If your goal in 2019 is to hit new revenue targets, improving the productivity of your channel partners and distributors can help get you there. In fact, nearly 80 percent of sales executives believe increasing the productivity of an existing sales force is critical to reaching revenue goals.
Enhancing productivity doesn’t require adding new sales partners or increasing your marketing budget, but it does require taking a closer look at the efficiency and effectiveness of your current lead management process.
When we talk about sales productivity we’re talking about maximizing the time your external partners spend on the most high-value sales activities — such as lead contact and nurturing — and minimizing the resources (time and money) needed to accomplish them.
In the indirect sales space, manufacturers are responsible for capturing leads, but very often the hand-off to channel partners is messy. Read: inefficient and ineffective. This is largely due to a lack of visibility into the process between manufacturers and their distributors, which has always been a challenge given that they operate independently.
A survey of 132 sales and marketing execs revealed that sales reps spend half their day searching for content and on administrative tasks, and only a third of their day actually selling. For channel sellers, this productivity problem is exacerbated by the indirect nature of the sales model. Here’s why.
The less productive channel partner
An unproductive channel partner logs-in to portals or CRMs from dozens of different manufacturers who send them sales leads in various formats. Some of those leads arrive via email, others in spreadsheets. Leads aren’t prioritized so the external sales reps spend time on lower-value leads at the expense of higher-value ones. Leads may not be qualified — missing critical data such as email, phone or website info — forcing the channel partner to spend extra time tracking it down. The result is a high rate of uncontacted leads and/or a slow speed-to-contact rate, and productivity is diminished.
The productive channel seller
By contrast, a productive channel partner accepts qualified sales leads instantly to his or her preferred device without having to go look for it. Because leads are well qualified, the distributor has contextual information — industry, location, or company size by employees or revenue — which make them more actionable. As the channel partner begins the process of nurturing a buyer through the sales funnel, they have instant access to helpful product information, including data sheets, installation and maintenance pdfs, that help educate the buyer and win the deal. All the while, each deal stage and activity status is being tracked in real-time so manufacturer and channel partner can quickly see where barriers pop up and can adjust the process to overcome them.
The key to improving partner productivity is to take a closer look at your lead sharing process. Here are 4 ways to start maximizing partner productivity.
1. Take stock. Start by documenting your baseline sales process so you have a clear sense of where you’re starting from. Once your entire process is mapped out, look for the areas that distract your channel partners from valuable selling time or that create bottlenecks, such as lead hand-offs, lead qualifying or lead prioritizing.
2. Get help with your data. Streamlining data collection is one of the most time-intensive and inefficient steps of the lead management process. It’s a lot of work for distributors to organize the myriad leads coming from dozens of manufacturing partners. Partnering with a professional services team that can collect and organize all your leads into a consistent database format is a significant time-saver.
3. Qualify and score. Each lead should be ranked or scored to determine its priority level. That way, distributors can quickly determine the highest-value leads to be contacted first.
4. Inform to win. Insist that sales leads shared with your distributors contain critical contact details as well as valuable market details, such as SIC code/description, company size, website, address, etc. With this information — make sure it’s quick and easy to access — your external sales team will be armed with more customer knowledge, which leads to higher win rates.
Ultimately, the key to improving partner productivity is ensuring that they have access to the same tracking and engagement system to understand the status, needs, and next best actions in the sales process.
The best sales technologies automate these activities for you. Instead of spending hours filtering through leads or tracking down product information, a channel partner could use a tool that gives them access to everything they need to nurture a lead at the exact time they need it.
Remember, maximize the selling time of your channel partners and minimizing resources needed to accomplish your revenue goals is the key to improving partner productivity. If the answer to the question, “does this activity help my channel partners nurture my prospects?” isn’t a resounding yes, it’s time to look at another approach.
Want more expert strategies for improving partner productivity? Drop us a line, we would love to chat.