3 Tips to Improve Communications with Channel Partners
Strategies for better engagement, participation, and results
Effective communication between colleagues and co-workers who all work under the same roof is tough enough. For companies that operate using an indirect sales model, the hurdles that stand in the way of effective communication can seem overwhelming.
For all the obvious reasons, communication has long been a challenge for companies that sell through distributors or channel partners. And it’s hardly surprising why. Numerous systems and processes across multiple regions and multiple distributors is a recipe for inefficiency. Stuff falls through the cracks. Important stuff, like leads and opportunities. Cumbersome processes, outdated or irrelevant information and poor pipeline visibility all result from poorly executed channel communications.
That said, for those that get it right, communication can also be a major source of competitive differentiation From increased channel partner performance and better conversion rates to stronger, more mutually beneficial distributor relationships — the potential benefits are game-changers. Because at the end of the day, better communication makes it easier for your network partners to do their job of selling and servicing your products every day. So, what does effective channel communication look like?
1. Focus on simplicity
We call it the manufacturers’ “black hole” — when a sales lead or opportunity is sent to a channel partner and no one is quite sure what becomes of it. At least not easily. Was the lead contacted? Where is it in the pipeline? Is this information easily accessible in real-time or do you have to dig for it? Effective communication can and should give you crystal clear, up-to-the-minute pipeline visibility. To do this, focus on simplicity. Your channel partners or distributors are already overwhelmed with plenty of “noise.” Don’t add to the clutter by asking them to log-in to your special portal, or sift through generic emails combing for information relevant to them. Provide a solution that allows them to quickly and easily communicate the quality and status of each lead they receive.
2. Be helpful at the right time
Timely and contextual communication is critical to effective partner engagement. Sending information too early adds to the overload your partners are already experiencing. Not to mention, the longer the information sits before it’s relevant, the greater the chance that it will be forgotten or misplaced. Of course, information that is sent too late is useless. Be helpful by providing product line updates, sales materials and other updates by stage and location at precisely the right time. Your distributors will feel supported and be better positioned to convert opportunities into sales.
3. Create a closed communication loop
Channels communication and collaboration work best when both manufacturer and distributor are working from the same information at the same time. If feedback on the quality and needs of sales leads is limited, or acquired through call centers or blanket surveys, the result will be data that is dated, incomplete and unhelpful. The key is to create “a closed communication loop” in which both manufacturer and channel partner are communicating via the same platform in real-time. All parties can easily view the status, quality and needs associated with every opportunity — the kind of feedback and visibility that leads to huge gains in sales performance.
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