CHANNEL MANAGEMENT : The new digital solutions to stand out from your competitors

Nicolas Caron

Published : 18 mai 2018
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Channel management

Les nouveaux outils pour se démarquer de ses concurrents

 

Whatever your distribution channel, it is always difficult to determine whether your partners, distributors, resellers, or VARs effectively communicate your offers to their customers.

  • Do they really master your key arguments?
  • Are they able to develop them convincingly?
  • Are they knowledgeable enough to answer questions from customers?

These are the types of questions indirect sales managers are asking themselves on a daily basis.

 

The difficult art of maintaining indirect sales networks

Whichever name you label them with, your Service Account Managers (SAMs), Key Account Managers (KAMs), Channel Managers (CMs) or Partner Managers (PMs) act as a transmission belt for your indirect sales.

They are the ones who make sure that your partners’ sales force is both motivated and competent to convince clients at the end of the chain of acquiring your products.

Although the goal is easy to understand, its implementation is more difficult than it seems. Managing indirect sales is a fully-fledged job which requires proficiency in at least two equally simple and fundamental principles:

  • The first is to be able to apportion your energy and budget objectively, based on potential ROIs.
  • The second is to remain present in the minds of vendors (from your distributors and resellers) so that they will think about you more often than your competitors.

 

Let’s see some ideas to help us apply these two principles.

 

How to distribute your energy and budget within distribution channels?

In fact, the question here is that of relevantly compartmentalising your network of partners.

This entails precisely distinguishing between the different categories of partners in a position to relay your product offers, support services and consulting. The chart below presents the key features of an organisation structured around this goal.

  • Such terms as Platinium, Premium or Excellence are often used to label the accompaniment programmes destined to “cream of the crop” partners. They represent between 8 and 15% of your total number of partners but often add up to 40% of the turnover.
  • Then you have Gold, Preferred or Expert partners who occupy the medium spot of your wallet
  • Lastly, small partners and SMEs are sorted under the categories Silver, Unaccredited or Others.

 

The cream of the crop

If French comic legend Coluche were to manage a distribution network, he would remind us that although all distributors are equal… some are more equal than others. Drawing upon the insights of this man of great wisdom, it seems therefore natural to prioritise ensuring that your portfolio of products and services is accurately aligned with what you seek to obtain from your top partners.

Generally, a KAM team dedicated to channel management will be tasked with this responsibility.

Relying on your most prestigious partnership programmes, this team is never too generous in time and attention when it comes to helping this range of partners boost their sales.

The medium range

In a previous article about direct sales management, we mentioned the idea of “moving the middle”. With indirect sales, the principle is similar. This category represents a great number of partners to follow. It can generate a big turnover but can also give rise to liabilities in the management of support resources.

The requests from these partners can be great in number and sometimes disproportionate in relation to the potential ROI attached to them.

The idea is to optimise the means, tools and resources available to have the best “weight/power” ratio between your endeavours and the resulting ROIs. When your network facilitators are too widely dispersed, performance quickly finds itself hampered. However, a company who can find the means to “boost the middle” without going off in all directions holds the recipe to accelerated growth.

Others

Within this segment, perspectives are more modest and make for easier-to-solve dilemmas. In this segment, economic management consists of giving your partners as much value as possible by resorting to remote solutions and optimising your resources.

 

How to “monopolise” the minds of your partners’ reps

Monopolising might be too strong a term but it accurately describes the battle which occurs on a daily basis. At the time of reading this article, vendors from your partners could be spending time spotlighting your products… or those of your competitors. You should therefore see to it that you are more present in their minds than your colleagues.

The methods traditionally used are well-known: field visits, marketing actions, seminars, incentives, etc.

Nowadays, it is possible to complement these actions by capitalising on digital solutions that allow you to significantly increase the effectiveness of network facilitators.

For instance :

 

Today it is easy to design an “editorial policy” propped up by contents targeting a specific category of vendors.

Once in place, reps from your distributor will regularly receive targeted blocks of information, polls, open questions, personalized videos, multi choice quiz, or suggestions pertaining to your offer, allowing you to get some insight into their reactions and expectations.

Of course, your “editorial policy” should be well-crafted and adapted to your distributor’s sales force.

 

Our initial experience has shown that this way of redirecting “micro-learning” benefits is very efficient to deliver key messages in a way that is both incremental and attractive form-wise.

 

You can also increase the accuracy by which you measure the level of knowledge of your distribution network through organising challenges. With this type of solution, you get to know immediately who is conversant with your offer and who needs knowledge reinforcement. Of course, you can link each question to information directly accessible to vendors. If you associate these challenges to rewards for those at the top of the rankings, you will quickly notice that vendors like to play along and end up thinking about you much more often.

 

 

 

Lastly, if your offer is more complex and you wish to help reps from your distributors become expert at presenting your key arguments, you can now propose them remote, personalised and asynchronous coaching.

On our video training platform, you can accompany and challenge your distributors’ vendors and have them share best practices. No more time constraints. No more geographical constraints. More energy saved to bring personalised advice to the vendors promoting your offer, whether they are based nearby or at the other end of the world.

This was a first overview of the latest methods for maintaining a distribution channel.

One last word: the impact and ROI of this type of solution is significantly increased with networks operating internationally.

If you want to know more about these solutions and how to optimise them, follow my eyes…

 

Have a great sales day,

Pascal Hérault

Director of Channel Development at Halifax Consulting.

© Halifax Consulting

 

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