If your sales strategy includes moving your product and services through multiple selling channels, you know very well that all channels are not created equal. This basic truth is too often ignored by companies, especially those embarking on a multi-channel strategy for the first time. There is some notion that all channels should be treated the same, that tailoring your support for one channel or another is somehow unfair or preferential, that it unfairly deprives other channels of your help in favor of another.
This is, of course, hooey.
Different channels imply different markets, different values and different expectations. Forcing a sales relationship model that works for selling into the heavy-industrial-equipment world upon a market that serves financial services is a recipe for failure. Everything about these two markets is different. They dress differently at work, they are located in different parts of town, they have entirely different customer bases and their end-products are wholly different.
Let’s look at some factors that physically differentiate one market from another and also how that market channel might be managed. These would include:
- Pricing structure and flexibility
- Sales volume and velocity
- Product complexity
- Repeat selling, cross-selling and upselling potential
- Regulatory factors
Each of these is unique.
Channel Management Strategy, Pricing Structure and Pricing Flexibility
Markets involving publicly financed purchases, highly competitive alternatives and high-priced products naturally draw closer scrutiny relating to pricing issues than markets associated with low-priced transactions—especially those with margins low enough to limit pricing flexibility.
Supporting the channel that sells under these conditions should include the ability to build a bulletproof price around a tightly specified product specially configured to align with certain needs. Sales will need to be able to document its pricing down to the line item and perhaps even beyond. Squeezing excess out of the feature set and the resulting price is frequently required.
Other channels may be marketing fixed-price products with very little margin. In these cases, the ability to produce a price quickly and good for a specified amount of time is how business is done. These products require less scrutiny beyond the specific line-item price quote because these products tend to be self-contained.
In either instance, a certain amount of technology, namely CPQ software, will facilitate both of these models. Configuration issues and pricing dynamics are critical in the first case, and rapid pricing and quoting are more important in the second. Make sure you align and tailor your support of these two distinct sets of needs.
Channel Sales Management for Dynamic Sales Volume and Velocity Markets
Buying a house typically involves a few weeks or months to complete. Buying a car might be completed within a couple of hours. Buying a shirt takes a few minutes.
The processes and effort required to support these differing selling dynamics also vary. Real estate sales involve appraisals, inspections, credit checks, legal documentation and contractual relationships. Buying a shirt requires a cash register and a credit card or cash.
As a supplier, how you support these two extremes is going to impact how successfully they can resell your product. Perhaps your product is portable electric generators. If you are dealing with a reseller that is offering these to military or other government agencies, much of the complexity of the real estate sale will be present. If you are also reselling these through Amazon or a large retail outfitter, the selling exercise is much different.
Configuration, multiple models and pricing certification may play a larger role in one sale while quick delivery, low price and a generous feature list may be the goal in the other.
You have to support both, and technology is how that is actually delivered. CPQ software can help you tailor hundreds of potential configurations to match a specific need in the one instance while being able to show product availability and delivery dates is critical in the other.
Managing Multiple Channel Sales and Product Complexity
Obviously, product complexity impacts the level of support needed within selling channels.
Resellers that offer solutions requiring careful configuration, pricing calculation and after-sale support have different needs from mass-produced, fixed-price products.
You might sell bicycles for industrial use that can be configured for police, warehouse and plant transportation. These configurations will be complex enough that a CPQ software is entirely appropriate. Similarly, if you are supplying bicycles to resellers offering transportation to college students on campus, you will be dealing with fewer options and require less configuration support during the selection process.
You don’t need to burden your college-serving channel with all the technology necessary for channels serving the industrial sectors.
CPQ Software for Repeat, Cross-Selling and Upselling Transactions
If you are selling your bikes on Amazon or eBay, you really just need a picture and a price. But, if you are selling your product through a bicycle store, you want to make sure the buyers see all of the potential enhancements that might boost the volume of your sale.
Support the sales rep by prompting them to ask if the buyer is part of a club or has siblings interested in biking. What kind of riding does the biker engage in? Going to work, trail or leisure riding? Each has its own family of add-on products and bike accessories available to enhance the basic sale.
One-off, online buyers don’t need to be questioned in this fashion, rather, they want to pick up a bike, get it shipped in time for Christmas or a birthday and be done with it. A few colors, several models and prices will get the job done.
Regulatory Issues and Channel Sales Management
Certain markets are subject to higher levels of government regulation than others. Medical, nuclear, military or aerospace are all certainly subject to some requirements in terms of vendor certification regarding their product and selling practices.
The ability to certify a price, to cite compliance with specific regulations or bodies of law and to include that data quickly and readily in proposal generation is essential to buyers in these markets. CPQ software will help with this. Purely commercial buyers with no association with these sensitive areas are likely to not care a bit about any regulatory information.
You still need to support both with equal dedication and care.
Managing multiple channels is a part of selling and producing goods today. Most companies strive to sell beyond their own region, state or country. Limiting your horizons to local selling is a step in the path to irrelevance. Indirect selling offers great utility in this regard. But, learning to manage each channel effectively is a challenge—a challenge simplified by CPQ software.