3 Ways Marketers Can Increase Channel Partner Sales
By John McTigue
Before there was Amazon or any of the other online marketplaces, most manufacturers had two choices for sales, direct and channel partner sales. Smart companies tried both approaches and either stayed with both or made the decision to concentrate on one of them. There are advantages and disadvantages to using both strategies. Direct sales teams require a substantial investment in talent, training and technology, but they are focused on your brand. Channel partners and distributors work independently and usually offer more than your product line, maybe even competitor products, but your investment is relatively low.
So which sales strategy is the right one for your company?
That depends on a number of factors including:
- Buyer preferences and history in your market
- Local knowledge and proximity to end-users
- Channel partner brand awareness and reputation
- Previous relationships with buyers and companies
- Your brand awareness and reputation
- Your business strategy and sales effectiveness
- Your budget for direct sales and marketing
Let’s assume that, like many manufacturers, you have decided to use channel partners as a primary conduit for sales. Cisco, for example, sells directly to only 30 enterprises worldwide, representing only a small portion of the company’s installed base. The lion’s share is sold by its 60,000 partners worldwide who generate more than 85 percent of Cisco’s revenues.
Are your channel partners performing as well as Cisco’s?
There are three common challenges to working with channel partners, and here’s where Marketing can help.
1. Channel Partners Don’t Understand the Value of Your Products
They’re focused on building relationships with customers and rely on them to know what they need. It’s not so much a matter of helping them find the best solution, rather to close repeat sales and keep the pipeline open.
In B2B, especially industrial manufacturing, orders can be very large and sales cycles can take months, even years. The best sales reps act in a supporting role, providing timely information that helps their prospects and customers make informed decisions. To do that well, they need the latest product information and collateral and, most importantly, they need to know the value proposition and best fit for each of your products. Unfortunately, most channel reps would rather work on relationships, not upping their product knowledge on a regular basis.
How can marketers help?
- Build a bridge with your reseller and distributor sales teams. Create an easy-to-use online resource that provides them with co-branded brochures, spec sheets and value statements they can share with their prospects and customers.
- Keep them informed with weekly newsletters and blogs about product advancements, big sales wins, ideas for improved selling and additional support resources.
- Host events, both in-person and online, to promote new products, answer questions and provide two-way feedback.
2. Channel Partners Don’t Understand Modern Selling
The world of B2B selling has changed forever. Some of the more telling statistics include:
- 50 to 90 percent of the B2B buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer reaches out to sales
- 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now completed digitally
- By 2020, 80 percent of the buying process is expected to occur without any direct human-to-human interaction
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