive, making it difficult for sales to prioritize the best leads, or spending too much time chasing poorly-qualified leads.
In an indirect sale channel, these problems are amplified. Mismatches between the marketing initiatives of the vendor, and the ground-level sales activities by partners, can create even more miscues.
That's why it's vital for a flexible, inbound-focused indirect sales organization to begin practicing smarketing. This term, first coined by HubSpot, refers to the smart alignmentof sales and marketing to ensure the best possible experience for customers, and the highest possible conversion rates from leads to sales.
As the popular saying goes, knowledge is power. In today's digital age, are you doing everything you can to get vital knowledge into the hands of your indirect sales partners?
After all, even a decade ago, the knowledge-sharing landscape for sales channels was a much different proposition. Sales partners were largely left to their own devices, beyond getting some training and marketing materials to use and rebrand as needed. The majority of the burden was on local sales partners to ensure they could keep up their end of the bargain, with relatively few lines of communication between them and you. As such, these partners also served as the primary source of information to the local end customer, which allowed them much greater control over the buyer's decision making process.
As many can relate, I have watched a few football games in my lifetime, perhaps more than just a few. Today, I noticed a correlation in what I saw on the field and the challenges we face in the sales channel (bear with me here).
In the sales world, it's accepted that not all leads will end in a conversion. It happens. People get disinterested, lose your contact information, you name it, and suddenly their hot lead has turned oh so cold.