Dysfunctional. That’s how a recent report put out by the CMO Council characterizes the current relationship between manufacturers and their channel sales partners (distributors, resellers, VARs, etc.) Problems abound, from poor marketing and collaborative sales support to mistrust regarding the sanctity of assigned sales territories. Here are some starters for building a more productive sales machine.
1. Build It and They Will Come...Cater to Your Partners' Needs with a Marketing on Demand Portal.
Do your partners have the most up-to-date product brochures? Are they being supported with professionally developed marketing collateral (prospect mailings, spec sheets, surveys, e-newsletters, Powerpoints, online demos, etc.) or do they develop their own tools that reflect poorly on your brand? By allowing access to these marketing resources 24/7, marketing portals free-up a lot of your partners' time for making more sales calls. Also, digital asset management and variable data publishing technologies allow portals to provide many customization options to tailor content more precisely to the prospect to speed up sales cycles. Partners can even upload their own customer and prospect mailing lists to order direct mail and email campaigns that they otherwise would neither have the time nor inclination to develop. For cost savings, everything gets digitally printed on demand, eliminating warehousing and administration costs. Moreover, template-centric graphic design allows one template to accommodate many different products, saving as much as 40% annually in design costs.
2. Implement a Structured Lead Development and Nurturing Program.
The same survey indicated a general apathy toward manufacturer-generated leads, with fewer than 20% characterizing the leads as actionable. With automated lead-scoring and lead nurturing platforms, prospects receive appropriate follow-up depending on where they fit in the sales funnel. For complex sales with 6-12 month sales cycles, this is particularly important. Prospects, for example, at the beginning of the cycle are offered white papers and invitations to webinars to educate them on the problem that the product/service solves; the partner receives the lead for direct follow-up only when genuine interest has been confirmed.
3. Automate Lead Registration.
Manual processes for registering leads increase the potential for creating conflict and mistrust. A common criticism heard is that manufacturers snag some of the best leads for themselves. Lead registration platforms ensure that channel partners are comfortable sharing opportunities and engender more cooperative selling synergies.