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).
I noticed that today, players and coaches are tied to tablets on the sideline when they’re not on the field. Those tablets undoubtedly serve up near real-time replays along with a host of other information and stats that the coaches and players use to adjust their game strategy. They apply what they learn in near-real time to their play in the game, both as a team and individually. It’s worth noting the obvious that most of the players are below 30 years old, and most of the coaches are older than 30. Yet both groups have adapted to the in real time use of the technology.
Separately, I was at an annual meeting recently with one of our large customers. My client made a statement that “25% of the middle managers in his company are 30 years old or younger, and by 2020 they’ll represent 50% of the management team”. This brought to mind an interesting analogy between what he said with what I’ve been observing on the sidelines during football games. How so, you might ask?
We spend our days at LogicBay working with companies that sell and service their products through indirect sales channels, which means that the salespeople that sell for our customers aren’t on their payroll. They work for independent businesses who partner with our customer to sell for them. Some of our customers are global companies and have thousands of salespeople that collectively work for hundreds or thousands of independently owned businesses (dealers, VARs, resellers, etc.).
I started wondering to what degree do managers (“coaches”) in indirect sales channels use modern technology-delivered information (like the NFL does) in a sales channel. I actually started to chuckle inside at the ridiculous contrast and the nerdy comparison at first! The more I thought about it though, the more I thought the analogy was interesting and relevant.
Three trends driving disruptive change in how we manage channels
There are three separate trends that, combined, are driving disruptive change in how sales channels must be managed and how salespeople need to be supported on the job today. They are:
- B2B buyer behavior has changed.
Let’s face it - we all do our own research when we’re trying to find something to solve a problem or challenge we are having. The same behavior repeats when we go to work. We look for solutions to business problems by doing our own research to educate ourselves on possible solutions, and which may be a good fit for our business. When we find a great resource, we look deeper at it.
- “There’s an App for that”.
Just like apps have taken off in the personal technology space, so have they in the B2B space. com has over 2,700 apps on its AppExchange. HubSpot has close to 50 independent integrations (and counting). Marketo has a dizzying number as well – too many and hard to count! We've become accustomed to installing apps on our smart phones for personal reasons. Most of us use those same phones for business apps as well.
- Changing demographics.
Most of us expect to have technology tools at our fingertips to do any task – personal or work-related. We’ve integrated our work life with our personal life. Technology has helped enable that – especially millennial's who never knew otherwise.
Think about how your own sales channel is run these days. Do potential buyers (leads!) easily find your website and your free offerings and content that help them solve their problems?? Is there a seamless way to get their contact information that most of us routinely exchange for valuable content turning that visitor into a lead? That’s actually the easy part. The hard question is – how easy is it to get that contact information – which is now a lead - to the right sales partner – fast? Indirect sales channels today need modern “channel operating systems” that support the way people are buying today and allow those leads to get distributed quickly to salespeople in an indirect channel.
What does this have to do with football?
Back to the football analogy. Salespeople today – especially those below 30 – expect to have fast tools at their disposal to do their job well and efficiently. They want to be able to “google it” at work and find what they need to do their job using their own smartphones and tablets. They want to run a sales play that results in a win.
Now, think about the use of tablets on the sidelines. Just like the NFL has retooled to use near real-time information to help their players and teams perform better, we as channel managers can do the same. The questions we have to ask ourselves as channel managers are: Do our resources meet today’s expectations? Is our support environment designed to help today's sales teams run the right plays?
So...what’s your game plan?