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4 Strategies to Help Lower-Tier Partners in your Distribution Channel Look Like Rock Stars
Like all manufacturers selling thru the indirect sales channel, you have an uneven distribution of top, middle and lower-tier partners. This is simply the reality of a competitive capitalistic ecosystem: some companies overachieve, others simply “get by,” and an unfortunate number are hanging on for dear life.
But like all manufacturers, you want your channel partners to be successful, after all, that’s what makes you money, right?
However, if your lower-tier partners represent 80% of your business’s revenue while top performers only generate 20%, something has to be done and done quickly.
The silver lining here, however, is to focus on the potential at hand. If, by some miracle, you were able to re-engage your lower-tier partners, identify what’s hurting their productivity, optimize their marketing strategy, and overall, help contribute to their bottom line, wouldn’t you want to?
I think it’s safe to assume you would.
Successful channel sales managers not only recognize this opportunity gap but have a well thought out plan on how to execute this.
1.) Channel Intervention
Like many things in life, one of the most effective methods for solving a problem is to dig at its core.
Conducting your own investigative work brings together tangible solutions into abstract issues.
Whether they are dissatisfied with the leads you’re providing, frustrated with the level of channel conflict that exists or simply don’t have the internal resources to turn opportunities into conversions—each lower-tier partner has their own set of unique problems and pain points.
The more you’re able to see things from your partner’s perspective and understand the underlining source that keeps them away from performing well, the better your relationship with them inevitably becomes.
Customize your channel intervention strategy by creating out an exclusive partner survey. Here are a few examples of the topics and questions you can address:
- Do you consider our partnership a valuable part of your business?
- How do you think we could improve the quality of our products or services we provide?
- Are we providing you with enough quality feedback and communication to be successful?
- What is the most difficult component of working with us?
- Are we a company you would consider referring to other partners?
- Do you believe our sales and marketing programs are enticing or contribute to your bottom-line?
2.) Utilize PRM system software effectively
A robust, responsive and easy-to-use PRM cloud-based platform is crucial for developing effective channel partnerships.
However, a simple onboarding process, transmitting POS data, keeping track of special pricing requests, auditing/managing claims or providing lead opportunities aren’t the only things PRM platforms should be used for.
In order to cultivate a truly effective channel partnership, a PRM platform should act as a safe haven of useful, dynamic content; for example, marketing materials, info on product updates and launches, newsletters, industry news, press releases, sales and marketing program updates, FAQs, deal-closing playbooks, ‘how to’ and best practices guides, case studies, videos, infographics, etc., should all be ingrained into your cloud-based partner ecosystem to help enable partners, and become effective, prepared and high-performing channel companies.
3.) Realize the things that drive them
Your channel partners have seen a lot of promotions.
Sure, a volume-based incentive rebate opportunity may seem like a great opportunity to you, but to them, it might be completely irrelevant and impotent.
Sales and marketing programs that fail to align with a partner’s bottom-line, pain points, value proposition, strengths, etc., aren’t poised to turn low performers into high ones.
Incentive programs should be carefully designed and intended to benefit your partners specifically, not your internal objectives.
4.) Ask for high-performing assistance
If a low-performing partner just can’t seem to harness your advice, take a look at your options, and get creative.
One idea is to refer to a high-performing partner in your channel and ask for help; query if they’d be willing to loan a helping hand and provide tangible consultation to underachievers on how they might be able to better perform. Their perspective on channel advice might prove to be much more constructive and beneficial than your own because they’ve probably underachieved themselves.
Not all channel partnerships are bound to each other.
Let’s face it, your indirect sales funnel is not the 1972 Miami Dolphins; in other words, your channel network is not perfect (if you didn’t know, the ’72 Dolphins won Super Bowl VII, finishing the season with a perfect 17-0 record).
If consulting, intervening and training lower-tier partners is getting in the way of your priorities, it may be time to ‘abandon ship’ and move on.
Like people, every channel partner is different. Implementing a systematic approach to helping low-performing partners is unlikely to help. Instead, take a closer look at their goals and business directions. Which obstacles and pain points stand in their way most, and which resources do or don’t they have that are costing them a shot at success. The better your communication and empathy, the higher the performance.