Smart Selling

How to Win Channel Partners and Influence Sales

I was visiting a company several years ago, and while I was there, I noticed these little signs. They were tacked up everywhere—on the office walls and in the hallways, elevators and conference rooms. They all had the same message: E2DBW.

I kept running the string through my mind trying to figure out what it meant. This was a larger company with different divisions, product lines and operating units.

I was talking to my contact who happened to be in marketing as well. He could tell I was looking at the little E2DBW signs, and he kept looking at me expectantly. His look was telling me, “isn’t it cool, tell me how cool this is!”

I felt kind of stupid because I just couldn’t decode it. Half way through our meeting, I couldn’t take it anymore. “What does it mean? I give up! Tell me!” I fairly shouted at my host.

He laughed and laughed and then told me.

Easy 2 Do Business With

He said this in a grand manner with a sweep of his hand. It’s our new strategy. We are going to be easy to do business with.

This is what happens when companies and marketing people get cute. Someone thinks this is clever. It is not. Encoding an important message like this is stupid, not clever.

Imagine being a reseller or partner candidate. What’s your first thought? My first thought is no; you are not E2DBW. You are obscure, complicated, difficult to understand, obtuse, too clever and because of those things, not a good candidate for a partnership.

Partnership

Now there is a word that makes sense. Are you a manufacturer looking for resellers? Are you trying to increase your market presence? Are you trying to expand into new markets via a new strategy featuring indirect sales channels?

Here’s some quick advice. When you approach a potential reseller, do so as a potential partner. Don’t break the ice with some riddle or puzzle. When businesses are looking for partners, they are first looking for companies that they can communicate with.

Over and over again, surveys of successful resellers reveal that success is achieved through a partner-to-partner relationship, not a vendor-to-sales relationship. There is not a subordinate role in a successful business relationship. Both parties understand what they are responsible for, both understand what the other is responsible for and they have defined a common goal to achieve.

Caterpillar discovered this years ago in their market battle with Komatsu. Low-cost, high-quality competition threatened to decimate Caterpillar like it had with so many established brands. Cat found the answer in its dealer network. At the heart of their effort was elevating their relationship with their dealers to one of equal partnership.

Easy to Do Business With

Of course, this is a desirable and sought-after trait for both manufacturer and reseller. But, the key to being easy to do business with is understanding that it is not a slogan, not vision or a “guiding principal or value;” it is a way of doing business. It is the tools used, the processes followed and the attitude that is exhibited in communications. All of these are built around the concept that together, we can achieve success.

A recent article in Forbes puts into perspective the word “options.” In the pre-connected world, customers might tolerate a lot of hassle before they would bolt. Today, not a chance. There are too many options available to the customer. If you offer a good product surrounded by byzantine process requirements, inaccessible information and other hoops and hurdles, your customer will go elsewhere.

The Technology of Partnership and Easy to Do Business With

When you have a sales force on the street moving product, solving customer issues and looking for the right solution among many solutions, it just might come down to communication effectiveness.

Sales reps hate dialing 800 numbers and punching in 12 menu choices to find out if product B can be expedited or if product A is available with a corporate logo displayed on the cabinet. Partner portals address this issue very well.

A partner portal provides information access tailored to the individual partner’s needs. All of the collateral, training materials, pricing, promotional information and access to manufacturer experts are quickly made available. The ability to navigate from an access screen directly to the appropriate product or subject area is what your selling partners need to achieve success.

Another issue plaguing most selling organizations is product knowledge. When I say product knowledge, I’m including pricing, features and functionality and the whole gamut of knowledge required to bring the product to the prospect. Sales reps who find this information to be lacking or difficult to understand have a simple solution; they look at other products.

CPQ will equip your sales partners to move your product by providing them with the configuration, pricing and quotation tools. This makes it easy for them to propose the right product, correctly configured and priced in a timely manner. CPQ tools are essential to sales forces offering multiple solutions. They simply do not have time to re-learn your product every time an opportunity surfaces for a potential sale.

Keeping the Message Alive

Most manufacturers have specific messaging, vision-type stuff or other high-level elements they want to accompany their sales information. Moving to an indirect model can put this level of communication at risk.

If you don’t have ongoing communication and access to your sales force, you are not likely to indoctrinate them into your culture or the importance of your message.

Again, the technology available can be extremely beneficial in this area. Portals set a tone just like the lobby in your headquarters’ building. They convey hard information along with less-tangible messaging.

CPQ facilitates the control of how your product is used. Creative reps can’t misapply your technology because your configurator controls product selection by need specified. You won’t find your hammer being used where a screwdriver is appropriate.

Finally, proposal generation ensures that the image you want to present is aligned with the information and documents presented to the customer. CPQ tools facilitate proposal automation, which takes a large load off the sales rep and ensures that your product is presented the way it is intended.

Be Easy to Do Business With!

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