Working in channel sales has been akin to herding cats. B2B sales are difficult enough as is, yet when navigating through indirect sales channels, there are many moving parts. In essence, you’re relying on another person, team, or company to sell your product or service. Surinder Brar is a channel expert who created a worldwide channel sales program and managed partner strategy for Cisco. He explains; “vendors often think of channels as merely an extension of their sales force and expect them to behave accordingly — this is fundamentally wrong. The channel isn’t part of your own organization, and you can’t expect the same behaviour or performance.”
So how can you create a cohesive ecosystem with your channel sales partners? Let’s tackle 5 strategies to bolster your channel sales performance.
1) Collateral – Both Marketing and Sales
When working with channel sales you need to ensure your partners have the proper tools they need to be most effective. Whether that collateral is sales kits for resellers/distributors or marketing material geared towards the end user, collateral needs to be available and disseminated throughout channel sales partners.
Marketing Collateral- Marketing teams bring in the leads for channel sales. For manufacturers and vendors, marketing collateral not only builds awareness for their product/service but also allows them to control the message of their brand.
Sales Collateral- Sales training tools can accelerate growth, as well as ensure your partners in channel sales can accurately communicate the value proposition of a product/service. These types of collateral can include; competitive data sheets, interactive webinars, sales scripts, customer testimonials, spec sheets or case studies.
The proper marketing and sales collateral will significantly aid in building your channel sales partnership.
2) Clearly-Outlined Rewards & Incentive Programs
With channel sales, incentive programs are common ground. Obviously, your partners will optimize their performance when incentivized with high-value rewards. While most channel sales partners have rewards and incentive programs already in place, it is surprising how often they can be unstructured and therefore ineffective. Incentive programs for channel sales need to have clearly outlined metrics. This means an explicit expectation of sales and revenue yield for each channel, which should be backed up by proper research. There needs to be an accurate evaluation of the potential for each sales channel; IE- number of prospective customers, size of customers, revenue potential, etc, in order to establish incentive programs. Furthermore, how will your rewards system fit in with month-to-month or quarterly activity for channel sales partners? It is paramount to the success of a rewards program to ensure logistics, reporting, and analytics, are not only set up properly but also understood by all partners in channel sales. It can be very helpful to turn to a third party company to administer and manage your channel sales performance services. Xoxoday offers a channel performance program that will oversee every step of the process, with proven results.
3) Communication, Communication, and more Communication!
Have you heard of the issue of too many cooks in the kitchen? That is a common problem when it comes to channel sales. The root of that issue can be combated with proper communication. Cross-channel communication can be difficult, there are many factors at play; consistency, availability, frequency, or even confusion on point of contact. There are multiple stakeholders in channel sales, and while they all generally want the same thing, different organizations represent different perspectives. Therefore the messaging isn’t consistent at each stage of the channel. Just like rewards/incentive programs, communication breakdown should be crystal clear within your channels. Partners should know who they can contact for specific issues. Beyond that, those contacts should be available for all communication.
To take it one step further encourage cross-channel communication. If you’re a manufacturer or vendor, why not offer to call your distributor’s prospects? it is important to outline this is just a means of help, not a way to take away business. Helping your channel sales partners close deals and answer client questions can go a long way. Communication also includes technical support for products and services. If you want your channel sales partnerships to be successful, the lines of communication need to be open and consistent.
4) Cross Promotion
Cross promotion and networking with channel sales partners is an integral part of the process. Channel sales is a collaborative effort, a rising tide lifts all boats, therefore a partner’s success equates to your success. This can include cross-promotion of your partner’s marketing and campaigns via social media, as well as connecting on LinkedIn. Networking is an inevitable aspect of channel sales, if you’re connected on social media and lay the groundwork for an authentic relationship, partnerships will strengthen. Interconnected channel sales strategies will provide a solid foundation for your working relationship.
5) Upsell Valuable Relationships- Think Quality over Quantity
When organizations want to increase their channel sales they often look to increase their partners, however, it’s important to remember quality over quantity. Focus on bolstering the relationships you already have, before going out to attract new ones. How can you make current partners more effective at selling the product? Enterprise sales channels can learn from the McDonald’s model. When a McDonald’s employee has a captive customer in front of them, they ask; “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would you like to supersize?” Those incremental sales equate to huge year-end profits. Apply the McDonalds method to your current channel partners. Ask yourself; how can you build a stronger partnership? What can you upsell?
Channel sales relationships are strategic investments that require time and effort, and captive audiences are much easier to sell to than cold leads.
Increasing sales with indirect channel sales partners is not an easy task, however with the proper time and attention, and solid groundwork- it can happen. To recap our 5 strategies… Provide all stakeholders with the appropriate collateral, whether it be sales or marketing. Make sure your rewards system is clearly laid out and consider utilizing a third party company to establish and manage your channel sales incentive program. Ensure that you have an easy-to-understand chain of command, and lines of communication are always open. Remember that cross-promotion of channel partners equates to everyone’s success. Focus on cultivating the relationships you have with your current partners, before tackling new channels. If you follow these steps you will drive more channel sales in no time!