As a marketing or sales professional managing an indirect sales channel, you clearly understand the challenges associated with making your brand “top of mind” among the channel sales reps—especially if you’re looking to increase sell-through. In truth, you have minimal visibility into the day-to-day activities of the reps and the other vendors with whom they work, as well as limited means of interacting or interfacing with them. But providing a program through which channel sales reps (including those on the customer-facing side) can register themselves, interact with other reps, gain rewards through the use of incentive programs, and gain more information and knowledge about the brand being sold can be the key to success.
Communication between the channel marketing team and the channel sales reps is regular and informative.
In Managing Channels of Distribution: The Marketing Executive’s Complete Guide, Kenneth Rolnicki explains the primary challenge for a channel manager clearly:
“Remember, you do not own your channel. Your distributors do. Therefore, you cannot control your channel. The best you can do is manage it…[and] the essence of management is communication.”
For your communication strategy to work, continuity, consistency and regularity is crucial. First, keep things simple; you should “make sure it is clear, concise, and can be read and understood in 30 seconds, by everyone,” says Olivier Choron of purechannelapps.
The communications should also generate enthusiasm and interest in your brand. Timely newsletters keeping channel reps informed about product updates and new promotions are extremely useful, as are notifications of program updates through the portal can keep the reps engaged in what you’re selling through them.
Marketing consistently provides sales reps with educational and marketing materials.
In order to build mindshare and increase engagement with the brand, channel marketers have an obligation to provide informative, useful content to their channel organization. This content can include, but of course are not limited to:
- Training (videos, quizzes, etc.) on new products or feature roll-outs
- Sales sheets that can be easily printed and used as a reference at the point of sale
- Battle cards for clear positioning against competitors
- Signage to be displayed at the point of sale
Across all of these assets, the channel marketer should maintain consistent branding and messaging to prevent any sort of confusion on the part of the channel rep.
Promotions and contests drive increased productivity and enthusiasm for your brand.
Gone are the days of having your field reps drop off a flyer that advertises a contest for the sales rep who sells the most stuff in a certain time period. Creative and varied promotions or contests that offer incentives for performance, whether it’s one that is focused at the individual rep level (such as the traditional SPIF, wherein the rep “sells THIS to get THAT”), or one for a group of reps in a particular store, region or segment of the sales organization, can dramatically increase engagement with the parent organization and the promotions you offer.
Key systems are integrated with your channel program.
For added functionality, ensure your channel sales program integrates seamlessly with other much-used systems, including point-of-service (POS) and payroll. If connected via API, your data can flow in near real time. Integrating your systems will give you more visibility into the program as a whole, allow you to analyze more data, reduce fraud and errors that are the result of entering data manually, and increase ease of use.
The indirect sales channel has convenient, real-time, and on-the-go access to the program.
Providing a channel program on a SaaS platform allows channel reps to use the system on any device with a connection to the Internet. This kind of portability—and flexibility of use—is imperative for program success because most reps will not be sitting in front of a standard desktop computer while performing their day-to-day tasks. Whether they are on the shop floor, in a warehouse or traveling, they will be able to access the system with as much ease as checking their email.
With a multi-function program for your indirect sales channel, you can effectively create brand ambassadors out of sales reps you’ve never even met in person. By providing them with friendly competition, incentives, training and sales tools, you’re in the position to increase engagement, loyalty and, above all, revenue.