Optimize your channel lead management process to sell more

5 strategies to convert more leads into paying customers

If your marketing efforts and lead volumes are in good shape, and your external sales team is handed a healthy list of sales leads, but your conversion rates aren’t keeping pace, the problem may be your lead follow-up process.

Industry research tells us that time and again more than a third of sales leads are never followed up on, and I’d bet that figure is even higher among companies that use a channel partner sales model, where there are far more opportunities for sales leads to fall through the cracks.

By simply creating a process to contact more leads — and therefore better understand why current leads go uncontacted — what kind of revenue increase could result?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from manufacturers that sell through channel partners is the struggle for pipeline visibility. They’ve established a strong lead generation program with plenty of marketing qualified leads. But once handed off to a channel partner, too many of these prospects go dark. They become difficult to track, and conversion rates — and by extension the bottom line — suffer.

To improve conversion rates, you need to develop a visible lead follow-up process that ensures you don’t leave leads, and potential revenue, on the table.

Here are 5 strategies that should be a part of your process:

1. Don’t let your leads spoil

According to a Harvard Business Review study which involved 1.25 million sales leads, firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which they defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Therefore, the faster your external partners connect with potential customers, the more likely your product will be top of mind when the prospect picks up the phone.

2. Establish priorities

Treating all leads as equals is inefficient, and inhibits revenue potential. (Spending time and resources on an unlikely buyer, while a higher-potential opportunity sits idle).

By determining whether a lead is “hot” or merely “lukewarm” before you send it to a distributor, you help them prioritize their day and signal which leads should be contacted first. Rather than throwing all leads in the same priority bucket, higher priority leads are contacted first while lower priority leads can be given a longer follow-up period.

3. Commit to follow-up

Recent research from Harvard Business Review reveals that sales reps can experience up to a 70 percent increase in contact rates by simply making a few more call attempts. Since you never know when a customer will be ready to buy, asking distributors to consistently and continuously follow-up with a lead increases the chance that they will make a connection that pays off.

Rather than burden channel partners with keeping track of these additional touches, a shared platform for communication makes follow-up easy to see and track.

4. Be relevant

Help your distributors by providing contextual sales information that will be useful when communicating with leads at the right time. Think about the questions that most potential customers have when they reach out to you, and supply your distributors with helpful content right when they need it, including product line updates, sales materials and other updates by stage and location. This will better position your distributors to convert opportunities into sales.

5. Tweak, refine & win

Once you begin communicating with your distributors about leads more closely, you can track every activity and fine-tune your process. Log contact rates, speeds and conversion to see what it most effective. The only way you can improve your sales figures when working with large distribution channels is to use your data to uncover where there are barriers in the buying process and take steps to remove them.

Without proper tracking through every stage of the buying process, there is no way to maximize the potential of your leads and sales opportunities. The result is lost revenue and wasted marketing dollars.

Implementing these 5 strategies will provide you insight into exactly what happens to every lead at every stage of the sales process — so your channel partners can turn more opportunities into closed deals.

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.

Industrial sales reps, it’s time to optimize your LinkedIn profile

Manufacturers reps and distributors: Here’s how to optimize your profile to engage prospects

Last month, LinkedIn — the business-focused social network — reported it has 562 million users. That’s up from the 500 million figure it recorded in 2017.

While the total number of LinkedIn users is interesting, what’s more relevant for today’s sales rep is the number of senior-level influencers (61 million) and corporate decision makers (40 million) that use the platform on a regular basis.

Despite this, many sales reps fail to take full advantage of LinkedIn’s capabilities to court buyers and engage prospects. We often see profiles listing skills, achievements in sales and employment history — fine for someone who is job hunting.

But those who want to leverage the business networking value of LinkedIn — and thereby improve their sales performance — need to go further.  If you are in a sales position and your LinkedIn profile looks more like your resume, you’re most likely leaving leads on the table. Same goes with profiles that are outdated, lean on content or mistake-riddled.   

Go beyond your resume

If you think of your LinkedIn sales profile as a digital business card or online resume, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with potential buyers. The key shift here is to see LinkedIn not as a record of your work history, but as a reputation builder.

Essentially, your LinkedIn profile is the platform to shape how others see you.

Sales reps who use it most effectively present a digital version of themselves that is meaningful and useful to the buyers they hope to attract. This might including sharing how they’ve enabled their buyer’s achievement, providing helpful information that boosts their credibility and establishing themselves as a product expert or trend spotter.

What should a LinkedIn sales profile look like?

Here’s are five key areas to help optimize your LinkedIn sales profile for better sales performance.

1.  Write an attention-grabbing headline

Remember, the aim is not to recite your resume. Use this highly visible real estate to demonstrate how you add value to your clients and customers. A concise summary of who you help, and how, is more compelling than a standard job title.

2. Put your best face forward

Your LinkedIn profile image is the digital equivalent of a first impression — so choose an image that is warm and genuine.

Profile photos should be:

  • High quality and cropped to 400×400 pixels to fit the space
  • Of you. No friends, children or pets.
  • In front of a neutral background.
  • Professionally captured, if possible. (LinkedIn profiles with professional headshots get 14 times more profile views.)

3. Summary = Your Value Pitch

Like the headline, the aim of your summary is to convey the value you add to your customers and clients. Here, you can provide more details about your products, your clients’ success, and your results. You can also include a clear call-to-action that communicates why and how a buyer should get in touch with you.

4. Add content that builds credibility

Does your company have a case study that highlights a satisfied client of yours? Do you maintain a blog? Aim to have at least two pieces of content displayed on your profile, including links to blog posts, videos, or landing pages. Think of your profile as your opportunity to educate prospects about market trends, products comparisons, or other content that will solidify your reputation as an expert in your field.  

5. Seek out recommendations

One of the best sales tools on LinkedIn is the ability to get third-party recommendations and then prominently display them on your profile. Ideally, clients should mention specific benefits from their association with you, either in terms of a statistic, dollar figure, or achievement. LinkedIn recommendations are especially powerful because they are tied directly to people’s profiles — making it quick and easy for your prospects to see that the review came from a real person in the business community.

Once you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile for selling, it will quickly become one of your best sales tools. Given LinkedIn’s reach — particularly among corporate decisions makers — it’s worth investing a little time to update your profile so that it works as an engagement tool and reputation builder.

Distributors, it’s time to increase revenue with a well executed sales pipeline

Here’s how to build a sales pipeline that converts opportunities into revenue.

At its most fundamental, a sales pipeline is simply insight — the ability to see every stage of your sales process front and center from prospect through to deal closure.

Why should today’s distributor define a formal sales process?  

The more control and visibility you have into your sales pipeline, the more revenue you’ll bring in. That’s according to HubSpot Research, which found that the more opportunities in your pipeline, the more likely you are to reach or exceed your revenue goals.

A Harvard Business Review survey generated similar results. It found an 18 percent difference in revenue growth between companies that defined a formal sales process and companies that didn’t.

Therefore, if knowledge of your pipeline is based on best guesses or last month’s figures, you’re probably leaving money on the table.

“Knowing your numbers in sales is like following a good recipe,” writes Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand. “When you know what components are going in, you know what’s going to come out. But, if you forget a few ingredients, you’re going to have a tasteless flat cake that no one wants to eat. It’s the same thing in sales.”

What is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a specific sequence of actions that a sales rep needs to take in order to move a prospect from a new lead to a customer. Once each stage is completed, the prospect is advanced to the next stage. Sometimes depicted by a funnel, the wider top indicates a prospect or leads that then narrows to decision and purchase.

An opportunity moves from stage to stage of your pipeline based on concrete actions, which can be represented visually in your CRM or other shared platforms. Because sales processes differ from company to company (and even product to product), your sales pipeline should be unique to your business and reflect your typical buyer’s journey.

How to build your sales pipeline

1.  Clearly define the stages of your sales cycle

Start by defining stages and milestones that are universally understood by your salespeople. Your sales team shouldn’t have to guess where a particular deal stands or how they should be managing deals in each stage. In addition, your sales process should align with how your customers move through their buying process. Too many sales teams use generic sales processes and consequently get generic sales performance. Invest the time in developing a unique process for your team, and make sure that they understand how to use it.

As a distributor, your customer’s journey may vary, depending on the manufacturer, product or region in which you’re selling. For example, sellers that partner with manufacturers to obtain sales leads, lead generation, prospecting and in some cases qualification might be unnecessary steps in your pipeline. Instead, the top of your pipeline may begin with initial contact or proposal.

2. Calculate your numbers

How many deals do you need to add to your pipeline to meet your objectives? If you know how many deals you win on average, you can easily calculate the number of deals you need in each of the early stages by following these steps:

  1. Identify how many opportunities typically advance to the next stage
  2. Working backwards, calculate the number of opportunities you need at every stage to reach your goal
  3. Pinpoint the common reasons an opportunity converts at every stage — including the actions the rep takes (performing a demo) and prosper response (request for a proposal).

Decide on a shared platform

Pipeline visibility gives salespeople a snapshot of pipeline performance. It is often a CRM feature — but can be done on any shared platform, such as Google Sheets — and allows reps to determine how pipeline activities are tracking towards overall goals. Based on this insight, reps can adjust pipeline volume and budget expectations for more accurate sales forecasting.

Whatever method you use, be sure to ask:

  • Does the CRM help salespeople focus on activities?
  • Are salespeople able to see everything that’s happening in their deals?
  • How does it allow salespeople to stay organized?

If your system is not meeting these baseline objectives, invest in a shared sales pipeline visibility platform that does. The return will be worth the investment.

Once you have your sales pipeline established, the world is your oyster. You’ll be able to forecast revenue more accurately, manage your sales team more effectively, increase deal speed, and increase total deal volume, size and revenue.

A well-managed sales pipeline is about continuously improving the process and honing the skills of your salespeople. Everyone’s aim should be to keep the pipeline moving from one stage to the next – and of course, to close sales.

4 Ways to Recognize and Avoid an Underperforming Channel Partner Program

Inherent in a distributor sales force model is a lack of communication and understanding between separate entities on the status of their leads and sales pipelines.

Manufacturers send leads to their distributors, but rarely get feedback on what happens with those leads, the opportunities they represent, forecasted sales, or the pipeline as a whole.

In fact, our manufacturer clients report that they only hear back on 10 to 20 percent of their leads. Was the lead contacted by the distributor? How long did it take? Did an opportunity or sale result? These are questions that often go unanswered. That’s largely because manufacturers don’t have an effective process or the right tools in place to facilitate two-way communication.

It’s not something to ignore.

Up to 80 percent of the leads passed to sales fall through the cracks, according to the American Marketing Association. Depending on the product, that is thousands to millions of dollars in lost sales each week. Additionally, Gartner Research reports that 43 percent of sales go to the company that follows up first on the lead. So it’s imperative that distributors know which leads they’ve received, and then act quickly, or both parties risk losing even more.

How do you know if your channel business is leaving money on the table? Here are the 4 most common red flags, and steps you can take to improve channel performance.

1. Leads are not contacted fast enough

Sales managers know that speed-to-contact rates are a proven performance indicator. Faster speed-to-contact rates lead to higher conversion, which is why most companies should aim to speed up the lead capture and distribution process. Now, more than ever, prospects demand a quick response.

The problem that channel sellers face is the disconnect (and often slowdown) between their lead capture process, which may include reformatting or lead qualification, and the time it takes for the appropriate distributor to receive the lead and follow-up.

If speed-to-contact is a concern for your organization, be intentional about how you share leads and how those leads are received and organized. The best case scenario is an integrated system that allows you to quickly and easily capture and share leads so that your partners have the opportunity to follow-up with prospects faster.

2. Leads are poorly qualified

One manufacturer told me recently that the No. 1 complaint he hears from outside sales reps is lead quality. “For every 100 leads we receive, only a handful are worth following up,” he recounted.

If your incoming sales leads are missing critical contact details as well as valuable market details, such as SIC code/description, company size, website, address, etc., your distributors are either wasting valuable time trying to collect these details or are not as prepared as they should be with a potential customer.   

Lead scoring should give distributors the information they need to personalize their sales pitch to customers. The scores also determine which nurture campaigns to place your leads in and the best time for channel partners to engage with those leads. And the more you are able to prioritize quality leads over cold leads, the faster you and your channel partners will see conversion rates increase.

3. Your pipeline is fuzzy

Does your current system give you an accurate, real-time picture of your sales pipeline, as well as future sales projections? What’s your cost of customer acquisition, and your conversation rates by distributor? It’s difficult to measure, plan and improve sales without tools that deliver this kind of business-critical information.

The good news is that you don’t need to spend more on generating new leads. Rather, focus on maximizing the revenue potential that already exists among your current leads.

A software program that automates the lead capture and distribution process can help manufacturers clearly understand what is happening with their leads. Manufacturers can confirm that leads are being followed up by distributors and identify how quickly that happens. The lead generator can also see the opportunities and sales projections in the pipeline.

Such information can then inform data-driven decisions that increase revenue, whether it’s promoting a high-performer, offering additional support to a sales rep or determining the most effective leads sources.

4. Distributor engagement is lukewarm

The nature of the relationship between manufacturers and distributors creates a significant engagement hurdle. Manufacturers have tried to solve this problem with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programs, but CRMs have proven inadequate, if downright un-useful for the channel seller. Why?

Because distributors — who routinely partner with multiple manufacturers — don’t want to learn how to use 20 different systems and keep track of 20 different login details. It’s a huge hassle, so they just don’t use it.

The key to better distributor engagement — and therefore increased productivity — is to simplify the feedback process. Look for software products that eliminate the login process for distributors entirely. Instead, the solution should present the distributor with the data they need via a secure, encrypted Web interface. This allows distributors to quickly and easily provide feedback on leads without the hassle of responding to individual emails or learning several CRMs.

Spotty feedback about sales leads and sporadic communication with distributors has long been the norm for many manufacturers. But given the technology now available, there’s no reason it needs to stay that way. Organizations that address these four problem areas — contact rates, lead quality, pipeline visibility, and distributor engagement — yield worthwhile results, including 20 percent increased revenue and up to 300 percent increased distributor engagement.


Here’s What Effective Channel Engagement Looks Like

Sales managers understand that channel partner engagement is the lifeblood of successful indirect sales. The more effective your channel partner engagement program, the easier it is for your distributors to do their job of selling and servicing your products every day.

Market fluctuations and rapidly changing customer needs, however, have created an increasingly challenging environment for manufacturers. Meeting these challenges requires strong partner relationships. A company with disengaged channel partners will be poorly positioned to outmaneuver their competitors. Open dialogue and strong partnerships foster the collaboration and innovation necessary for success. That’s why effective communication is such an important element of channel management.

But the nature of the indirect sales model — you may be doing business with resellers around the globe — complicates this effort. Beyond geography, partners and resellers typically work with multiple suppliers making it even more important that your engagement plan stands out and builds partner loyalty.

Once established, a good engagement strategy has numerous benefits, including:

  • Improved productivity and distribution numbers,
  • Increased sales and commission numbers for dealers,
  • More successful advertising and marketing campaigns, and
  • Improved customer service along the entire channel.

All organizations these days are dealing with an overwhelming amount of information on a regular basis. Whether that information gets to the right person at the right time, without being perceived as burdensome, is the difference between effective channel communication and wasting your time (and theirs).

When creating and executing a partner engagement plan, there are a few key communication tips to keep in mind:

Be timely.  To be effective, communications can’t be burdensome. Communications that are too frequent can get lost in the shuffle or leave the partner feeling overloaded. If the communications are not seen as helpful and supportive, they become useless. Consider adopting mobile-friendly communication tools that provide easy access to relevant information.

Be relevant.  One of the key communication mistakes is caused by sending “blanket” information addressed to the entire sales network. It’s then left to the individual partners and their individual departments to sift through the information, looking for anything relevant to them. To be effective, communications must be contextual.  It should provide contextual information to the channel partner by deal stage, product line, customer type, or geography. The criteria doesn’t matter as much as being able to segment and supply information based on their individual needs.

Strike a balance.  Sending information too early only adds to the overload that your partners may be experiencing. The longer the information sits before it becomes relevant, the greater the chance that it will be forgotten or misplaced. Alternatively, information that is sent too late is useless to your dealers. A careful balancing act is required. The more effective your overall communication strategy, the easier the balancing act becomes.

A distributor lead management software system improves your ability to execute targeted and helpful communications with your channel partners. With a lead management system designed specifically for distributor engagement, channel partners will have instant access to timely, context-based product information at their fingertips. As a result, your channel partners will feel informed, supported, and valued — the critical link to building strong partner engagement.

6 KPIs That Every Channel-Based Business Should Track

Business leaders today rely on data in order to make calculated, smart decisions for their organizations. To stay ahead of the competition and constantly changing business environments, seasonal trends or economic indicators are no longer good enough — particularly with the technology tools available today.

Data is the new currency of the digital age. Whether your company was born a digital native or not, every business needs to empower tracking and analytics systems and processes to ensure you’re meeting customer needs and not leaving money on the table.

Leveraging data provides insights that help you answer a host of key performance questions, which business owners and managers can turn into decisions and actions that can increase revenue.

You can manage what you can’t measure

One of the leading challenges faced by companies that sell through channel partners is pipeline visibility. Tracking and analysis of key performance indicators (KPIs), not to mention marketing effectiveness, is mere guesswork when a considerable chunk of your sales leads are handed off to outside distributors or reps outside the four walls of your business.

And without a clear understanding of key sales performance data and metrics, sales leaders can’t measure what is working and what isn’t working in order to grow their businesses.

You’re essentially throwing money at marketing and demand generation and crossing your fingers that something will stick. Or, you may be relying on past indicators that have already taken place — sales numbers or gross margin, for example. Yes, these are helpful but they won’t give you the complete picture. Regardless if sales are up or down this quarter or year-over-year, you want to be able to answer the questions of why it happened and how.

How to bring visibility to your sales pipeline

The first step to bringing visibility to your sales pipeline is to identify your sales KPIs. These should provide visibility into current sales activity that will impact future productivity. Tracking these indicators now will allow you to identify gaps and make future adjustments. KPIs for channel-based businesses might include:

  • Lead contact rates — How many leads are being contacted versus assigned by distributor
  • Lead contact speed — How long does it take a sales lead to be contacted once it’s assigned or accepted
  • Lead-to-opportunity conversion rates — What percentages of leads convert to opportunities in your pipeline
  • Sales cycle time — How much time does it take for a lead to become a sale
  • Close or conversion rates — What percentage of leads convert to customers by distributor
  • Channel pipeline revenue value — what is the total $ from the opportunities being managed by your channel partners and distributors.

Next, you need to engage with each of your channel partners to collect this data. The best way to do this is through regular, ongoing feedback. If your channel partners have the ability to quickly and easily provide feedback on the status of every lead they are assigned and at every stage of the customer journey, you’ll be ready to analyze your next move with clear, actionable data.

For example, you might discover that the speed-to-contact rate for Distributor A is 24 hours. And since you know that speed matters — faster speed to contact rates lead to higher conversion rates — you can then work with your partner to reduce that rate.

With actionable intel into which partners or regions or processes have room for improvement, you can put a strategy in place to move your business — and your relationship with your distributors and channel partners — in the right direction.

It all starts with putting tools in place to collect and connect all of your data in one spot. With this solid data foundation, you can gather insights, visualizations, and metrics that maximize the potential of every sales lead and support overall revenue growth.

How to Accelerate Speed to Contact and Win More Business

Imagine you want to buy a car on a Saturday. You go to dealership A and the salesperson says he’ll call you in 24 to 48 hours. Meanwhile, you go to dealership B, test drive the car you want, ink the deal, and drive home.  When the salesperson from dealership A gets around to calling you on Monday morning to talk about the car, the opportunity has passed. The difference? A slow response time.

Slow lead response times is one of the challenges faced by manufacturers that sell via a distributor network — both in terms of how much times it takes to sort through and share a qualified lead with the right channel partner, and how much time it takes that channel partner to make initial contact.

And unlike our dealership scenario — in which sales leads and salespeople exist under the same roof — channel sellers have understandable hurdles. Namely, the partner responsible for contacting a sales lead operates in a totally separate time and place.

Because there are more steps in the process, delays happen.

It’s a reoccurring frustration that we hear time and again from manufacturers in the indirect sales space: the time it takes to capture, share and contact leads can drag on for hours or even days.

Too often this time gap turns an opportunity cold before it has a chance to begin.

A Harvard Business Review study of 2,200 American companies found that those who attempted to reach leads within an hour were nearly seven times likelier to have meaningful conversations with decision makers than those who waited 60 minutes or longer.

And the consequences of slow contact times can have a real impact on revenue — since we know that the first company to follow up with the lead more often wins the business.

Therefore, an easy way to maximize the revenue potential of every lead — and to outpace your competitors — is to increase your time-to-contact rates.

Here’s how to add speed to your lead-sharing process:

Step 1: Automate lead capture & distribution

The key to selling with speed — and thus maximizing the revenue potential of every lead — is to automate the lead capture and distribution process. This removes the manual labor that often bottlenecks. Using a software platform with automated lead capture and distribution capabilities, the lead is shared with the appropriate partner instantly. Your channel partner can then make contact within your specified window, when connection and conversion potential is highest.

Step 2: Track. Adjust. Optimize

Do you know the exact time-to-contact rate for every opportunity in your sales pipeline across your distributor network? Without this information, it’s impossible to set expectations or tweak procedures. You’re essentially flying blind — hoping that leads are being contacted quickly, but not really sure where or when it’s happening. By contrast, when the status of every sales lead in your pipeline is clearly visible in real-time, you can not only see if and when the lead was contacted, but you can make adjustments as you go.

For example, you notice a distributor is on average taking four hours to make contact with the sales leads you share, and you want see if a time-to-contact of 60 minutes or less has an impact on conversion rates. With a lead management software platform, you can easily identify, monitor, make adjustments, and track the results.

Maximize sales

Slow contact rates limit your ability to leverage sales leads to their full advantage. But the good news is that by improving on this one simple metric can have significant impact on your revenue stream. No need to increase your marketing budget, or spend more on advertising.

Simply take steps to ensure that your channel partners having access to and are contacting shared leads faster, and before your competition does.

Manufacturers: How to share more valuable leads with your channel partners

In a typical B2B or B2C environment, an internal marketing department provides leads — ideally qualified ones — to its counterpart down the hall in the sales department. It’s well known and certainly well documented that the process of sales and marketing alignment is both a challenge and a great source of opportunity. Just try Googling “sales and marketing alignment.” The result is 1.3 million hits. In general, sales folks complain about lead quality and marketers tender to criticize the sales team for poor follow-up.

According to Marketo, alignment between marketing and sales is potentially today’s largest opportunity for improving business performance. When marketing and sales teams unite, they dramatically improve marketing ROI, sales productivity, and, most importantly, top-line growth.

For manufacturers that work with distribution partners, marketing and sales teams face a greater divide — mainly due to the fact that they are not really on the same team.  And communication between these two separate entities during lead generation, handoff and nurturing processes doesn’t take place under the same roof.

Manufacturers generate the leads and pass them off to distributors. Distributors are then responsible for following up and nurturing the lead through the sales funnel. But because systems and process can vary dramatically from partner to partner — and your distributors likely work with numerous manufacturers, including your competitors — the potential for a lead-sharing disconnect is high.

What’s the current status of the lead? Did follow-up take place? When? Was it a quality lead, or does it need more context?

These are critical questions, and the answers can have a serious financial impact on your bottom line.  

A 2017 study by Aberdeen Group revealed that companies that optimize the sales and marketing relationship grow revenue 32 percent faster over those that don’t.

Here are three important steps you can take now to better align your marketing and sales efforts, and to get the most out of the leads you share with channel partners and distributors.

1. Qualify

Just collecting business cards at trade shows or email addresses from some other source is not enough. Qualifying leads requires contextual information to make the leads more actionable for your distributors. Even adding industry, location, or company size by employees or revenue goes a long way toward ensuring your sales partners have access to context.

2. Organize

Be intentional and methodical about how you share leads and how those leads are received and organized. The best case scenario is an integrated system that allows you to easily share leads, and receive feedback on the quality or urgency of a lead.

3. Adjust

Once you have a system established that allows for sales feedback to be easily created and shared, incorporate that information into both your lead generation program as well as revenue expectations and forecasts.  This closed loop information flow is essential, and allows you to continually tune and improve your lead sharing and qualifying process.

Incorporating these three fact-finding steps into your distributors sales model will result in higher win rates, fewer wasted leads and easier deal closing, as well as a happier relationship with your channel partners.

The good news is that they can be implemented with little disruption and, with the right channel lead management software platform, results can be seen in as little as 30 days.