This is the first in my series of blogs about channels. We will be discussing how to implement good channel strategy. How to identify, select and recruit the right partners, how to make the partnership successful for both the vendor and the channel and the best ways to support channels.
Developing a partnership with your channel
When developing good channel strategy much is said about being a partner with your channel but what does that actually mean? Google defines “partner’’ as: 'A person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, esp. in a business or company with shared risks and profits.' Most vendors do indeed talk about their relationship with their channels as a partnership but all too often go on to complain about their performance; that they are not selling their products, they are not producing the results they had been promised or expected. Why might that be and whose initial responsibility is it to ensure the success of the relationship
1. Selecting the right partner
I would suggest that success of this type of business relationship rests initially with the vendor. The first part of their strategy is obviously to select the right channel for their distribution. The ‘right’ partner is one who shares with the vendor a mutual desire to want the relationship to work. I will go into more detail about this selection in my next channel blog. The vendor should then ask themselves are they committed to this success and do they feel that their potential partner shares this commitment
2. Provide on going channel support
“Ask not what the channel can do for me but what can I do for the channel?”
- How do they intend to contribute to that model in terms of revenue opportunities and bottom line profits?
- Do they have the resources to implement a joint and formal business planning process with their channel partners?
- What programs and services do they have available to help the channel partner optimize their performance?
- Do they have the capability to implement new and innovative channel partner programs and make program improvements?
- Are they able to offer incentives, and promotions to the channel partner and do they have the infrastructure to be able to effectively support these initiatives?
- Are there performance measurements available to determine achievement?
- Are there systems in place to provide further support to the channel partner when required and decision processes to consider further investment in the partnership?
3. Communication strategy.
The vendor should also consider their communicator strategy.
Do they have effective communication strategies in place to successfully compel their channel partners' participation and action?
Are there channel communication strategies and tools to be able to leverage the partner portal(s) and social media effectively?
Are there dedicated members of the vendor’s team responsible for channel partner communication tasked with accessing progress and providing support such as helping the partner develop a quote or close a deal?
4. Assessment strategy
The vendor should develop an assessment strategy and view it as an on going evolving process and commitment.
Are they able to devote time to assess their channel strategy based on market shifts and/or the competition?
How up to date and aware are they of market trends and competitive strategies that may significantly impact their channel business?
How effective and accurate is their assessment process?
Are their partners capturing new customers and making inroads into new markets? Opening up new markets and acquiring new customers requires an innovative approach and more resources.
5. Training and support from senior management
How is the vendor motivating and training their channel partners to invest in new markets and customers?
Are they prepared to provide the support and training to make this a successful partnership?
How vested is the senior management team in the channel’s success?
In essence is the vendor really committed to their channel partner’s success, to the partnership, truly sharing in the gains and losses, risks and rewards in working together?
As a channel partner how much of this rings true for you and as a vendor how much of this do you think is relevant and accurate? Are both of you doing all you can to make a successful channel partnership? Maybe you have other great suggestions, if so I would love to hear them!
Successful sales people know how to adapt to different types of customers
To be a successful salesperson you need to be able to analyze the possible types of customer relationships, which you might forge. There are important differences in customer relationships and sales people can make unnecessary mistakes if they don’t understand them.
From Sun Tzu’s teaching we can identify 6 types of customers, each with its own traits. A sales person needs to be aware of these and to adapt to each accordingly. Remember, customers are just people, people with all their various quirks.
(1) The accessible customer, (2) The exclusive customer, (3) The supportive customer:
Accessible customers are normally open to your ideas but probably also open to the competitions’ too! These types of customers need to be led more, so be the first to understand their needs and try to work with the top people to best position yourself and your products. Conversely exclusive customers will only allow you one chance at getting their business. Avoid selling to exclusive customers before you have something really viable to offer. Supportive customers are very empathetic, judging your proposal by how confident you are. They can be very loyal sticking with your proposal over others, encouraging the competition to loose patience; you want this type of customer! Let's look now last 3 types of customers
(4) The close minded customer, (5) The ‘one man show’ and (6) The unqualified customer.
There will always be customers who are narrow minded, make sure you get to influence them before your competitors do. If the competition gets there first it is probably not worth wasting your effort. Some customers are one man shows, contact the decision maker first but again don’t try to sell to them if the competition has beaten you to it. Some customers are simply unqualified and you need to walk away from them.
As a salesperson if you fail to understand your customers you will fail.
Why - because you will offer solutions to problems they don’t have, compete in the wrong issues and fail to pick up the right customers. Try to guide your customer, understand their needs and only close the sale when you are sure that you can meet them. Never leave the customer confused. Look after them; know the value of what you have to offer and how it fulfills the customer’s needs. Become known as someone offering expertise and insight, a true ‘consultative sales partner’ vested in the customer’s success, winning more business for both of you.
Do you know agree with Sun Tzu’s categorization of customers and his suggestions of how to approach each one? Which categories do your customers fit into? How successful have you been in becoming a sales partner with your customers, do you agree that this is important, we would love to hear your thoughts!