Stop selling, help your customer to buy!
Why do car sales people get such a bad wrap? The car sales person is one of those types of people that we all love to hate. Why is that? When we want to buy a car, we want someone to help us, someone to listen and understand our needs. Most people dread the idea of having to deal with the car sales person. Typically, within a few seconds, these type of sales people demonstrate that they are not sincere, that they care little about customer needs, they only care about selling us something – anything ... or at least any car on their lot.
They are not all like that. Car sales people are not all created equal. Here’s a car sales story of a different caliber. I was fortunate to be in the search for a new car – in fact a car that would be ‘new’ to me but actually a used car … I had spent time researching the market; I had a pretty good idea of what I would need to pay for the car model and year that I had chosen. I had decided on a car that was several years old and one that had already taken a big hit in depreciation.
Get to know your customer, their needs and concerns
So what happened? Well, to my surprise this particular sales person took the time to get to know more about me. He didn’t parade around the car lot spouting-on about how great all the cars looked. He asked intelligent, searching questions about what other cars I owned; what I had driven in the past; what I liked and didn’t like; and why I was looking. He asked about me and my family and tried to build a picture of what I really needed, as well as what I said I wa
Ask questions, listen and probe, make the client feel you care
It became clear that the salesperson's focus was on ME, the potential buyer. He asked good questions, listened carefully and then started to probe more deeply about my reasoning for why I wanted a used car, as opposed to a new one. He was then able to suggest that he might have a solution that would meet all my needs AND mean that I could be driving a brand new car,
not a used one. I had never in my wildest dreams thought that that would be possible for the type of car I wanted. He showed me an exciting option, which was far better than the one I had original planned. Without pushing me in that direction he suggested, offered and compared alternatives - until I felt that I had made decision to buy new instead of used.
Be sincere and interested to build trust
How did he do that? Firstly he identified that my primary decision- making factor was my assumed monthly cost of financing a car. I had a limit, he didn’t try to change the limit, he respected the fact that I had done my homework but he presented a new solution – a lease which would enable me to have a fixed monthly cost within my budget. He explained the business rationale for leasing the car through the business and was able to talk as a peer. He was someone helping me to make an important decision. He was sincere and interested in my needs and as such made me feel comfortable and willing to trust his advice. At the same time he was looking to the long-term. What he saw in me was someone who could become a repeat customer and a source of referrals and recommendations.
So what does all this tell us? Sales people (even the dreaded car sales variety) would all do better if they focused on the customer first and their products second. Sales people should not be selling; they should be helping the customer to buy!
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?
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!