How to keep your channel partners and distributors happy

To improve the engagement, loyalty and productivity of your channel partners, it’s critical you take the time to focus on their satisfaction.

When managing an indirect sales ecosystem, it’s important to remember that you are  competing with other manufacturers for sales partners. This is true both in terms of recruiting partners in the first place, as well as maintaining positive mindshare when a partner may be working with multiple suppliers.

The more attractive you can make working with your business, the easier it will be to keep your external sales team enthusiastic about the partnership. Undoubtedly, your company will grow faster if you invest in engagement strategies with your channel partners.

For companies with a distributed sales teams communication breakdowns are the Achilles’ heel of channel sales business model. This breakdown often emerges due to a fractured lead nurturing process.

Communication hurdles can be mitigated, however, by better pipeline visibility. For example, if both supplier and seller can see in real-time the status and context surrounding every single lead, the cause of channel frustration — disjointed communication — is no longer a factor.

Let’s take a look at strategies you can implement now to improve visibility and communication, thereby boosting channel partner productivity and morale.

Make it easy

One of the biggest frustrations we hear from distributors is that working with suppliers is too complicated and requires too many different systems.

Ideally, you want to share leads and communicate about lead status and quality in a way that is fast and easy for your partners. You might have heard that portals can bridge this gap, but in reality the opposite is true. A portal or similar “static” destination that requires a log-in typically suffers from underutilization and outdated information. Plus, logging-in becomes one more burdensome task to add to a channel partner’s daily laundry list.

Better, reduce the complexity of doing business with you by implementing an all-in-one shared platform, and you will be vastly more attractive to your external sales team.

Score your leads

Sending leads to channel partners or distributors that haven’t been scored is at best inefficient and at worst setting them up to lose. Lead scoring is important because it helps determine the quality of your leads, which are ranked according to their sales potential.  Guide your channel partners as they track and follow-up on your prospects, and empower them to prioritize quality leads over cold ones. This process will prevent your distributors from wasting time and money on bad leads.

Provide easy-to-access info

Channel partners are only as effective as you are at equipping them with the resources they need. To set partners up for success — and elevate your products over a competitors — provide “context aware” content that maps the right materials to each opportunity by stage, product, and scope. When you give distributors the information they need to personalize their sales pitch to customers, they will be better positioned to convert opportunities into sales.

Encourage frequent feedback

Critical to manufacturer/distributor sales success is regular and routine two-way feedback on the quality, status, and other action items on every shared lead. Without this closed-loop process in place, leads more easily enter no man’s land, where pipeline visibility is nearly impossible. A system that allows for quick and easy feedback will ultimately improve the quality of your communication, and therefore your relationship.

All told, the success of the manufacturer/channel partner relationship — both in terms of its performance and its satisfaction — comes down to the presence of pipeline visibility and streamlined communication processes. The outcome of higher-value communication is channel partners that will sell more and be better engaged with your brand.