Recently, we’ve written about find a channel sales partner and how to tell if they are a good sales partner. Unfortunately, the first few months of a new partnership can have its own set of challenges which are not addressed in our previous posts. With every new relationship, whether it is personal, professional, or between businesses, there are almost always bumps in the road when you begin to get to know each other. Some companies will operate in a way that seems weird to you, some companies won’t communicate enough, or communicate too much. Pay attention during the first three to six months to understand exactly what kind of partner you’re working with, so you can have a better business partnership going forward.
How can you tell if your new channel sales partner is good for your business?
In the first three months of your new channel sales partner relationship, watch to see how well they sell your product. This seems to be the most obvious point. Why wouldn’t you look at the sales data? As simple as this seems, a lot of information can be gleaned from the sales data than the quantity sold.
How quickly did they start selling your product? Was it instantly or did it take a while? Did the numbers increase as the reps got used to your products and could sell them better? Maybe there was a great start, but then the numbers started to decrease after a while. The numbers tell a story.
Do you get any information about the quality of the sale? Are your partners selling your products to good customers? Or are they selling to just anyone who will purchase? If you have a physical product, are your customers returning or complaining about the product? If this is the case, it may be that your new business partner is selling to just anyone instead of making sure your product is right for them. This can be a bad thing, as it gives a bad rep for your brand name.
For example, if you make and sell laminate flooring, and your channel reps sell your product to someone who doesn’t realize it’s not real hardwood, it could make for a very dissatisfied customer. Now, it may be that you never have to deal with the customer’s complaints, but in many industries, it can cause problems. Whether it is your brand getting a negative opinion, financial loss, or strain between you and the channel sales rep, it’s best to make sure that sales are good sales in addition to numerous.
Watch for what other brands your channel sales rep sells. You won’t have the numbers for who they sold more of, but you can likely see if they offer your competitors. The key here is not to be angry if they sell your competition’s products. That’s not good for business. Stay positive and know that the better your industry as a whole performs, the better your brand will perform.
The question becomes, “What can you do so your channel sales partner sells your products over your competitors?” The answer is by providing incentives to sell your product. We have found that creating an incentive for your channel sales partner will drastically increase ROI.
Does your new channel sales rep meet your relationship needs? Do they communicate with you regularly on how well your products are selling? Could that be improved? Or maybe they communicate too much and you want a more hands-off relationship with your partner? Are they friendly when you talk to them, or do they seem to think you are a pain? A partnership may seem great on paper, but if they don’t treat you and your business with respect, is the partnership really worth it? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. That’s for your company to decide. It could be they sell so much of your product that you put aside your personal feelings for the sake of the business. That’s fine, but just remember that poor relationships often tend to lead to future (and bigger) problems.
How well can they explain your product to customers? This point may not be necessary if you sell something consumable and short-lived. If you sell something more complex, however, there may need to be some customer service. Depending on your product and partner, who is in charge of customer service will vary. If your channel sales partner is responsible for customer service, they should really understand your product and/or services.
If you find that your channel sales reps are struggling to fulfill the customer service aspect of the partnership, try adding some training documentation to your incentive program. Provide the company with the same information so their customer service reps are just as trained as your salespeople.
For more information on channel sales incentives and how to maximize the value of your business partnership, schedule a demo of WorkStride’s channel incentive solution.