Is Your Technology Enhancing your Distributors

A lot has changed in the past month as to how companies do business. In these volatile times companies are looking for any edge they can gain to improve efficiency and effectiveness in their business.

Industrial Control and LeadMethod partner to improve pipeline visibility, accelerate revenue opportunities

Leading distributor understands the importance of efficient communication with suppliers to drive more revenue. LeadMethod will be a key driver in achieving this goal.

To improve visibility into its sales pipeline and accelerate revenue opportunities, Michigan-based Industrial Control today announced its partnership with LeadMethod.

Industrial Control is a leading distributor of products and expertise in machine automation, motion control, and machine vision, and currently works with dozens of manufacturing suppliers worldwide.

“LeadMethod works with thousands of industrial manufacturers and distributors, and they know our business well,” said Mark Ermatinger, CEO of Industrial Control. “That knowledge has allowed them to build a sales automation system that’s simple, yet powerful for my reps and leadership team to leverage to improve process and overall revenue..”

In order to continue their accelerating growth  amid the fast-changing digital transformation, leaders at Industrial Control sought a modern solution that would automate more of its processes, improve communication with suppliers, and provide a better overall customer experience.

With the LeadMethod platform, Industrial Control can now:

  • Automate assignment of leads and opportunities to sales reps

  • Gain always-on visibility into its sales pipeline

  • Enable easy, two-way communication with suppliers on the status and quality of every lead

The result is a hassle-free, optimized, sales process where both Industrial Control and its suppliers benefit.

“Industrial Control is a leader in their market, and it’s easy to understand why,” said Justin Johnson, CEO at LeadMethod. “Their leadership thinks about automation and process improvement in order to improve margin and better serve their customers. We are excited to help the company execute their vision through the LeadMethod platform.”

Distributor Survey Results: Top priority is to connect CRM with manufacturers’ lead systems

How to select the right sales software to accelerate your channel partner and distributor revenue

Three questions to determine if sales technology is enhancing or hindering partner productivity

When it comes to sales technology tools, more is not necessarily better. Rather than increase business efficiency and performance, an overabundance of tools  — today’s sales reps use on average six — can actually hamper productivity.

Why? Because more sales tools doesn’t automatically equate to ROI. In fact, quite the opposite. Too many tools, particularly those that aren’t well-integrated, slow sales reps down as they waste time navigating a hodgepodge of CRMs, partner portals, email clients, and more. For channel partners, we know the struggle to manage multiple tools is even more burdensome — given that one distributor may be working with dozens of suppliers, each with its own tool.

Because of this, companies are struggling with redundancy, poor engagement and flat-out waste in their tech ecosystems.

How do you decide which technology tools land in the sweet spot of increasing efficiency and performance without adding more hassle? Or worse, lead to little or no ROI?

For manufacturers and their distributors in the channel sales space, pipeline visibility and channel engagement are the two most critical areas on which to focus — as they represent the greatest opportunity for revenue growth.

For manufacturers, it might be a CRM and a channel engagement software product to gather sales pipeline data from their distributors. For distributors, it’s likely an easy CRM to manage sales reps performance and pipeline. But they also need that CRM to be able to connect with their suppliers systems so leads can flow directly into their CRM without duplicating work. Feedback on what happened to a given lead should automatically be sent back to the suppliers, as well.

For channel sellers considering whether to adopt new technology tools(s), ask yourself:

Is it simple?

Suppliers need crystal clear, up-to-the-minute pipeline visibility. But your channel partners or distributors are already overwhelmed with plenty of technology “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. You’ll get the pipeline visibility you need, and they’ll be more engaged in the process.

Is it helpful?

Technology that can offer timely and contextual communications are critical to successful partner engagement. Channel partners are only as effective as you are at equipping them with the resources they need. To set partners up for success, provide “context aware” sales enablement that maps the right materials to the opportunity by stage, product, and scope. This will better position your distributors to convert more leads into sales.

Does it help you sell more?

At the end of the day, your technology tools should pay you back, and then some. For channel sellers, that might be automated lead capture and assignment so your partners get leads faster. Or, ability to auto append your leads in real time to give your partners better, more detailed information on every lead. Real-time 2-way integration with your CRM is critical, as it provides you a clear picture on both your direct and channel sales pipeline and performance indicators.

By taking a closer look at your sales process and asking these 3 critical questions when evaluating your technology needs, you can see which tools improve productivity and lead to revenue gains and which are time and money wasters.

Digital Transformation Done Right: How LeadMethod’s CRM Connector Automates Proax Sales Process and Accelerates Revenue

Proax Technologies calls LeadMethod’s CRM Connector the ‘Holy Grail’ of software platforms for industrial distributors

Facing a rapidly increasing volume of leads, Proax today announced its partnership with LeadMethod to improve visibility into its sales pipeline and accelerate revenue opportunities. Proax currently works with more than two dozen manufacturing partners worldwide.  

As a leading distributor of products and expertise in machine automation, motion control, and machine safety industries, Proax was keenly interested in automating more of its processes and not falling behind the digital transformation trend. LeadMethod’s Distributor CRM Connector offered the ideal answer,  seamlessly integrating incoming leads and opportunities from its suppliers with Proax’s existing Hubspot CRM.

“LeadMethod has built the holy grail of software platforms for distributors that need to connect their sales technology to suppliers,” said Carlos Martins, E-Commerce and Business Development. “LeadMethod’s Distributor CRM Connector platform allows our salespeople to spend more time selling and far less time on busy work within our CRM. It’s been a revenue accelerator for us.”

By automatically routing leads from suppliers directly to Hubspot, Proax has:

  • Eliminated manual lead entry and resulting errors or omissions
  • Improved accuracy of quarterly projections
  • Reduced abandonment rates
  • Enabled easy communication with suppliers on the status and quality of every lead

The result is a competitive advantage for both Proax and its manufacturing partners, allowing the latter to manage their lead process more efficiently and take action on promising prospects faster.

“As trusted technical experts focused on meeting the needs of their customers, the team at Proax has set the standard among industrial automation distributors, ” says Justin Johnson, LeadMethod CEO. “We’re excited to help them find more success and revenue, by improving collaboration with their manufacturer partners to accelerate sales.”

In 2019, help your channel partners be more productive

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.

Get started

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.

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.