All manufacturers want a well-optimized distribution channel, 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. 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.
Beware of Potential Areas of Inefficiencies In Your Distribution Channel
It’s a broad topic, but few issues within the channel can end up causing more wide-ranging problems than an inability to communicate effectively with all key stakeholders. 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 Dealers / Channel Partners: It should always be easy for a channel manager to get ahold of their primary contact at each dealer/channel partner, and vice versa. A “hands off” management approach is generally a poor idea in modern channel sales, and dealers need to feel they’re receiving proper support.
- Sales Representatives and Manufacturing 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 manufacturer to answer difficult questions, such as speaking to engineers about technical details.
- Dealers & Channel Partners: Collaboration -or at least cooperation- is of growing importance to a functioning channel ecosystem. Dealers 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.
Training and Onboarding
Few tasks within a channel ecosystem are more burdensome -and downright annoying- than training, and that’s on both sides. The manufacturer dislikes having to spend a lot of money flying reps around the country to conduct training seminars, and sales staff at the dealer locations 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.
Tie Things Together With PRM
PRM software offers a wide range of solutions to meet the challenges outlined here. But we don't suggest you try to tackle everything at once. If you're looking for more specific advice about what it takes to positively impact your channel sales program, let's talk!
See also: Learning in the Manufacturing Ecosystem - Training & Certification Best Practices