As we enter the last couple weeks of 2017, we turn our focus to the future of channel sales. We’ve said it before; we’ll say it again. We’re in the new age of partner relationship management. Gone are the days of complex processes and disconnected legacy systems. Instead, the modern channel is all about collaboration and customer success. And the name of the game is alignment.
If you haven’t considered alignment in the channel, now is the time to do so. To help illustrate how to build a partner program in 2018, we’ll outline a three-step process.
1. Align Your Marketing and Sales Efforts
While companies may claim they want to align sales and marketing, making sure that your marketing and sales teams can actually communicate and inform each other’s efforts should be a top priority in 2018. Integrating your marketing effort across your team greatly improves the sales channel’s ability to increase revenues for the company.
Lead generation is most effective when messaging, offers, and engagement practices are standardized across your sales channels. For your channel to take advantage of marketing’s expertise, it’s important to share prospecting data, lead generation, sales processes, and forecasting information with partners. It’s also important to request and receive feedback from each channel to gauge whether your marketing efforts are effective.
Sales enablement tools create the open line of communication your partner program demands. They standardize your lead nurturing efforts so that reps accurately answer prospects’ questions. They ensure that marketing is helping your channel team understand its competition and common objections and illustrate the best tactics and responses. And they motivate prospects to become engaged during the sales process.
2. Automate, Automate, Automate
How big is your channel? If you’re just getting started, you might have a few partners—and they might only have a few clients with a few people involved. Or maybe you’re established, and looking to ramp up your efforts big-time in 2018. Whether you have five or 500 partners, when you bring on more people, communicating through standard channels becomes unwieldy. To scale up your channel in 2018, it’s important to implement a tool that automates the heavy lifting, so you can concentrate on the important things.
Sales enablement tools enable partners to create campaigns in a few clicks, rather than having to waste time building out a full campaign each time a new product is developed. They enable partners to more easily identify prospects. They tell you exactly how many people are visiting your website, the names and email addresses of prospects, and the action they take before and after filling out a lead conversion form. Ultimately, sales enablement tools organize marketing and sales information to enable teams to search, share, and consume information.
3. Make the Most of Data
2017 was dominated by data. 2018 will be as well. With this in mind, it’s important to ask yourself: “Are you able to gain insight from your data?”
While sales teams live and breathe data, 38 percent of sales managers admit they simply don’t know what to do with it. Automating your processes is one thing. However, to make the most of this data-driven culture, it’s essential to leverage high-quality, robust analytics. When building a channel program in 2018, you need metrics every step of the way to see if you’re on the right track.
Partner relationship management (PRM) tools account for this by automating the data collection process. The fewer numbers your reps manually enter, the better. Single, cloud-based platforms unify data inputs so that teams gain insights they’d otherwise miss. For example, these tools analyze how well partners are using your resources so that channel managers can make sense of things. They also filter information from emails, customer relationship management, and automation platforms to provide clean, relevant, actionable information that can inform your partner program.
Without the right automated tools, a partner program may not reach its fullest potential—and your indirect reps may leave you in the dust. Partner relationship management tools ensure that both you and your partners make the most of your efforts.