Your channel partner is probably working with many vendors, so how can you keep your channel partner focused on working with you and selling your products? Here are my 7 tips to help you build a successful channel partnership.
1. Keep your channel partner's mind share
Keep your company, your products at the front of your channel partner's mind. Let them know why focusing on your product will be a benefit to them. Be visible and in communication with your channel partner, providing easily understood incentive programs, pertinent to their needs, along with regular training and discussion.
2. Explain the benefits of working with you.
Are you sure that your channel partner is clear about the benefits of working with you? Often partners may not immediately see these benefits, make sure they do. Keep following-up and refreshing the benefits of your products over the competition’s and how representing your products will mean increased profitability for you both.
3. Provide clear, concise training.
Make sure that the programs you offer positively impact everyone involved in the partnership, not just the top decision makers. Keep the training clear and easily understandable so that your product, not your competitor’s is the one that remains fresh in their minds and that your channel partner remains excited to be working with you!
4. Be in constant communication and recognize successes.
Ongoing communication and recognition of the team or individuals is critical to keep your channel partner engaged. Make sure that the channel realizes what support you are able to offer, ensuring that it is simple to access and use.
5. Involve your channel partner in long term strategy planning.
Involve your channel partner in your long term strategy planning. Let them know that you will support them through any market transitions and all technological developments. This will show the channel partner your commitment to a collaborative approach whereby you are both winners. Make it clear that your future plans involves them, and as such you are vested in their success. As part of this, send them qualified leads to show them your level of commitment to help them grow their business. Keep engaged and interested, providing reward incentives both at the company level and individual. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a channel incentive program and a channel promotion. A program should drive and change longer term behavior. a promotion drives short term goals.
6. Ensure your programs lead to attainable results!
Partners are looking to represent companies who will make them profitable. Make sure that any programs you make available really offer the best sales practices, ones that lead to results. Support this by providing good sales tools and accurate information within an integrated communications network that allows reps to share best practices and interact with product experts. Ensure timely payment procedures so that partner feels immediately rewarded for their efforts and that their company’s cash flow is kept on track
7. Provide Partner Accelerator Programs
Consider offering Partner Accelerator programs to keep the channel partner’s mindshare and to drive the partner’s behavior in a direction which is mutually beneficial. In addition, provide them with good business analysis, weekly reporting of their success, of their upcoming renewal business for the year. Stay on their channel weekly pipeline calls to track closure and teach the channel sales force to use those opportunities to drive new sales.
Always be looking for new and innovative ways to create trust. If your channel partner trusts you he will listen to you and want to continue to work with you which will ultimately drive new sales going forward and give you both what you want, increased profitability. Let us know what you experiences have been!
You’ve selected what you believe to be the right channel partner, what do you do now to ensure that that channel partner views you as the preferred supplier? How do you build a long term, stable, partnership with the channel based on trust and mutual business benefit? As a business partner, the channel manager, should try to develop a strategy to help the channel perceive the business win of partnering with you. For a successful relationship that gets results, the channel manager should aim to become a valued member of the channel’s team, helping them to improve their performance.
How to successfully implement an effective channel strategy.
1. Think Win/Win/Win - Win for the Customer/Partner/ You
Channel partners must perceive a real win for them to want to work with you. The most powerful way to achieve this win is to help them achieve a business objective which is important to them. Once they have agreed to the plan and are willing to resource it, show them what the business win will be and ensure that this becomes an ongoing reality.
2. Be proactive and involved
Be proactive and involved showing how partnering with you will help the channel partner achieve their business goals. Focus attention and resources on areas where you can provide the solutions. Identify business opportunities providing a business win for both parties. Sell those opportunities to the channel partner and build the partnership around them.
3. Develop a Partnership Plan
The development of a partnership plan will provide a business focus for the partnership. The partner’s business win needs to be clear and concise. A clear plan will define mutual expectations of commitment and return, enabling both parties to plan for and ensure success. It will help to focus partner activity, maximizing productivity and reducing channel conflict, concentrating the partner’s attention and resources on their activity with you. It will also provide a method for monitoring and managing the partnership. A medium and long term focus will then promote long term, not deal-based partnerships. This will provide a means of ensuring that the channel partner commits the right resources to support the plan, fulfilling the role you had previously defined for them.
4. Build a partnership based on TRUST
There are three key decision criteria which people use when choosing a partner. The channel manager should apply all three:
- Can we TRUST this person, or company?
- Can we GET ALONG with this person, or company?
- Can they PROVIDE THE SERVICE we require?
In summary, to develop successful, profitable, channel relationships, as the channel manager think not about direct selling but about partnership selling. Go from being a sale’s professional to an expert consultant. Turn attention from the customer who might buy your product through the channel, to the channel partner themselves. Focus on the long, not the short term, not on closing the deal with the customer but on helping the partner to win and in so doing helping you to win and dramatically impact the bottom line.
What have been your experiences, either as a channel manager or as a channel partner, we would love to hear from you?
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!
You’re just sitting down to dinner, the phone rings, hopefully not another telesales call! You were looking forward to the opportunity to relax. Everything in you wants to ignore it, but the persistent ringing is worse than pretending you can ignore it. You decide to answer because then you can stop the annoying calls. We’ve all experienced this. Why do these companies insist on calling people at home at dinner time? Well, the answer is obvious – it’s because that’s when they are more likely to find people at home. But that’s not really the subject of this sales tale. This call was different.
Tip 1: Be confident and enthusiastic, develop excellent listening and questioning skills.
What made the call different? Well firstly the person on the phone was bright, confident, enthusiastic and sincere. Not too pushy. They didn’t sound bored with their job. They didn’t assume that I wanted to hear from them. They asked empathetic questions and listened making it clear that they valued my time and they were enthusiastic about their company. They clearly had developed excellent telesales skills!
Tip 2: Don't focus on selling, create a positive customer focused experience.
They were actually calling from a local cable company (and we already had satellite TV). I let them know very quickly that we had satellite – but they were not fazed by that. Instead they were interested to know what I liked about the service I had and explained that they would welcome the opportunity to talk again if and when things were to change. Why am I writing about this? Mainly because this person left me with a very positive impression of their company simply because of the way they handled the call. Their polite, confident and empathetic approach made me think well of their company and much more likely to be open to considering change in the future. They didn’t make a sale on that call (but I suspect that was not their primary objective). They created a positive environment for a future call.
Be sincere and empathetic
The message: too many telesales people seem to forget that they are speaking to another human being. They don’t seem to care about the person who is answering the phone. They are not sincere or empathetic. They are totally focused on getting their call completed and moving to the next. By contrast I just received yet another telesales call – this time of the negative variety. They asked to speak to a colleague – speaking in a way that made it very clear that they were not at all interested in talking to me. Little did they know that I was the decision-maker for their service, but they didn’t care enough about the person answering the phone to take the time and trouble to find out. They had one goal. They weren’t thinking. They were following a script.
My thoughts turned to that very different call a few weeks ago … and made me think more positively about the company that had employed that person. A company, vested in their employees success (and therefore their own) and who realized the importance of excellent telesales training to create a successful, positive, customer focused experience. When I’m ready for the annual service renewal I might even call them.