How to Nurture Channel Sales Champions

Posted on July 22, 2016

By Jen Spencer

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Are sales champions born, or are they created? This was the question Jeff Seeley, CEO of Carew International, set out to answer amidst a roomful of sales leaders at Sales 2.0, all hoping to take their most successful sales reps and clone them. I mean, putting aside the dystopian nightmare that this would cause if taken literally, we all dream of this right?

Now, if you’re wondering are sales champions born or created, of course you already know it’s a little bit of both. But the opportunity you have as a sales leader to take a stellar rep and make him or her a sales champion for your unique company offering – that does require some work.

As Jeff was presenting his formula for cultivating a sales champion, he was implicitly speaking about direct sales reps – the salespeople that are on your company’s payroll and report to you internally. But the thing is, when you have a channel of partners, those internal salespeople are not the only folks selling for you. How much time have you spent thinking about the sales champions that are driving up to 70% of your company’s overall revenue but don’t appear on your company payroll?

At one point in his presentation, Jeff shared four perspectives that he felt were critical for sales leaders to understand about their sales reps, and because your channel is jam-packed with sales reps, these perspectives are extremely applicable for the indirect sales force interacting with your common customers on a daily basis:

I learn at my pace, not yours.

New partner onboarding, or “activation” as I’ve heard it called lately, is one of the most-talked-about pains in the channel. As a channel leader, you’re spending quite a bit of time and money getting new partners up to speed on your product and your program offerings. In most cases when onboarding or training new partners, all sales reps with that partner are treated equally — and this is where reps may experience a disconnect. What can you do as a supplier to provide ongoing training to all of your partners’ sales reps and meet them where they are in their own unique stage of sales growth? Stop thinking about just onboarding a new partner, and start thinking about the personnel make-up of all of your partners. When you do, you’ll find that just as you have a mix of seasoned reps and green up-and-comers within your direct sales team, your channel partners’ reps also follow suit.

I need experiences.

Why do we role play sales scenarios? Go on ride-alongs? Review call recordings and analyze both the execution and the outcome with the team? Because you can tell me how to do something a hundred times, but until I actually do it myself, I don’t know what it feels like. While you certainly can’t take every partner’s sales rep on a ride along or review every phone call, your channel account managers can be tightly connected with your partners’ sales leadership, sharing sales success stories between each other, reviewing a selection of recorded calls together, and even attending sales leadership events and discussing strategies in person. Also, because it’s 2016, you can very easily connect all of your sales reps with each other via collaboration tools that allow them to share their experiences with each other and obtain feedback to make them more effective.

 

I have no patience.

We know this already. You’re in sales too, so you’re just as guilty of getting frustrated when the wifi’s slow … when a contract is stuck in legal … when there’s heavy traffic for no reason at 2pm on a Wednesday. How about when you have to conduct business via a software platform that reminds you way too much of Windows 95? I’ve personally witnessed sales people shouting at their laptops while trying to submit expense reports via outdated expense tracking software — and they keep at it only because they want to be reimbursed for money they’ve already spent! Knowing this, when your partners’ sales reps might be selling for multiple suppliers, why-oh-why would you intentionally make them log into a clunky portal to access training, sales materials, or register deals? You know that your top sales reps aren’t going to all of a sudden obtain the patience of a kindergarten teacher, so there’s no excuse for not getting this right. Adopt a software platform that all sales reps will actually want to use. Anything subpar will be a gigantic waste of time and money – because no one will use it.

 

I want to know how I will be recognized and rewarded.


Quotas are obviously tried and true ways of recognizing and rewarding sales reps — the more you sell, the more you make. And, friendly competitions among the team have been known to push people a bit in the right direction. So, make sure you take these approaches into your channel. In addition to incentives for opportunities registered and deals closed, rewarding and recognizing reps for completing trainings, executing social selling techniques and collaboration with suppliers — while providing a leaderboard that shows reps where they sit in comparison to both goals and to each other — will provide your partners with a heat map of their success within your channel program.

 

The funny thing about the channel is it’s not as complicated as some people make it out to be. Your partner channel is full of hungry sales reps who want to sell. It’s your job as a sales leader within your organization to provide your indirect reps with the same diet you’re already feeding your internal sales champions.

 

Jen Spencer

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