If your company sells products and services through channel partners (as opposed to selling directly to customers), you likely face a major challenge: finding ways to enhance your channels' selling skills without appearing as if your company is trying to dictate how its channel partners run their businesses.
The good news? If you depend on your channel partners for sales results, there's a simple way around this problem: enlisting the help of three external entities for help in influencing your channel, including...
Why make this move? Because associations, conferences and industry "drivers" are independent of manufacturers and distributors (namely, you!), they can make objective recommendations to your channel partners based on their own knowledge of the channel and industry sales best practices. Additionally, by allowing these entities to serve as a sort of intermediary between you and your channels, your channel partners are less likely to feel as though you're being overly pushy about the ways in which you'd like them to conduct business.
Here's a look at all three entities, as well as some tips for leveraging them to your advantage:
Professional associations have the ability to assess the skills of channel members and make suggestions regarding how they can improve and what their training should include. This assessment typically leads to the implementation of any necessary training (which the association itself conducts in order to keep it impartial) and assistance in transforming a channel partner's sales approach to improve sales.
Industry conferences provide associations with a forum to present training sessions. As a key step in the development of curricula for these conferences, event organizers typically reach out to manufacturers and distributors and ask them to suggest training sessions and content that they believe will continue to advance industry growth. Once the associations decide what the key training sessions should be, they plan the conference around them and invite the most relevant and informed speakers and trainers to conduct the training.
Channel partners from throughout the industry attend these conferences, typically because they are either sponsored by a professional association to which the channel partners belong or because the conference was recommended to them by such an association—or by the manufacturer/distributor for which the channel partner sells products and services.
A key contributor to successful associations and conferences are industry "drivers." Drivers are firms (or people) who specialize in all aspects of sales. These subject-matter experts are able to present best practices to channel partners and help them heighten their level of expertise and strengthen their sales skills. Drivers often partner with associations to assist with writing assessments and to present training sessions at conferences, all based on their understanding of what knowledge is needed to meet the manufacturers' needs. Drivers also understand what measures are needed to be successful, and how channel partners can meet manufacturer expectations.
Tips for Success
How do you leverage all three of these industry resources to your advantage? Here are some tips for success:
Kendra Lee is president of KLA Group, a sales consulting and training company specializing in new business generation based in Centennial, Colo. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.