In a channel sales model, manufacturers generate leads for their channel partners and distributors. Done right, these leads are first scored based on their priority and then passed to the appropriate channel partners for follow up.
What’s happens next, might be less clear. Were the leads contacted? How fast? Was a quote offered? Did the lead turn into an opportunity?
That initial sales lead outreach is just the first step of a critical relationship management process known as lead nurturing. Just as B2B or B2C brands nurture prospects along the buyer’s journey for better sales results, so too can manufacturers nurture their channel partners.
Lead nurturing is essentially relationship building. In the channel sales environment, it’s the process of maintaining relationships with distributors or partners throughout every stage of the funnel. It focuses communication efforts on listening to the needs of channel partners, and providing them with the information and answers they need to better sell your product throughout each step of the end-buyer’s journey.
The key to a successful channel partner nurturing program is the ability for both manufacturers and channel partners to easily communicate about the status of a sales lead in real-time.
Here are 3 key elements to a high-functioning channel nurturing program:
1. Frequent and consistent communication around sales opportunities.
You send a high score (priority) lead to a distributor and expect the lead to be contacted within 48 hours. Let’s say the lead was not contacted within that time frame and the customer is still waiting. You can initiate an automated email nurture to that distributor salesperson as a reminder to contact the potential client. In another example, a lead has been labeled an open opportunity for more than 30 days and you would like to know if the distributor has either quoted the customer, sold the product, or lost the deal. Initiate a distributor lead nurture to remind them after 30 days to quickly update you on the lead status.
2. Provide relevant help at the right time.
Once you know the status of the leads in your pipeline, you can then 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 and real-time way to provide feedback.
Effective nurturing in the channel 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 — without the hassle or cost of surveys or call centers. Leads are less likely to fall through the cracks, and outdated or irrelevant information isn’t contaminating the process.
Distributor nurturing is a great way to gently remind distributors to communicate lead status during every stage of the buyer journey.
But how do you do this when everyone isn’t working from a shared platform? They answer is, you don’t.
Communicating with channel partners on a single platform makes executing a lead nurturing program easy by enabling a two-way flow of communication and feedback in real-time. You product stays front and center without ever sending an email, making a phone call or logging into a portal.
When researching channel nurturing tools, look for a platform that allows distributors to quickly update you on a lead’s status without the requirement to log-in or learn software. LeadMethod, for example, only asks distributors to click buttons from their phone to update manufacturers on a lead status. It’s about as easy as it gets. A sound nurturing program that emphasizes these fluid communication and collaboration elements will help you create a strong and productive relationship with your business partners.
For more information on distributor nurturing, let us show you how the LeadMethod program works.