Growing your channel can keep us all busy! We plough time into delivering online events, social media, marketing; maybe technical support and most probably lots of training.... the list goes on, but is it really going to drive the sort of sales growth you are looking for?
The big question we get asked all the time is how to engage a channel to drive real sales growth.
We've seen far too many channel models over the years. It's fair to say that each has value in most cases for the manufacturer, but it often depends on if the partners are running a business as a sales organisation or just fulfilling business as a reseller. How many times have we seen "Bring me some leads and I will sell your product"! Or, “Here are some leads, can you sell my product?”
These statements raise real questions about why the two organisations are even talking to each other. Let's take a look at some common myths, when it comes to sales growth through a reseller channel, and 5 ways that you can deliver a better outcome for your business:
Myth buster #1. 'Finding new partners shouldn't be this hard'
The truth is that if you believe this, you set up to fail. Finding and developing Partners is not a straightforward process. Your product or service may be the best in the market, but resellers face a real risk in switching their sales focus away from their existing portfolio. Spare capacity is soaked up in trying to win more of the business they can see today, rather than betting on future revenue with you.
Working through the tough times together can help form better bonds between teams. And so it takes time for these things to evolve. If you did a quick survey across those successful partnering models out there, you start to uncover a long history between companies and, more importantly, their people.
A great tip here is to use assessments to understand and identify those partners that would be a great fit for you and your business. Ideally this happens before you start working together but can easily be done within existing channels - call it a joint development workshop to make it less confrontational.
This needs to be combined with the ability to say no and walk away from those that aren't right for you.
Myth buster #2. 'A bigger partner is better than a smaller one'
Big partners have lots of sales guys, sell to lots of accounts and have the ability to make or break your target easily. Herein lies the problem. You have to spend a lot of time to even get in the door, and that's before you convince the sales teams to start selling your product over the ones they already sell (and make money on). The proposition needs to not just be something the customer needs, but it has to be easier to sell, easier to understand and definitely make them more money than what they sell today.
Smaller partners tend to be more focused and you can spend time developing a number of them at the same time. You still have to do all the things you would do with a bigger partner (see above) but the door is more open to the opportunity, for sure.
Big or Small, or a mix of bothyou still have some things to look out for:- Can they really sell? Does your company fit with the direction they want to go in (if you sell a product and they are moving to a service-only model then you are in the wrong place).
Consider how much time you have to invest in building your channel. How well connected are you already to existing partners in your market? Walking into a channel with a clear understanding of what each size of partner will need, will really help you in the long run.
Myth buster #3. 'Resellers always shop around or don't have any brand loyalty'
In a Channel this is down to fairness. If you are being considerate with your pricing, meeting your Service Level Agreements and investing in each other’s marketing (with both time and budget) then you won’t go far wrong.
Have clear pricing and policies in place for competitive tender situations - and publish them before the first deal comes in!!! If you are fair in who you will support, if it's between two competing partners, everyone will be clear on what to expect. If you change your mind or go with a partner who is prepared to take a margin cut to bring in a deal, then you will fail to establish trust and lose business in the future.
Clear pricing and sales policies don't have to be complicated. Write a list of things you will and won't do, present this to all your partners on your first meeting.... and stick to it!
Myth buster #4. 'Supporting a channel is too time-consuming'
You should be engaging and connecting with your partners regularly. It might not be every day, it might not be every week! But if it’s appropriate for both of you – who cares! In a relationship, the worry of how often should you be in touch is seen to be more of a problem.
The best thing to do is talk about it and agree a schedule. Then, If you think your vendor or partner is not paying you enough attention then it should be ok just to ask them – right?
Myth bustomer #5. 'If they love me, they'll change'
If you are caught it the internal struggle of what you want your reseller to be, and what they really are, then I feel bad for you. The simple truth is that they can’t be something they are not. You have to move on and find someone who is – much easier said than done I hear you cry!!
Most of the channel development and partner engagement programmes we deliver for clients have multiple vendors, services and solutions to consider. A strong idea of what you want from your Partner will help. If you know what you want then you can find someone who matches that requirement in the first place – or has their own plans to be right and you are willing to help them to get there. Find ones that can really add value to your business before you enter into the agreement.
How can we help?
We feel sad when people can’t work together. ☹ We can help you profile successful partners to find similar, or create a profile that is right for you and identify some likely candidates. You have to talk to them and understand them before you make the decision but we can get you in the same room.