Today we offer the conclusion to our three-part blog series discussing industry trends that need to be taken into consideration for supporting your indirect sales channel. We see Partner Relationship Management (PRM) as a way of thinking with technology as a critical component to enabling a successful channel program. Part of that philosophy is understanding the dynamics of you partner ecosystem and how the evolution of your business is supported by systems and processes that can grow with you over time.
Managing channel partners in today’s highly fluid environment is an “accelerating” challenge. The internet has expanded the need for better, more frequently updated information and has heightened the competitive challenges that all businesses face throughout the entire value chain of the company—including suppliers, dealers and customers. Technology is compressing these distinct entities into a single ecosystem or business community that must be managed together to optimize a company’s performance.
If you sell or service your products through channel partners, you may have looked into Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software as a solution. If so, you could be operating on mis-information because of the following myths, which we shall now work to clear up.
Mindshare, engagement and collaboration are terms that have been a focus of our attention on this blog in the last yaer. All of these aspects are critical to the success of your channel partner strategy. Mindshare was just covered in our post last week. Let’s focus on collaboration.
You recognize that a channel partner strategy is the best approach for increasing your company’s sales and you have already formed a network of strong partner relationships. The right channel partners have the market knowledge, distribution channels, sales expertise and customer relationships to successfully sell your products and/or services. Managing these relationships is a very complex and time consuming task and significantly impacts profitability. Finding ways to improve collaboration is clearly a factor of success.
You are the VP of Sales and Channel Support for a rapidly growing high tech company. It has become clear that you need to re-evaluate your channel sales strategy and begin to consider what technology options are available to help you better support your sales partners. In many ways this is a cultural shift. You have consulted your existing channel partners to evaluate their needs, and based on past experiences, you know that some of the keys to a successful channel partner strategy involve the following components:
Recruit and retain the right channel partners
Onboard and educate new channel partners quickly and efficiently
Provide ongoing support through training and certification, marketing collateral, marketing strategies, etc.
Monitor their progress and deliver the right incentives to promote future success
Deploy a system that allows for bi-directional lead management and pipeline visibility
Provide a forum for customer feedback and allowing your partners to share best practices
Now that you have identified your most pressing needs and developed the plans and documents - on your side and at the partner level - the hard part remains to find a technology solution that can help.
If your organization sells product or services through an indirect channel, you know that supporting your channel partners (dealers, distributors, VARs and franchisees) is an ongoing challenge. You've likely concluded that effective communication, high levels of engagement, and providing the information your partners need are mission critical to your success and theirs. You probably recognize the need for proper planning and a technology platform to bring it all together, but how do you determine where to start?
Building and maintaining a high performing distribution channel is worth its weight in gold. But like gold, it’s a rare commodity! Many distribution channels are grossly underperforming and frustratingly inadequate. But through years of working with some of the most successful distribution channels in the world, including Caterpillar, Daimler, 3M and others, I’ve learned that as a channel manager you must do 3 over-arching things: 1)Engage, 2) Manage, and 3) Develop your distribution partners. This applies to all varieties of channel partners including dealers, distributors and franchisees.
As the graphic on this page shows, those 3 overarching principles are at the top of the channel performance food chain. They will guide and add focus to your program of channel optimization and lead you to the promised land of increased sales, higher margins, lower warranty costs and improved customer satisfaction. [Please feel free to leverage this graphic to your slide decks or strategy papers.]
Underneath lies a labyrinth of tasks and activities, each of which must be executed with excellence.