Channel Selling is the sale of products or services through a third-party; it is the toughest job there is in sales.
Today’s post is by Marcus Cauchi.
Having interviewed hundreds of channel sales managers we have learned that channel sales is the toughest job there is in sales.
Channel selling is the sale of products or services through a third-party.
Research shows that 75 percent of the world’s trade now flows indirectly across all industries. The role of the channel is increasingly represented directly in the boardroom, with heads of channel seen as key members of the management team.
To be effective in building, or growing, a channel you need to understand the critical responsibilities of a channel professional.
Firstly, we must get over the ridiculous notion that recruiting a channel is like conscripting an army. Having hundreds of untrained conscripts’ ground-pounding your target-market won’t do much for your market reputation, will it?
Building a channel should be more akin to creating a special forces unit. Specifically designated, organized, trained, equipped, and tasked to perform specialist operations with you in partnership. Secondly, you must focus on recruiting the best partners to your business and you must be able to get the absolute best out of them.
That’s it. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
It’s not. In our experience, organizations really do believe that it is that simple and by association place a low value on the expertise and work a channel sales team undertake. We can see that changing. But change takes time.
Increasingly, we are invited to conversations with leaders who are frustrated at the performance of their channel. The conversations rarely ever go the way they expect them to.
We often start with the fundamental truth of why their channel selling efforts are failing.
If a channel program is failing, then it is highly likely it is your fault. Take a long hard look and the mirror. Ask yourself the question; “What did I do wrong?”.
Success in channel selling starts with recruiting the right partners.
Working closely with the executive leadership team of your chosen partners, you need to establish clear, specific, water-tight, up-front contracts. You need to establish the boundaries of the relationships, expectations on both sides and how conflicts are going to be dealt with.
Look at your partner onboarding plan, if you have one. You need to have a behavior-based plan that helps the partner to get to that first sale of your stuff; fast. That plan should cover the first 120-days in partnership.
Once you enter into a channel partnership train them as if they were your own. There seems little point to investing the blood, sweat, and tears of recruiting a partner to your channel, only to treat them like perfect strangers.
Why is channel sales management so tough?
Channel sales managers are expected, by their organizations, and their partners, to perform at the highest professional standards across a wide range of sales disciplines.
They are expected to train and coach a sales team they had no role or responsibility in hiring. They are expected to motivate a sales team without power. They have no determination or influence of the compensations plans or direct management responsibility.
Channel sales professionals know that the currency of success is trust and influence. Trust and influence are hard-earned, not easily given, but incredibly easy to lose.
In professional channel sales management, we do have a choice.
We can choose to manage our own behavior. We can choose the channel partners we recruit and work with. We can choose to set the ground rules, clearly, upfront, at the start of the partnership. We can establish an early agreement that we will train the partners’ people to sell. We can choose to not just leave them to their own devices, furiously winging it and hoping for the best. We can choose to equip them with the tools and systems they need to be successful with us.
Ultimately, we can, and should, choose to walk away from partnerships that are not working out.
Focus on recruiting ambitious partners. Partners who have the drive, and commitment, to succeed. Partners who want to be held accountable for their actions. Partners where the executive leadership want to work with you regularly, and directly.
Don’t become just another logo on their website. Work with partners that are willing to pin your logo to the office door.
If you are looking to spark back into an existing channel that has become dysfunctional, start by cutting it down to size. Reduce the number of partners you are working with to a manageable number, so you can give them the focus they need and deserve.
If you are looking to build a channel from scratch, take your time. Choose your partners carefully.
Never compromise on your partner recruitment and onboarding. Better no breath on a territory, than bad breath.
You and they have 120-days to prove that the partnership is a successful one.
The most important question channel sales professionals should be asking themselves right now is “Does my organization have what it takes to be a great Partner?”.
Marry in haste, repent at leisure.
The investment in creating a new partnership is significant. Don’t spend all that money getting married, only to find yourself needing an expensive, quickie divorce.
Remember, partners go to work for their own reasons, rarely, if ever, for yours.
Next time you find yourself complaining about the performance of your channel business remember whose fault it is and that you can do something about it, if you chose to.
Marcus Cauchi started his sales career in 1986. He is a Sandler trainer located in the southeast region of the United Kingdom where he has been successfully serving his clients since 2004. He is an engaging and challenging speaker on sales, sales management, company turnaround, achieving maximum cash at exit and successful recruitment of salespeople.
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