Improve Your Channel Partner Engagement

We recently conducted a survey to more than 3,200 manufacturing sales and marketing professionals and the message was clear: They need more engagement and feedback from their channel partners on sales leads.

Here is a key stat that we uncovered: Only 36% of companies get feedback from their channel partners on leads and opportunities. The big question is, as a sales or marketing manager, how are you supposed to make any data driven decisions when you don’t even know what is happening with leads or channel partners?

The good news is, 81% of companies believe that with the right process and software to communicate and collaborate with channel partners on leads and opportunities that they can increase revenue by 10-20%.

That’s really exciting!

Here is an info-graphic highlighting some of the challenges and the solution.

 

 

 

 

How to Double Channel Partner Sales Conversion Rates

There is no magic bullet when it comes to increasing the performance and revenue contribution from your channel partners.

It takes an integrated, systemic approach that brings together information sharing and performance reporting into a shared view.

Current “functional” approaches to lead sharing and deal tracking rely on emails and spreadsheets that lack a shared, collaborative view where lead status can be updated, opportunity stage is detailed, and a closed-loop feedback process is in place to keep companies and their channel partners aligned and executing.

CRM systems do not extend outside the four walls to adequately address the unique needs of enabling a channel sales program.

If you want to double conversion rates on current lead flow, then add a channel sales engagement platform to the mix. That is what we do here at LeadMethod and we have heard more than once that the companies using us for channel engagement deliver double the conversion rates vs. those who continue to rely on email and spreadsheets.

The impact comes from a single system that delivers, manages, and reports on lead and opportunity status.

That single system is further enhanced by deal stage specific sales materials so the questions that need to be addressed are available at the fingertips of you channel partner. Training and education is hugely important and often inefficiently delivered and retained so putting information “in context” creates a continuous education process. Updating materials is also improved as a single update and publish action replaces any other, out of date materials.

The great thing about increasing conversion rates is that it doesn’t require more leads or more program spend. You are actually just getting more out of your existing spend by creating a direct and integrated connection with each channel partner.

Interested in learning more? Let us know and we can put together a quick analysis to show you what kind of revenue increase you could get from increased sales conversion rates.

 

3 Metrics to Optimize Channel Revenue

W. Edwards Deming was quoted as saying “A goal without a method is nonsense.”

If your 2017 revenue plan called for increase channel revenue by some percentage or dollar amount, you have a goal. Great.

But do you have a method?

We work with companies who rely on their channel partners for a significant portion of their revenue and have found there are 3 key metrics to optimize channel revenue. Yes, there are many other things that can (and should be) measured but start with these and you’ll see a significant lift in your channel performance.

1. Lead Contact Rate

Seems like this should be 100%, but unfortunately it is not. Sales leads are generated and handed off to channel partners and often fall into a black hole of inaction and neglect. As Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is showing up” and if your channel partners are not “showing up” to follow up on leads, you are definitely not being successful and missing out on revenue opportunities. If you don’t know this rate, time to find out.

2. Lead Feedback Rate

This is a measure of what percentage of leads that you share with channel partners you receive feedback on with regard to quality, fit, or interest. Most companies do not have a closed loop feedback process in place and continue to feed leads to channels partners that are unwanted, unqualified, or worse. Oh, and this is probably directly related to the lead follow up rate above being abysmal.

3. Conversion Rate

This is the measure of what percentage of opportunities converts to transactions (ie, someone buys). You don’t need more leads or more channel relationships, you need to increase the conversion rate on the existing throughput of leads and opportunities being created in your channel. Better training, online/immediate access to important product information, and simply increasing the quality of leads provided (see #1 and #2 above) will move the needle here.

LeadMethod customers and their channel partners have doubled their conversion rates by applying a method to reach their goal. That method includes these three core metrics and is the focal point of what we deliver.

If you’d like to learn more about these important metrics or learn more about how we can help you optimize your channel revenue, let us know!

 

Channel Partner Sales Enablement

If you sell through a network of channel partners and distributors you understand that keeping them updated on the latest sales pitch, product positioning or new features is a challenge. And it’s no surprise that they are missing a lot of your new training material because they have to navigate your website or search through your electronic catalogs. Or maybe you’ve got some material in your partner web portal, but they have to login to get to it.

The fact is, they’re likely seeing just a sliver of what you have to offer and they may be missing the most powerful materials. A study by Sirius Decisions says that “only 30% of the content that marketing teams put together is actually used by sales.”

Why is that? The answer is simple: According to our research, your channel partners and distributors don’t know where to find this information.

You need an easy way to get your sales and product information to your distributors right when they need it most — when they’re following up on a hot sales lead. Well, we’ve created just the tool for you.

Introducing … Channel Sales Enablement, a core feature of the LeadMethod software platform.

Here is a 2 minute video showing exactly how the system works.

 

With LeadMethod your channel partners have the right information at the right time so they can close more deals.

Request a demo of our Channel Sales Enablement feature or call us at 800-406-5020.

 

Sales Pipeline Radio interview with LeadMethod CEO: Channel Engagement

Our CEO, Justin Johnson was recently interviewed by Sales Pipeline Radio.  Here is a link to the 20 min interview on the challenges and opportunities of selling through channel partners – distributors, manufacturers reps, dealers, or resellers.

In the interview Johnson discusses why having a clear process and the right software product for engaging channel partners on leads and opportunities is critical to increasing revenue, to the tune of 10-20%.

To achieve maximum revenue potential across your channel partners Johnson suggestions:

  1. Implementing a process and software to make it easy for channel partners to engage. This means not requiring them to login or learn CRM software
  2. Ask them simple and important questions to gather data on leads and opportunities
  3. Nurture channel partners with smart and timely emails and give them a process to quickly and easily update you as opportunities progress through the sales process
  4. Sales enablement is also very important, giving channel partners the right training information at the right time in order to sell more

Johnson also highly recommends having channel partner engagement software and the process tightly integrated with your CRM, so there is a transparency between systems. For reference, LeadMethod integrates with Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Sage, and dozens of others.

 

3 Ways Manufacturers Can Accelerate Sales

Suppliers that start to leverage data and metrics to optimize their channel partner relationships will see huge gains. Strong results will come when suppliers start to proactively manage and communicate with their channel partners in order to drive more revenue.

Understanding channel partner engagement with leads and opportunities is critical. For example, research conducted by LeadMethod shows that more than 70% of channel partners do not regularly follow up on leads and opportunities that are shared with them. That amounts to a significant number of missed sales.

Why it Matters

“Suppliers that embrace process change and software investments to better engage their channel partners will see significant growth. We recommend three core strategies: Understanding Channel Engagement, Creating a Process for Channel Feedback, and Providing Training and Sales Coaching” Justin Johnson CEO LeadMethod

And what about the feedback from channel partners on leads and opportunities? Did any of the leads turn into opportunities? Did any turn into sales? Suppliers consistently tell us that less than 20% of their channel partners provide them with feedback. A partnership can’t work properly when the 2-way communication between suppliers and their channel partners is completely broken.

But, it’s no surprise, channel partners are not given an effective tool to give feedback on what happened to the leads. So, there is a major disconnect between suppliers and their channel partners on lead status and sales pipeline analysis.

Suppliers that sell through channel partners must start to focus on the core metrics and activity that contributes to making the most of the partner relationship. Just having channel partners is not enough to maximize revenue potential, the relationship must be built on solid engagement and activity metrics to ensure growth.

Suppliers that embrace process change and software investments to better engage their channel partners will grow by more than 20%. We recommend three core strategies: Understanding Channel Engagement, Creating a Process for Channel Feedback, and Providing Training and Sales Coaching.

1. Understanding Channel Partner Engagement

Understanding channel partner engagement is critical in order to measure the effectiveness of partner relationships. Suppliers need to know if and how often channel partners are engaging with leads, opportunities, and repeat clients. For example, suppliers need to clearly understand if leads are being contacted by channel partners, and how fast the initial contact is happening. Also, is the lead being nurtured in a timely and effective way. Having a scorecard of these metrics is critical for measuring the effectiveness of each channel partner and identifying areas that need improvement.

2. Creating a Process for Channel Partner Feedback

Two-way communication with channel partners is essential for success. But it’s so much more than just an annual sales meeting or a quarterly status check-in call. Partners need a process and tool to quickly and easily provide feedback on leads, opportunities, and projects that they are working on.

The process and software must be easy to use and work with channel partner business processes and systems. LeadMethod, for example, is a channel lead management software program that makes it fast and easy for channel partners to provide feedback on leads and opportunities and integrates will all major marketing automation and CRM programs, making the solution really easy for the channel partner.

3. Providing Training and Sales Coaching

Suppliers have always struggled to engage their channel partners for training, sales coaching and product information. Suppliers offer their partners information on their website, catalog, intranet and some even offer an online partner portal. But partners have to login to a system and take the time to go hunt down the information when they need it. So, because partners don’t know where to find a lot of the supporting sales material, they just rely on the knowledge that they have picked up of the products and that often creates challenges and misinformed conversations with clients.

Suppliers need to position sales materials, product information and training when channel partners need it most – when they’re following up on a hot sales lead. We call this Partner Sales Enablement, giving partners the right information at the right time so they can close more deals.

In summary, suppliers that embrace process change and software investments to better engage their channel partners will see strong growth. We recommend three core strategies: Understanding Channel Engagement, Creating a Process for Channel Feedback, and Providing Training and Sales Coaching.

Click here to schedule a live LeadMethod demo or call 800-406-5020.

For the complete white paper published by the Sales Lead Management Association click here (PDF).

5 Steps to Maximizing Your Channel Sales Model

You’ve worked hard to establish and build your channel partner and distributor relationships. Selling through channel partners is expensive and requires a lot of time, but, if done correctly, can yield significant revenue growth and profits. Getting the most out of the relationship requires a focused and defined approach.

In reality, doing this correctly often is complex. The responsibility is on the manufacturer to establish, build and manage these relationships on an ongoing basis. Constant communication and collaboration are critical for maximizing results.

How do you know if your investment in a channel sales model is working and delivering the results you expect? It requires a methodical approach and the attention of the executive team on a routine basis to ensure investment and partnerships are being maximized and that the business is benefiting from the approach.

The following five steps provide a framework for that regular executive review and can quickly resolve issues when performance is not being maximized. For the complete analysis and recommendations visit our published article: 5 Steps to Maximizing Your Channel Sales Model.

1. Understand the Costs of the Channel & Maximize Profitability

2. Deliver Relevant Training & Education

3. Incorporate the Voice of the Distributor Into Decision Making

4. Standardize Systems & Processes

5. Align Incentives & Support With Desired Outcomes

 

Accelerate Distributor Training and Education With Sales Playbooks

Boost Distributor Sales with Playbooks

If you sell through channel partners and distributors, then you know they are likely juggling dozens of products — yours included – as well as the related product info and sales messaging. Make it easier for them to access the most updated product information, and you stand to increase not only their engagement, but also sales.

This recent article published in Industrial Supply Magazine explains how to do just that:  Accelerate distributor sales training and education with sales playbooks.

  • Why understanding distributor needs and knowledge gaps should drive your training activities.
  • How to deliver the right sales content “in context” so the right information is always available and updated.
  • How to build a sales playbook that increases revenue and is continuously updated with distributor feedback.

At LeadMethod, we help companies improve their distributor collaboration, feedback and performance. Discover how we can ensure that your distributors have the resources and technology they need to close more deals.

5 Strategies to Improve Channel Partner Feedback and Increase Revenue

When it comes to selling through channel partners and distributors, most manufacturers cite a critical problem: They don’t get enough distributor feedback on their sales leads. In fact, our clients report they only hear back on 10 to 20 percent of their leads. That’s a major problem, and manufacturers are losing thousands if not millions of dollars sales each month if leads are being ignored by distributors.

Fortunately, you can change the status quo. Here are five ways to improve distributor feedback, and boost sales in the process. For the complete article published in Flow Control Magazine visit 5 Ways to Improve Channel Partner Feedback and Increase Revenue.

1. Simplify the feedback process

Why do most manufacturers not get consistent feedback from their channel partners and distributors? One main reason is they primarily use email and/or a phone call to communicate feedback. Not only does this take a lot of time, but also there’s the potential for information to get lost in the fray.

There are better ways to simplify the feedback process. And software can help. LeadMethod for instance, eliminates the software login process for distributors and instead presents the critical data they need in a secure, encrypted Web interface. This allows distributors to quickly and easily provide feedback on leads without the hassle of responding to individual emails or phone calls.

2. Use technology to your advantage

Over the years we have heard of many strategies that manufacturers have used to solicit regular feedback from their channel partners and distributors. Several companies that have asked their distributors to fill out surveys and forms. Some continually blast their reps with emails asking them to respond, and one even hired a telemarketing firm to call their distributors regularly to collect the information they wanted. Imagine the cost of the latter.

LeadMethod offers distributors with an easy solution to report back on the leads, opportunities, and projects in the pipeline. And there is an email nurturing program to remind them when to update records as they progress through the sales process.

3. Prioritize your leads

If you’re a distributor, you may be greeted by two dozen new sales leads each morning. But how do you know which ones demand immediate attention, and which ones can be followed up with at a later time. It’s an important question. Consider that only 25 percent of leads are immediate sales opportunities, according to Gleanster Research.

By not identifying which leads are priorities and thus helping your distributors determine when to contact which leads, manufacturers are losing sales. You can solve this problem by pre-qualifying the leads and assigning each a priority or score. This allows your distributors to quickly recognize which leads they should tackle first, and to devote their time to leads that will more likely result in sales. LeadMethod gives you the ability to score leads as they enter the system, or the score can be passed through from your marketing automation software program.

4. Automate your lead management

To give distributors the best chance of closing deals, manufacturers have to improve their lead-management processes in order to get the leads to the right sales rep fast. InsideSales.com’s lead response research paper reports that the odds of connecting with a lead if called within five minutes versus even 30 minutes are 100 times greater.

Getting leads to your distributors while they’re hot will help them close more deals.  In fact, companies that automate lead management see a 10 percent or greater increase in revenue within six to nine months, according to Gartner Research. LeadMethod offers advanced rules based auto-assign functionality ensuring that the right leads gets to the right channel partner within seconds.

5. Make data-driven decisions

A benefit of creating a constant stream of feedback, is a lot of new data. The feedback you receive from distributors will be a real-time snapshot of your sales pipeline, lead status, ROI on marketing spend, distributor performance, and a whole lot more.

But having the information is just the beginning. Manufacturers need to analyze that data and then make use of it. For example, you’ll quickly find out which sales reps respond to every lead. You’ll also be able to tell who is getting to leads the fastest. Alternately, you’ll identify the sales reps that only follow up on a small number of leads and some that take three to four weeks to call on a lead. Such information can then help manufacturers make data-driven decisions that increase revenue, whether it’s promoting a high-performer, offering additional support to a sales rep or determining the most effective leads sources.

Spotty feedback about sales leads and sporadic communication with distributors has long been the norm for many manufacturers. But given the technology now available, there’s no reason it needs to stay that way. Don’t let a communication breakdown affect your sales any longer. With these five tips, you’ll improve distributor feedback, streamline your sales process and watch your revenue soar.