According to Forrester, 75% of the world’s commerce uses channel sales to generate revenue
. What does this mean? Instead of preferring direct channel sales
, where there is no intermediary, companies, or ‘vendors’ are trusting their partners to sell for them. Channel partner sales
contribute to revenue and sales growth, adding to the company’s headcount and associated expenses. They are also enriching the customer experience.
In a LinkedIn Live, Kori O'Brien, SVP Alliances & Channels at Salesforce, talked about how partner sales contribute to a great customer experience.
“I really think it’s about segmenting the market and realizing how you get your best scale. And at the end of the day, it’s about what is going to make your customers more successful. You want them to have access to and experience of engaging with your product and brand successfully. I think if you can make sure that the partners you bring on board hit the profile you want and you segment your market effectively for productivity, I think there is a healthy balance between direct and indirect sales.”
Are you planning on expanding into new markets, enhancing your customer experience, or creating a channel to scale your growth
efficiently? If you are, then you must dive deep into channel partner sales
, understand how to face the challenges they present, and make the most of a channel sales strategy
Understanding Channel Partner Sales
One of the many ways to scale a business is to hire salespeople. However, hiring, training, and retaining salespeople is expensive and can even deplete the resources you can use to grow your business. Even with the best tools on the market, sales reps face limitations. A game-changing idea would be to set up a channel sales strategy
In a channel partner sales strategy, you use partners, including but not limited to affiliate partners, value-added partners, and resellers. Anybody who doesn’t work for you directly but sells your product is a channel partner.
Examples of Channel Partner Sales
Alliances: Partners that sell complementary products
Affiliates: Websites that send customers to your site for a paid commission
Dealers: Intermediaries between customers and manufacturers
Distributors: Buyers who directly buy from you but market and sell to customers in their region
Franchisees: Use your brand identity and business model to sell products and services
Resellers or VARs: Purchase products to resell them, often adding features to enhance them
Brokers and Agents: Arrange purchases in exchange for a pre-set commission
Retailers: Sell products to consumers in small quantities
Channel Partner Sales: Benefits, Challenges & Solutions
Let us look at some benefits that channel partner sales
Brand Awareness and Trust
A well-known channel partner can help you create brand awareness and credibility in the market.
Efficiency and Cost-effectiveness
Channel partners can bring more revenue at a fraction of the cost of hiring new sales reps.
Experiment with new products, packages, customers, and marketing campaigns at low risk.
Vendors help with customer success by giving service and support to customers on your behalf.
So far, channel partner sales
look promising for business growth, right? However, your channel partner’s sales
ride may not be a smooth-sailing one. Let us look at some challenges this model presents and how you can tackle them without burning yourself out.
Your partners represent your brand when they sell your product to end customers. However, you cannot control their interactions with customers. The only way to ensure that your partners give their best to achieve customer success is to provide an excellent partner experience for them. If you nurture your partnerships, give them time and effort, it will prompt your partners
to offer the same support and effort for you.
When you use a combination of direct sales and partner channel sales
, unexpected conflicts can arise between you and your partners. Your partners may feel like they are competing with your salespeople. To avoid such conflicts, proactively set guidelines around products you want to sell through your channel partners and those you wish to sell directly through your team.
Zeroing-in on the Best Technology
Finalizing a tech platform that best suits your partnership needs can be challenging because of the options available in the market, your partners’ expectations, budget constraints, and business goals. In this case, you can identify the areas that need special attention and leverage the tech resources you have to expand your functionality over time instead of making drastic changes immediately.
Partners’ Changing Expectations
Over time, your successful channel partners may ask you for better margins. It may be hard not to entertain such expectations if their numbers are good. Ensure you know the pricing structures you are comfortable working with from the get-go. Decide how frequently you need to revisit these structures. To minimize risk, recruit new partners instead of relying on a select few.
Poor Performance of Partners
Some of your partners may not live up to your expectations. Assessing metrics to know which ones are consistently underperforming is a smart way to figure out your next steps in time. Eliminate the partners who aren’t doing much for your sales channel. To improve results, you can also train your partners’ sales team. You may have to shell out for this solution, but it can be a good investment over time if appropriately executed.
5 Tips to Boost Your Channel Sales Strategy
Here are five tips you can use to boost your channel sales strategy
Set Ground Rules and Expectations
Definable sales expectations, which can be measured with KPIs, are crucial for the success of a channel sales strategy
. Your partners should clearly understand your expected close rate or account growth expectations beforehand. In turn, you should also make sure that all your channel partners chase the goals they have set for themselves. Create checkpoints in your partnership journey to make sure everything is in order. Support your partners at every step and reward their good performances.
Engage a Channel Partnership Management Platform
Use the best partner relationship management (PRM) software in the market to track your partners’ performance. Robust PRM software may help you position your channel strategy
better and drive your sales. Resources like webinars, training materials, and sales dashboards will keep your partners on their toes. Your PRM software should have the following features:
Maintain an Open Communication Channel
You should be in touch with your partners frequently. If the partners are not updated with the latest news surrounding your offerings and any other strategic announcements, they will not be able to benefit from them. You may also not hear much from them, missing out on issues that may fester if left unattended. Sending periodic emails, creating social media
groups, conducting meetings, and participating in webinars can help you maintain an open communication channel with your partners.
Stress on Training and Reinforcement
Hone the skills of your channel partner managers and partner sales managers to help them perform optimally. By training your partner sales assets in marketing and selling your products, you can reinforce your brand knowledge and give them motivation to confidently sell your products. Ensure that you plan and execute good training programs for your channel partner managers, take feedback, and gather information on their performance to optimize efficiency.
Grab a Bigger Mindshare for Your Product
Mindshare is the limited time and resources your channel partner spends on marketing and selling your product. Apart from you, it is highly likely that your partner sells products for other companies. Therefore, your goal should be to get more considerable mindshare for your product. Engage your partners with content, incentives, referral programs, and more so that they remain committed to investing more time and resources in selling your products.
Allbound PRM Helped Garland Technology Get a 33% Increase in Their Partner Referral Revenue
Garland Technology, a network product and solutions enterprise, used Allbound’s PRM tool for channel sales management
. With the help of the PRM tool, they automated training, marketing, and deal registrations and saw a 33% increase in their partner referral revenue. Their partner onboarding and training numbers also improved significantly.
With the help of these five tips, you can enhance your channel sales management
. An effective channel sales
strategy can increase your sales revenue, motivate you to scale your business in different markets and strengthen your channel partnership program.
What are some examples of channel sales partners?
Some examples of channel sales partners are distributors, consultants, alliances, affiliates, resellers, franchisees, and dealers.
How can you avoid conflicts with your channel sales partners?
To avoid conflicts with your channel partners, set clear boundaries on customer targeting, define the products you are going to sell indirectly, and offer lucrative incentives to partners. Also, keep an open communication channel, and decide on the customer segments that your partners shouldn’t target.
What are some of the popular PRM tools?
Some popular PRM tools are PartnerStack, Impact Partnership Cloud, Salesforce PRM, Allbound PRM, and Impartner PRM.