The channel ecosystem has been transforming at a rapid pace in terms of partner composition and business models for years. For every brand, their channel distribution network is unique as per their needs and requirements. The complexities of a channel distribution network have always been a challenge for the channel sales leaders, to manage along with maintaining focus on agility and customer-centricity without losing sight of revenue performance.
This wasn’t enough, then came a global pandemic that has disrupted all aspects of life and business. Making the channel change curve shoot upward even more. In response to the pandemic and making their channel distribution network forward-looking, the channel sales leaders will have to understand what their channel partners need to cope up with the change in customer and market sentiments. A successful future channel network will be specialized around the functions it performs in relation to the customer experience.
There’s a sudden shift in the consumer’s mindset as the current situation gives impetus to online buying. Customers continue to want the same service and buying experience, but from afar, which makes it the need of the hour for companies and sales teams to cater to that. Be it marketing via social media, 1-day deliveries to keep customers satisfied, or absolutely anything else, leaders now need to train their channel partners to take on the new post-pandemic sales game.
This pandemic will leave an indelible mark on people, business, and culture for some time. Focusing on supporting and building future channel network is key to enable faster return to growth and profitability. We have identified 6 key actions channel sales leaders must consider now to ensure the health and success of their channel partner ecosystems in the coming time.
- ‘No touch’ Display: Instead of relying on the touch and feel of the product, customers now prefer a digital medium even though it might not offer a holistic buying experience like the offline world does. Product brochures and catalogues are now required to be made in PDF formats that can be sent across on mobile devices. Even as stores begin to open up, not many want to visit or touch catalogues and devices that others have laid their hands on. To cater to these customers, brands should look at creating appealing digital collaterals that enhance the buying experience, and support the channel partners to make a sale, conveniently.
- Make brand advocates: In the past, word of mouth was a good way to increase business. Most people now prefer to self-isolate and use the digital medium to interact with the world. Which gives them more time to research the products online before making a purchase. This presents brands with an excellent opportunity to build their products by investing in the content through the right channels. Making your channel partners your advocates is the right way to go. Provide channel partners with a social kit so they can promote your products too on social platforms and not just physically on the store. Keep an eye out for your audience and analyse which digital platform most of them are active on. The bridge that digital gap by being easily accessible to the right customer on the right platform.
- Watch out for ‘missing passion’: With the lack of physical events/product launches or training sessions going on right now, the channel partners might feel disconnected from the products they are selling in the market. Leaders need to focus on creating enough collaterals and digital training programs so that channel partners feel connected and at the same time understand the product well enough to be convinced and convince the buyer, too. Until that happens, there is no way for them to sell with the same passion.
- Technology is prime, give it a go: The best time to invest in technology for greater results is right now. Channel partners must begin to invest in digital programs at the earliest for collecting secondary sales data and understanding their end users better. Creating programs where partners are required to upload an invoice as a proof for making a sale and getting an incentive in return can be one of the many ideas that can be implemented. Such programs not only organise the big data but gives the leaders a better understanding into a consumer’s buying behaviour and how it changes over a period.
- Create digital ‘Connectedness’: Not seeing partners, physically, might lead to reduced engagement and increased grievances. Creating programs that are digitally enabled to engage with partners is the way to go. Motivated individuals will always lead to greater sales. Just delivering motivational speeches might not work wonders but engaging with the channel partners at an emotional level will. Engaging with not only channel partners but their families regularly through a systematic program will create long-lasting loyalties.
- Make rewards timely: Due to delivery constraints and cost attached to it and other external factors, a lot of times, the rewards do not get delivered on time, owing to which the impact of receiving them is lost. It becomes imperative that a reward is shared and received as and when the channel partner achieves their target or showcases the behaviour change required for better performance. There needs to be a system that provides rewards in remote areas as well, given the situation, your channel partners might be working from their home location that can be anywhere in the country. This would prove to be a game-changer in terms of motivating partners and sales teams.
A “better normal” for channel network is inevitable. But with the right strategy powered by the right technology and last-mile advantage, brands can effectively nurture customer relationships by strengthening their channel distribution network, thereby improving their overall performance. It is a win-win approach to improve your company’s profitability by keeping your channel partners and your customers, both happy.