In the current climate all of us are looking to generate more leads, make more sales and lower operating costs. The thought of doing your sales and business development via an indirect sales channel operation suddenly becomes very appealing lots of sales people, who you don't have to employ, out there selling for you.
Problem is you still have all the responsibility for the numbers but no authority to back it up. Your own sales guy does not perform you can put them on a plan or even fire them. The channel guys don't perform you've got a problem but little authority to sort it out.
So you want to set up a channel sales program? Here are some tips based on my channel experience that goes back to 1983!.
1. Work with your channel partners helping them to write a plan for the business they are going to do for you nothing complicated, you can use a template to guide you.
2. Do your margin analysis early not as an after thought, your channel needs to earn enough margin points to sell your products, you neeed to earn enough to be able to let them.
3. Select your channel manager carefully, you need skill to run a channel but above all else you need experience because you need credibility.
4. Make sure you are planning for managing channel conflict there WILL be some, either with your own sales team or with other channel partners.
5. Make sure you get the pricing strategy right and be careful about how you "publish" it, you don't want the end user to think they can play you all off against each other further eroding revenue and margins.
The bottom line? Channel sales is not an instant panacea for winning new sales without the cost of a sales force, it needs thinking through, planning and controlling. We would always advise get some experienced help writing the plan and training your people.
Channel sales is the way to go so long as its by design and not by accident.
Lowering the price does not lower the cost! Cheap products don't usually last as long, lower price means poorer service, save money at the outset (cheap car) pay later (service bills). If your prospect or client wants to buy cheap then get them talking about life cycle costs, total cost of ownership and the cost in time to them of purchasing again because they made a wrong decision (this works for professional services or where no product is invloved). Get the topic on the table by asking questions not lecturing them. You can't always avoid giving something away, but you can usually avoid giving too much away. Ask me for a handout on selling value price versus cost.
When we ask salespeople to list their strengths most include rapport and relationship building, getting on with people and listening. When we then ask the customers to list what they dislike about salespeople they usually include they are over-familiar, they don't listen, they are complacent, they only call us when THEY want something.
This is interesting because when you then analyse what sales people count on to win they will tell you product, price, brand and relationships. But we have all had the best solution at the lowest price but lost the deal we were outsold because we built relationships poorly and/or with the wrong people contrary to what we initially thought.
When it comes to building relationships and rapport are you really as good as you think you are? Ask your self:-
- Do I actually listen when I am on a sales call?
- Do I prove / show I am listening?
- Do I display empathy?
- Do I get on the same wavelength as the customer?
- Do I show interest in them, their company, their situation?
- Do I talk "with" the customer or "at" the customer?
- Do I communicate in a way that the customer likes and is at ease with too many statistics not enough statistics, to quick fire too slow, not detailed enough - too pedantic, too formal too informal?
Building good rapport is not just about being friendly, buying lunch, playing golf, asking about the family. Its about communicating effectively and in style the customer prefers. Building rapport is about proactively making it happen not reactively letting it happen.
Who is the most important person on the sales call the client or prospect of course. So why do we so often see salespeople start a "capability" or "solution" presentation with information about their own company? If you want your audience sitting up and listening make the first slide (after the title slide) about them. Our favourite heading for this slide is "issues you probably face" or "challenges in your business". Watch the difference in how they respond and open up to you when they see you really understand their business and their situation.
WHAT IS A PARTNERSHIP?
- A venture created by contract, a co-operative relationship.......
- People or groups who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal.....
- A contract / agreement between two or more persons who agree to pool talent and money and share profits or losses.......
WHAT THE CUSTOMER REALLY MEANS!
Many customers claim to want a partnership with their key suppliers but this is often no more than "customer speak" for better pricing.
Never be concerned about challenging a customer, reseller, dealer, channel partner about what they mean by a partnership.
In any partnership there are 4 elements all of which should be shared by both parties.
The customer gets lots of attention, dedicated support, favourable pricing, they commit to work only with you or certainly with fewer suppliers. The vendor gets a fair profit on sales, has a closer relationship with, and access to, the customer which lowers the cost of sale. The customer probably purchases in bulk and so admin costs are lowered too.
Of course you are asking the customer to become more dependent upon you, they may consider it a risk to commit to using less suppliers. You may not always have what they want, when they want it. You will be putting in a lot of effort for a single customer, this will reduce your ability and options of finding new customers, suppose you put in a lot of effort and they don't purchase?
Things will go wrong that's life! When they do you do not expect the customer to be on the telephone screaming, you will not be going into hiding or passing the buck, blaming others. You and the customer will be sitting around the table discussing options and working together on solutions.
PHILOSOPHY (GUIDING BELIEFS)
Of course if the customer just wants a big discount, if they think these are not the components in a partnership then its never going to work.
Develop a "what we mean by a partnership" presentation that you are comfortable with and means something to you, your prospects, your markets. You need to own the presentation, you need to deliver it so that the other party sees you really mean and believe it