Imagine the following three scenarios in which businesses succeed in opening new doors through indirect sales relationships.
A garden supply company expands its reach from primarily rural retail outlets to urban rooftop gardening professionals. A long-time computer monitor manufacturer suddenly finds itself breaking into the cutting-edge world of digital signage. A software-as-a-service vendor successfully positions itself as a go-to subscription-based solution for a niche that the C-suite didn’t know existed at launch.
All three of these hypothetical businesses operate in incredibly different areas from one another. Their products and appeal are distinct and demand drastically different levels of technological sophistication, and the customer bases they are trying to reach are quite disparate. Likewise, the channel programs that each vendor has implemented must be put together differently in significant ways. Each will have different marketing, branding, training, and types of incentivization. But the channel programs that enable each business to extend its reach, and its profits, through indirect selling, all have one thing in common: effective communication.
Good communication is the secret ingredient; the common factor that all effective channel partner programs share. And communication is the primary feature that all suppliers that want to launch a truly successful channel program need to have—and this is why.
Why Is Communication So Important in the Channel?
It’s no secret that communication technology is the driving force behind today’s business world. It’s hard to imagine a day in the office that doesn’t involve sending out a dozen emails, following up with coworkers in the office and outside the office, and swapping files through numerous different avenues to make sure a job is completed. If the right infrastructure isn’t there, communication fails—emails can be missed, file attachments can be dropped, meetings can be forgotten. And that’s when you’re just looking at a fairly simple business–client relationship.
Channel sales takes both the power and the challenges of office communication and supercharges them. If you think of all the potential players in just a single channel relationship, you’ll realize that the number of people involved often far exceeds that of everyday business outside of the channel. You have vendors talking to distributors talking to partners. Vendors and distributors brokering cross-partner relationships. Partners bringing each other on board to meet the needs of clients and on and on. In each different business, you have sales staff, C-suite, marketing, and even finance all getting in on the conversation. And when you multiply that by the number of partners a supplier would hope to have, what emerges is a picture of the supplier at the center of a web of communication, lightning fast, and with a staggering number of discussions going on each day around a plethora of topics.
This isn’t a hindrance—complexity is what makes the channel great. It allows for both suppliers and partners to profit in ways they’d never before imagined. But the potential confusion and inefficiency that can arise from such a complex web of discussions demands communication that’s clearer and more effective than in any other segment of sales, or even in business as a whole.
Streamlined communication allows for businesses to make the most out of the channel’s potential. That’s why, to promote effective channel communication, you need the right tool.
The Right Solution for Communication
The traditional digital office tools we use every day to conduct business can be highly effective for one-on-one communication, group collaboration, and getting the job done in general. But in the channel, using the CC function on your email will only get you so far, and lead to exponential email volume. When the number of businesses and individuals communicating with one another exceeds a certain point, you need a communication tool specifically built to handle it.
A good channel partner communication tool has features such as:
- Archived interactions between parties
- A clear layout so people can understand who is communicating with whom without having to scroll or dig
- A clean file system so that training and marketing information isn’t buried, doesn’t drop to the bottom of the pile, and doesn’t lead to endless variations of the same files.
Communication is the secret ingredient to all successful channel partnerships—and a good communication tool is the package that the ingredient comes in.