Indirect sales account for a large part of most global businesses’ revenue, but boosting sales performance in the channel is notoriously complex. The fundamental problem stems from the fact that channel sales partners don’t work directly for the company that creates the products, so sales leaders have to pull different levers (commissions, incentives, etc.) rather than delivering direct orders to set sales tactics and processes.
It’s hard enough to optimize sales through indirect methods, but what makes this problem especially vexing for today’s companies is that many sales leaders are working in near total darkness. The era of cloud computing has increased the number of channel partners reselling products exponentially, and these partners often don’t have the resources or motivation to report back timely and precise information. Sales leaders often get no visibility beyond vague quarterly reports showing total sales sums. With just a bare minimum of data from the channel to understand which tactics are effective and which aren’t, it’s impossible for executives to make intelligent decisions about sales strategy.
However, sales organizations leave an enormous amount of money on the table if they chalk this up as a lost cause. Understanding exactly how, when, where, why and to whom products are sold via indirect sales channels has become a valuable initiative for companies focused on new channel data management (CDM) solutions. Across the globe, channel partners hold an estimated $1.5 trillion worth of unsold products at any given time. This is an enormous opportunity for sales teams. Getting timely, decision-grade channel data can uncover new ways to boost product sales, translating into hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue. It is in sales leaders’ best interest to adopt strong CDM processes; companies that do so typically experience a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in total sales.
With decision-grade channel data, sales teams can better understand end customers, improve closure rates, offer faster and more accurate commission payouts, and align sales and marketing tactics more closely, boosting performance immediately and in the long term.
1. Getting a Clearer Picture of Your End Customers
Many sales teams have special programs to target specific customer segments. Therefore, it’s important to identify the segments partners are selling to and effectively leverage that information. With detailed data on the individual buyers that resellers are reaching, sales teams can better identify and raise awareness about strategic customer market segments. This enriched sales data also helps sales teams generate new leads and uncover new upselling and cross-selling opportunities for existing customers.
2. Improving Conversion Rates and Speed Up Sales Cycles
With real-time channel data that identifies deals earlier in the process, sales teams can improve conversion rates by stepping in to offer additional support and special pricing. Timely data can also speed up the sales cycle time by helping companies identify important leads and route them to the channel partner that is most likely to close the deal in the quickest time frame.
A robust CDM strategy also empowers sales organizations to focus on new, up-and-coming reseller partners and can provide early warning signs for how and why partners are becoming ineffective. For example, sales leaders can set parameters for judging when resellers become significant enough to be enrolled into a company’s partner program, or track significant week-to-week declines in sales volume to ensure corrective partner management actions are taken before it’s too late.
3. Aligning Marketing Strategy and Sales Performance
Using channel data, companies can align marketing strategies and sales goals with incentive payouts and monitor execution against those plans on a weekly basis. Most channel sales teams know who their most loyal partners are and have divided them into tiers, with special rewards for each category. However, not all do this accurately and consistently. Timely, decision-grade point-of-sale (POS) data from the channel enables companies to evaluate partners by objective benchmarks, such as meeting a certain sales volume over the last six weeks and exceeding volume targets in at least four of those six weeks. Once key resellers are identified, companies can implement programs to motivate partners to cross-sell less popular products. Benchmarking and comparing one partner’s sales data with their competitors’ data might reveal additional markets where they can sell the expanded product line.
4. Streamlining Partner Payouts to Boost Productivity and Engagement
Nothing motivates channel partners like cash bonuses, and the effectiveness of companies’ sales credit and commissioning processes can make or break partner programs. Instead of relying on time-consuming and error-prone manual processes, channel sales organizations can leverage accurate POS and inventory data from their CDM system to automate payouts. Not only does this accelerate payments by facilitating claimless processing, but it also reduces the administrative costs of the incentive programs and saves money by eliminating erroneous or fraudulent claims.
Late and inaccurate data from channel partners has left sales leaders in the dark for too long. Because trillions of dollars flow in through indirect sales, channel partners are a critical part of the sales funnel, and companies can no longer afford to turn a blind eye. With new CDM solutions, sales teams can achieve the visibility they need to uncover new opportunities, react intelligently and ultimately sell more products.
Ted Dimbero is cofounder and chief customer officer of Zyme, responsible for all customer facing activities including operations, support, professional services, and customer advocacy. Prior to his work at Zyme, Dimbero spent seven years in various consulting and product development leadership roles at i2 Technologies, the market leader of supply chain management software. As vice president of consulting at i2, Ted delivered supply chain transformation projects globally to a broad base of high-tech companies across the semiconductor, OEM and distribution sectors.