In our last blog we presented the first five (5) steps to creating success with a channel partner. We advanced the notion that to receive a disproportionate “share of mind” with the channel requires a business strategy that leads to a differentiated relationship. A pillar of this strategy is “to help the channel grow their business and become partners in their success”. This is imperative when growing or building a channel. You must focus on your partners business and assist them in being successful with your products and services.
In this blog we would like to present the next six (6) steps to increasing “mindshare” and concomitant results with your channel partner. We hope that you find these useful.
6. Generate More Leads Than Requests: Channel partners only get paid when they sell something. They don’t care about your latest social media campaign, the number of pieces of direct mail that were sent last month, the new advertisement that is running in a magazine or the various PR events that are promoting the company or a new product. They do care about the “results” of these activities. If you discuss a marketing program, tell them how many leads were generated and how many of those leads were “qualified as sales ready” and then passed on to them. Be careful when you do this exercise. Channel partners can do simple math and they will immediately determine whether they are getting their fair share of leads. If you want “mindshare” provide some leads that quickly translate into revenue. Money motivates channel partners.
7. Make National Meetings Worthwhile: Channel partners don’t want you to waste their time. Every day out of the field to attend a national meeting is one less selling day for a channel partner. If you manage a channel remember this fact! In fact tape it to your wall. As a company employee, your salary and travel expenses are paid while attending a national meeting. The channel partners do not earn commissions when they attend a national meeting and most have to pay their own travel expenses. If you schedule a meeting, hold it in a location that is easily accessible by air travel and rotate the site location yearly from coast to coast. There are three main reasons to have a national meeting. They are to educate, motivate and reward. If you are going to have a meeting, ensure the agenda is devised by the channel. Success is measured if each channel partner leaves the meeting with the feeling that what they learned will help them make more money than what they spent by attending the meeting. Be sure your meeting motivates everyone and creates a revenue vortex. If you miss the mark, you will lose mindshare. Consider providing different tracks for different partner types and roles to make them more relevant to all attendees.
8. Enable Them With Technology: Do it the way the “best of class” companies do it. Map the buy-sell process and then imbed it within a customer relationship management (CRM) program. Provide your channel partners with this technology. Before you do so, however, ensure that all of your technology solutions are simple, easy-to-use and intuitive. Take the time to sell the benefits of the technology to the channel so they will embrace it. Remember technology is supposed to increase selling time and facilitate communication. It is not intended to be a burdensome task. Ask yourself if you are providing the correct technology for your channel members to be successful. Do you provide technology for lead, opportunity and relationship management; sales analytics/reporting, content management, order management, sales configuration, quotation generation, sales portals and proposal generation?
9. Build Credibility & Trust: Everything you do must continually build credibility and trust with the channel. What you did yesterday is easily forgotten. It is the behavior today that is important and relevant. Be honest in all your dealings and never undercut the channel. Be consistent in your policies especially in communication, management, pricing, commissions and termination. Ask yourself if your policies are consistent at the end of the quarter and at the end of the year or do your policies always vary. If they vary you are sending a mixed message to the channel. Anticipate areas of potential conflict and deftly manage it. Channel partners are masters at watching to see if your behavior matches the words they hear. When the message and the behavior varies, you lose credibility and trust. If you lose credibility and trust, you lose mindshare.
10. Offer Strong Channel Programs: These provide discount schedules, reward levels and Market Development Funds (MDF) or coop funds along with all the parameters and ground rules for successful channel management. They motivate enhanced performance. Use them judicially.
11. Differentiate the Relationship: Do all of the little things. If a squabble occurs over a commission do you favor the channel partner? Do you direct deposit their commissions? Do you send them free collateral and support materials or do you charge them? Do internal support personnel respond promptly to their requests? Does anyone in senior management ever call and congratulate them on an order or achieving their revenue plan? How do you treat them at a mandatory national meeting? Is a wine/cheese basket in their room upon check-in? Do you host a welcome cocktail reception? Do you provide them with a company gift at each meeting? These are little things but they speak volumes when done unexpectedly. It is easy to differentiate yourself from other manufacturers. Set a positive tone, do the little things, constantly raise the bar and watch revenue soar.
Developing close relationships with channel partners is a logical way to build loyalty and an on-going sustainable revenue stream.
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