How to enable your channel partners to sell more

Latest industry research uncovers what sales channels need for double-digit revenue growth

B2B enterprises more often provide tools and training to their direct sellers, while frequently overlooking their indirect or partner channels. That’s according to recent findings by Forrester Consulting, in a survey of more than 200 sales enablement leaders at B2B companies across the U.S.

Why does this support gap matter? By neglecting indirect sellers, companies are impeding their own performance and overall business success, the researched revealed.

For companies that rely on an indirect sales model, channel partners are a vital revenue stream. Survey respondents reported that, on average, indirect channels generate nearly half of their annual revenue, which equates to a $2 billion opportunity in the hands of partner sellers.

Is your indirect sales force underserved?

Despite their impact, channel partner sellers don’t get as much support from their suppliers as direct sales employers do, according to the report. Less than half of sales enablement leaders are confident in the level of brand consistency delivered across channels during the sales process. And more than 40 percent feel that the buyer experience is less than consistent. This is due in large part to a gap in resources provided to direct sales employees versus partners, which creates inconsistent buyer experiences and reduces visibility into the sales process.

The survey indicates, however, that sales enablement platforms are mitigating these challenges. In fact, companies that have deployed a sales enablement platform to their partners are two times more likely than other companies to report double-digit revenue growth. What’s more, partner users of sales enablement platforms find is 2x easier to accelerate deal closure and report stronger customer relationships.

Key sales enablement platform features

Decision-makers surveyed said they value sales enablement platforms that:

1. Are easy to use and implement

2. Provide actionable sales data

3. Enable collaborative discussions with channel partners

4. Are compatible with mobile devices

Technology-enabled salesforce

Gone are the days of generic sales pitches, one-size-fits-all sales presentations based on incomplete or old data, and technology that isn’t built for the unique requirements of channel sellers. Today’s buyers expect personalized pitches and consultative sellers with deep, contextual knowledge.

Forrester’s research found that interactive sales tools overwhelmingly aid sellers — both in terms of accelerating deal closure and increasing a deal’s average value.

Here are three ways you can leverage interactive sales tools to better enable channel sellers:

1. Visibility around every sales opportunity.

Gain visibility to leading indicators of channel performance like lead scores, follow up times, and deal stage conversion rates that both manufacturer and distributor can use to manage the channel. Your platform should provide a unified view of all lead and opportunity details so that both manufacturer and distributor see the same updates and points of need.

2. Relevant help at the right time

Help your distributors by providing contextual sales information that will be useful to them at the right time. Sending information too early increases the chance that it will be forgotten or misplaced. Information sent too late is useless. Good channel nurturing provides product line updates, sales materials and other updates by stage and location at precisely the right time, which will better position your distributors to convert opportunities into sales.

3. Easy, real-time feedback

Effective channel enablement is a two-way street. Distributors need to be able to communicate with you as easily and clearly as you communicate with them. A real-time tool that enables ongoing feedback between you and your partners creates a “closed loop” around opportunity status, lead quality and needs. Leads are less likely to fall through the cracks, and outdated or irrelevant information isn’t contaminating the process.

Key takeaways

The Forrester report concludes that in today’s sales environment, winning complex business deals requires sophisticated, consultative, and technology-enabled salespeople. Sales enablement platforms help partner sales reps deliver the kind of consistent, compelling sales interactions that drive growth.

Transforming the buying experience is no easy task for B2B enterprises that rely on partner sales channels outside of their own control for business growth. But in order to compete, sales leaders must extend sales enablement strategies and technologies beyond the direct sales force and support the success of their external sales partners.

Get more channel partner-specific sales enablement strategies.