For organisations reliant on their re-seller network, effective engagement of channel partners and sales agencies is paramount to sustainable growth.
In this article, we’ll investigate how sales enablement tools can play a key part in this engagement process – helping you to share the right information with the right people at the right time, to maximise sales from third-parties.
The challenge of channel partner engagement
While channel partners and sales agencies allow you to extend the reach of your products and services, it’s important to remember that the sales people within your re-seller network don’t live and breathe your business 100% of the time.
Unless these third-party sellers are engaged to fully understand your products, services, pricing and promotions, they simply won’t be selling your goods as effectively as they could be.
It’s also vital to recognise that you may often be competing with other manufacturers for sales people’s time and attention. You need to make it as easy and appealing as possible for your partners and re-sellers to sell your products – by building a positive relationship and delivering a consistently good experience in terms of the support you provide.
This high quality experience is rooted in effective, timely communication. Timely, that is, rather than time-consuming.
To be effective, communications to your sales partners should focus on quality over quantity, be fine-tuned to their requirements (less is often more) and never be so frequent or burdensome as to leave the partner or agency feeling overloaded.
A careful balancing act is required here – and it’s not the only one you’ll need to master.
Timing it right
From promotions to new product launches, there will always be developments which need communicating to your channel partners and agencies.
While it’s important to be prepared, sending information to your third-party sellers too early can be as problematic as sending it too late.
In adding to the overload your sales partners may be dealing with at any given time, premature information is likely to be shelved until it becomes relevant – by which time there’s every chance it will have been misplaced, or forgotten about altogether. So, how you address your communications is every bit as critical as the timing.
Sending out information en-masse to your whole partner network is a fundamental yet common mistake, as it places an unwelcome onus on your re-sellers to sift through the information for details relevant to their roles.
For greater effectiveness, and to foster a more favourable relationship with your third-party sellers, aim to send more targeted communications that spare your partners that unnecessary screening burden.
Keeping your content up-to-date
We’ve identified the challenges of timing and targeting your communications, but let’s not forget that creating and managing supporting content is a challenge in itself – especially in fluid, fast-paced markets where things change in an instant.
Modern sales enablement tools offer a real opportunity to manage the process effectively. A centralised hub, including a presentation system, provides significant advantages over a simple web portal when it comes to managing your content. ‘Local’ versions of content/media can be auto-synchronised via applications such as OneDrive, Google Drive or similar, thus avoiding time-consuming online-dependent searching of web portals, as well as the downloading of files.
It’s also important that the appropriate presentation media is both flexible (if audience customisation is required), and supplied in a ‘ready-to-go’ format. With some sales enablement systems, the latest, most up-to-date content (PowerPoint, PDFs, videos etc) is automatically published into the customer-facing presentation navigation system, thus vastly reducing meeting preparation time. It also allows the salesperson to be extremely agile during customer discussions.
The presentation can be adapted to support cross/up-sell opportunities as they materialise, and to deliver a more engaging and interactive discussion with the customer. For re-sellers with limited understanding and experience of your full product portfolio, cross-sell and up-sell without such flexible content would be nigh-on impossible.
Here are three more ways sales enablement tools can help:
1) Smarter, slicker presentations
While it’s important that sales presentations are dual branded to feature both you and your partner, it’s essential to retain ultimate control over your content.
Templates should be 80% reflective of your brand, with only the remaining 20% customisable for your partner – ensuring your products and services are presented as you want them to be, and not made to look unprofessional by a maverick, if well-meaning, partner.
2) Automatic updates
When changes are made to your sales content, it’s immensely challenging to update your channel partners quickly and consistently. A centralised hub does the hard work for you, automatically updating partners when you make amends.
Thanks to these automatic updates, your channel partners and re-sellers won’t need to worry about version control or maintaining a library of content. They will always be able to access the latest version of the content, simply by logging into the central hub.
3) Reporting and analytics
More than just hosting your up-to-date content, a sales enablement hub will provide valuable insight into how your partners are using it.
Built-in analytics engines will show you the most popular pieces being used across your re-seller network, allowing you to better understand your partners and establish what content resonates most with buyers.
Added value, increased profit
Providing access to sophisticated sales enablement tools is a clear value-add in your relationship with your channel partners, ultimately making their life easier, ensuring they feel informed, supported and valued.
While this is the key to strong partner engagement, it also provides your third-party sellers with a professional set of tools to conduct pitches and sales meetings on your behalf – and their increased effectiveness will be of direct benefit to your business’s bottom line.