08th May, 2019
Denave, Team, Designation
A successfully operational channel management is an elixir for Direct Sales team. A business imperative even in B2B sales, it is a topic of great deliberation in the C-suite meetings. An important element in the overall marketing strategy impacting the top-line of revenue stream. It is the kick-off point in the business’s expansion blueprint.
Yet not many new and innovative stuff happens when it comes to designing an apt channel structure or formulating ways to boost the performance of channel partners. No wonder it is the least compelling elements amongst all the other elements of marketing strategy.
Setting the Fundamentals
Marketing channels are the foundation of B2C sales and has slowly gained prominence even in B2B sales with oft followed direct purchasing system stepping aside. The goal remains the same – making the products available to the end customer who may be either – as far as possible or as more as possible.
Hence, for both geo expansion and geo penetration, channel marketing has become equally important in B2B sales.
The change, irrespective of B2B or B2C, has been the domino’s effect of digital disruption that has transformed the entire selling landscape. Forrester Research reports that as much as 70% of the buying process is already completed before the buyer even contacts a potential supplier.
So, e-Commerce, digital marketplace, digital tools for the salesforce team are the way forward even for resellers and channel partners.
One step at a time
Designing a channel is an ever-evolving process in keeping with the business growth and progress in the business vision. Number of conduits, size and coverage of channel depends greatly upon the business goal of penetrating an entire geography covering every customer touch-point within the precincts or go selective to maintain exclusivity.
Channel management pertaining to geo-penetration occurs at two level:
- Getting more partners within the fold and effectively increasing the channel breadth
- Re-engaging strategy with the existing partners to infuse the sense of vitality that may further help in making new partner registrations
A simple registration process, short on-boarding mechanism, and judicious incentive arrangement can be the starting ground for recruiting new partners. Further, the registration platform should be easy to understand and navigate and yet robust enough to capture all the desired information.
It shall help in charting everyday progress with respect to partner registration.
Existing but inactive partner management requires more effort. Firstly, the prevailing channel database need to be analysed under a new lens. It should be cleansed, segregated, profiled with past sales behaviour and customer relationship mapped out.
This ensures a relevant and right database at disposal to provide desired impetus to the re-engagement channel strategy in the initial stages. Follow this up with targeted e-mail campaigns, social-media campaigns, tele-marketing efforts and event strategy to reach out to the dormant partners.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to note that these outreach efforts must be as far as possible – localised. It is ideal to have the product brochures and requisite communication content in variety of format, easily accessible and available in multiple languages. Real-time support to the channel partner goes a long way in building desired customer experience of the brand.
A quick rundown
Succinctly capturing steps for successful channel partner management:
Ensure all the units are in sync
Marketing and sales teams need to be aligned in terms of goals, objectives, guidelines, channel program, budget, target markets and operational capabilities. Setting clear expectations at the outset help avoid frictions and abandonment of the strategy mid-way.
Easing the partnership process
It is only prudent to note that only those who benefit from the partnership in terms of their own business growth, would be willing to partner. Hence, not only the registrations must be simple but right training, availability of right marketing collaterals and push to the joint marketing plan is significantly important.
Lead sharing process
Lead funnelling when implemented as a two-way process help encourage partners to register for pricing discounts and accolades that goes a long way in increasing mind-share and motivate partners to continue their sales efforts with extra zing.
Intermittent tracking to analyse the progress, evaluate best-practices and to tweak tactics to suit current market demands and prevailing eco-system helps to maintain transparency in the partnership and help partners in understanding their position in the overall partner ecosystem.
A comprehensive sales insight encompassing performance and value-add that channel partners bring with focus on customer preference and competition landscape lends a clear understanding of the channel management.
It is pertinent for the Sales enablement tools and methodologies to consider customer’s challenge and enable partners to successfully resolve them real time.
Interactive sales tool seems to be the future ahead, a twist in the real-time information sharing.