Managing and supporting an effective indirect sales channel is EXHAUSTING. If you’re like most partner marketing managersor channel sales managers, you spend your day mired in spreadsheets, partner requests, dozens of emails in and dozens of emails out. When it comes to keeping sales partners happy, our natural tendency is to be eager to please. To go “above and beyond.” To “delight” those partners. How else can you get them to sell your stuff?
What if I were to tell you that your hyper-diligence around exceeding your partner’s expectations actually have the opposite affect on their level of loyalty? That comment probably doesn’t sit well, especially after staying late at the office to try and fulfill last minute partner requests while a couple dozen partner emails still sit in your inbox unread.
While partner loyalty and performance is often discussed and disputed, it’s not studied to the extent of having data driven conclusions about concrete ways to drive loyalty and partner performance. There are few options for closing the partner channel data gap, but there is plenty of information available that directs us to know which influencers of loyalty need to be considered.
So, when I tell you that the more effort you put into satisfying your partners, the more disloyal they become, I point you to the research and insights available in The Effortless Experience. Research led by authors, Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman and Rick DeLisi offer us in-depth insights into drivers of loyalty through the lens of customer service interactions. When so much of your job as a partner sales and marketing contact is about serving the needs of indirect sales reps, it’s not difficult to make the correlation to the insights brought to light in the book.
The Myths and Truths of Channel Partner Loyalty
When you go above and beyond for a channel partner, of course they reward you with
loyalty and more pipeline activity, right? Wrong. Data shows that exceeding expectations has a negligible impact on business value than if you were simply to meet expectations. In fact, the cost (both dollars and your own time and energy) of exceeding expectations doesn’t seem to provide enough lift in loyalty than performing below expectations. Ouch!
Additionally, channel sales and marketing professionals are guided by the belief that if they are accessible and responsive, channel partners will reward them with brand
affinity and sales. We even create contact lists to let our partners know who they should call, email or connect with in order to get what they need. In reality, each direct interaction actually increases the likelihood for disloyalty. Ouch again!
How can this be? Why would you get penalized for putting in the time and effort to help your channel partners?
The simple answer is that there is a correlation between the amount of effort your channel partner invests into getting the resources they need to sell your products, and ACTUALLY selling your products. Despite your best effort to get them what they need – whether it is training, sales materials or the latest pricing – the fact that they have to reach out at all, and then wait (and probably wait some more) creates unnecessary effort and probably missed sales opportunity for their business.
Boost Channel Performance Through Minimal Effort
While the insights about loyalty are surprising, overcoming those issues doesn’t have to
be difficult. By simplifying processes and adopting new technology to streamline partner access to resources and ease the interactions they have with you and your brand, you can significantly increase the performance of your indirect sales channel.
When you properly apply technology that helps partners efficiently self-serve, get the information they need when they need it and minimize the effort they have to put in to effectively sell your product solutions, you’ll surely get repaid with their loyalty.
A key conclusion from The Effortless Experience is that effort reduction is about satisfying the most basic service promise. Partners aren’t interested in your extra effort. Take steps to make it simple for them to get what they need so they can quickly get on with their selling activities.