Selling through channels is not new — but the way we partner can be. B2B methods, from Marketing Automation, Relationships Management and CRM systems, Supply Chain Management, Collaborative Order Management and Inventory Systems, Customer Databases, Partner Training and Certification and much more, are all part of the portfolio today.
For many companies and industries (from travel/ hospitality to consumer products, to complex equipment and infrastructure, to construction, working through channels to sell), implementing and retaining long term value for the customer is the way to go.
Yet… many companies manage their channels as an afterthought. Or they use medieval methods to manage these critical and often essential relationships. Hit or miss techniques such as dinners and conferences, though they might be fun, do little to demonstrate the value of the relationships, the competency of the partner, or the methods required to identify, nurture and succeed at channel management.
Once a partner signs up, they have to scale the walls trying to figure out who to talk to, who to go to for material, product updates, marketing activities, or sales calls. In many companies, channel managers are ‘gofers’ rather than strategic partners who are held accountable for and are excited about partner success, along with the systems and programs behind them, so that they can achieve the goal.
We have been conducting interviews with companies, some that only sell through channels — channel leaders — and have true visionary programs; and some that have channel management (not leadership) buried deeply in the maze of corporate management, with medieval attitudes and competencies for success.In this series we will share our research and insights with you, in this deep and complex world of Channel Management
- Although it is hard to overcome habits of the past, mutual vesting is today’s approach, vs. ‘buy-in’ fee-based programs. Diamond partners, who plunk down a cool million to be in the program, may not be the best partner who can sell, and more importantly successfully implement your solutions.
- Collaborative platforms and shared processes keep both teams focused on their mutual goals and provide a superior customer experience, a single face to the customer.
- Shared platforms also allow stellar execution (from creating a market, marketing automation, creating interest in the customer, nurturing) through Supply Chain fulfillment.
- Customer for life mentality and shared processes assure that the mutual customer feels that the love and value is retained for their investment in the product and the relationship.
- Specific Product and Service bundles based on the specific channel partner. Partners have uniqueness, and many large OEMs have huge product portfolios, so working through unique and powerful offerings often nets big results, as well as avoiding channel conflicts.
- Common performance metrics that drive the right behaviors, along with a system that captures data from interest, to lead, thru to sales. Poison enters relationships that do a poor or no job capturing lead sources. In fact, that is a major issue — who brought the lead, and what was their contribution to the deal. Jousting over credit, rather than, “Wow we won this! Now you get the product revenue and I get the service revenue; let’s go take care of the customer!”
- Blending and interleaving capabilities — one partner may have a call center and one may have a technology center. Leveraging resources reduces costs and brings teams closer together.
- Education of the employee base on partners and why they are important. Just as there is the employee of the month, the partner of the month — What did they do? How can we all learn from their innovation, excellence, etc.?
Human Resource Management
Successful channel management really treats partners like our own. Taking a mutual interest in the personnel and their ability to do the job, coaching our partners on what the market needs, getting the insights into what are the market trends and best practices to achieve them, bringing them inside the moat, into the castle, should be the focus.
Here are some joint human resource areas that we are seeing the visionaries addressing:
Recruiting — hiring people with solid industry experience and leadership to drive new and existing best practices to drive specific programs on key account work. Joint interviews if someone is being hired to be the relationship manager or to work on the joint projects.
Creating Domain Experts — develop and retain those with solid domain expertise by educational programs and work assignments, with the associated career pathing.
Call Center Alignment — education of call center and support staff on enterprise concepts and the value of aligning organizations around partner talents, market requirements.
Mutual evaluation systems — program and project evaluations. A 360° review process.How the team partnered and worked together, with each party evaluating, including the customer.Leverage learning across the program.
From Sales to Supply Chain, the channel is an integral part of our business process — not an appendage.And in the outsourced global world, it is more critical to get it right than ever. In fact, it is one of the top critical linkages — maybe the most critical linkage — for the enterprise. In the months to come, we will be exploring the channel management process — from the decision to partner, the identification of partners, building nurturing winning relationships, to supporting the supply chain requirements of the channel and methods and technology enablers. We will cover the Policies, Process, and Performance expectations for these critical linkages.
Let’s get moving from jousting to vesting!
(Illustrations courtesy of Karen Hatzigeorgiou of Karen’s Whimsy.)
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