Gone are the days of the warm, face to face customer visits and timely feedback from your top reps. In their place are your channel partners, who provide limited comments, and prefer that you don’t directly call on their customers. Your relationship with the end user is a cold, distant past. However, all is not lost. Using these four techniques, you can rekindle this relationship by cultivating relationships with your channel partners, and demonstrate your commitment to their success. To follow along, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Flip to the sales strategy section of the PDF and review the Channel Optimization phase on pages 290 – 298.
Joint Sales Calls
If your company’s channel management follows the Pareto Principle, where 80% of your channel revenue comes from the 20% of your partners, these are the firms you contact. Go out in the field with some of their best representatives, find out how their reps position your products, and shape your marketing with this message. To reciprocate, your product specialists and engineers should provide value to the customers and reps on the unique features that separate your product from the competition.
Company Field Visits by Engineers/Product Managers
By setting up a meeting between your channel partner with your firm’s manufacturing and marketing personnel, you will get first hand feedback on what products, features, and the advertising your prospects respond to. Furthermore, it will help your company reinforce your product competitive advantages within the marketplace. They get a better educated sales force, you get real time information on the latest industry trends. Best time to visit? Right after their annual sales kickoff. Give them the talking points they need to sell your product.
Gold Advisor Councils
Choose both the fastest growing and highest producing channel partners that can provide honest and impartial feedback (not just lip-service). Plan a two to three day meeting in a nice (but not necessarily exotic) location and get their input using several meetings built around the timeliest issues. Some meeting topics could include: Sales and Marketing Support, Sales Promotional Plans, Competitive Activity, and New Products. Most importantly, conclude with a meeting outlining key takeaways and implement these changes throughout the year. Without your firm’s commitment to the most important issues, these meetings will be little more than a sales rep boondoggle.
Do your market research, find where your customers lurk and build an advertising campaign to stock your partners with quality leads. Back in the day, this was the trade publication du jour; today it is the internet. Make sure your name is in the top ten search results of your ideal customer profile’s queries through SEO. Buy banners and display ads from relevant industry news sources. Qualify these leads before you send them to your channel partners to ensure you have good insights into the quality of the leads.
By utilizing these best channel practices, you are strengthening the relationship in four ways:
- You show that you are interested in their well-being.
- You get their feedback on what programs/features their prospects want.
- You are opening lines of communication between your company representatives and theirs.
- You are aligning their firm’s profitability with your product’s success
Do you have any other best practices that have built distant channel firms into trusted sales partners? I’d be interested to hear your feedback in the comments below.
Send the right message to your channel partners this year. Get off to a fast start by developing a solid channel strategy. As a guide, download SBI’s 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Channel Optimization phase on pages 290 -298.