Manufacturers: How to share more valuable leads with your channel partners

In a typical B2B or B2C environment, an internal marketing department provides leads — ideally qualified ones — to its counterpart down the hall in the sales department. It’s well known and certainly well documented that the process of sales and marketing alignment is both a challenge and a great source of opportunity. Just try Googling “sales and marketing alignment.” The result is 1.3 million hits. In general, sales folks complain about lead quality and marketers tender to criticize the sales team for poor follow-up.

According to Marketo, alignment between marketing and sales is potentially today’s largest opportunity for improving business performance. When marketing and sales teams unite, they dramatically improve marketing ROI, sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth.

For manufacturers that work with distribution partners, marketing and sales teams face a greater divide — mainly due to the fact that they are not really on the same team.  And communication between these two separate entities during lead generation, handoff and nurturing processes doesn’t take place under the same roof.

Manufacturers generate the leads and pass them off to distributors. Distributors are then responsible for following up and nurturing the lead through the sales funnel. But because systems and process can vary dramatically from partner to partner — and your distributors likely work with numerous manufacturers, including your competitors — the potential for a lead-sharing disconnect is high.

What’s the current status of the lead? Did follow-up take place? When? Was it a quality lead, or does it need more context?

These are critical questions, and the answers can have a serious financial impact on your bottom line.  

A 2017 study by Aberdeen Group revealed that companies that optimize the sales and marketing relationship grow revenue 32 percent faster over those that don’t.

Here are three important steps you can take now to better align your marketing and sales efforts, and to get the most out of the leads you share with channel partners and distributors.

1. Qualify

Just collecting business cards at trade shows or email addresses from some other source is not enough. Qualifying leads requires contextual information to make the leads more actionable for your distributors. Even adding industry, location, or company size by employees or revenue goes a long way toward ensuring your sales partners have access to context.

2. Organize

Be intentional and methodical about how you share leads and how those leads are received and organized. The best case scenario is an integrated system that allows you to easily share leads, and receive feedback on the quality or urgency of a lead.

3. Adjust

Once you have a system established that allows for sales feedback to be easily created and shared, incorporate that information into both your lead generation program as well as revenue expectations and forecasts.  This closed loop information flow is essential, and allows you to continually tune and improve your lead sharing and qualifying process.

Incorporating these three fact-finding steps into your distributors sales model will result in higher win rates, fewer wasted leads and easier deal closing, as well as a happier relationship with your channel partners.

The good news is that they can be implemented with little disruption and, with the right channel lead management software platform, results can be seen in as little as 30 days.