There is a broadly accepted adage in marketing that B2B industries are about 18 months behind their B2C counterparts. If that is true, then it’s probably safe to say that channel marketing and sales is another 18 months (if not more) behind that. Indirect channel sales and marketing practices have long been dominated by the status quo – but enough is enough. If you are responsible for managing or growing a partner ecosystem, you’ve hemmed and hawed long enough. The digital revolution is squarely through the door of indirect sales channels. As another old adage goes, it’s time to evolve or die.
You’ve got a narrow window to set your channel business on a path of innovation and growth. For the last 30 years channel sales and marketing strategies have been an afterthought to the more visible corporate sales and marketing efforts of most suppliers. The next 30 years of business growth will require that indirect sales take a forefront in business strategies.
Here are some things you need to be doing now to help lead your business in its next stage of channel-dependent growth.
Study Best Practices
Indirect sales channels aren’t without innovators. Many businesses from start-ups to enterprises have already started to breathe new life into their channel strategies. There has been adequate time to test and learn, but now there is a need for demonstrated change. Granular control is being replaced by collaboration. And, today’s buyer-led sales process has changed the way suppliers and partners need to work together in order to close business.
If you are one of those companies locked in the tradition of channels sales and are guided by the belief that your partners owe you their engagement and loyalty, you might as well just liquidate your organization now. It's been a good run, but that ideology won't help you survive in the quickly evolving new channel norm.
Build Off of Existing Frameworks
The new channel norm isn't a wholesale shift. In many ways it’s about modernizing what has worked and retiring those methods that get in the way of progress. Your executives and board members will no longer be content with “80/20” partner performance (they know it's really more like 90/10 anyway). Driving revenue from more of your current partners is now an expectation.
Combined with a joint focus on maximizing value (the customer’s, not yours) and a true partnering approach to sales and service, companies that adopt technology that empower channel sales teams will see tremendous progress in their partnerships and revenue.
Think and Create
Growth at scale requires an indirect strategy. Successful indirect channel sales require streamlined interactions and more effective ways of resourcing partners across the globe. You need to adopt technologies that provide the means to accelerate knowledge transfer to partners so they are empowered to expedite information and your brand leadership to market.
Channels can no longer run on autopilot. You've been given an extraordinary opportunity to reset channel marketing practices, reframe what successful partner sales looks like, and have a real impact on the professional world you work in each day. Don't squander it.