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Organise the Unorganised: Channel Sales Network

Jan 18, 2021

Strong channel partner networks are not built overnight, and more than that what takes in more effort and time is building a channel program, getting it right is the real work of art.

Selling through channel partners such as distributors, dealers, and retailers are as complex as it gets. The current market changes and the digital era is making it tougher than ever. Strong channel partner networks are not built overnight, and more than that what takes in more effort and time is building a channel program that not only organizes your channel partner network but also engages them emotionally and professionally with your brand.

For designing any strategic channel sales plan, you as a channel sales leader already consider and include key stakeholders in your channel ecosystem such as - national and regional sales teams, distributors, dealers, retail sales management, and the end-users of their products, including businesses and individual consumers.  But do you know how each of these interacts with each other? Where are the overlaps and gaps? What vital data are you gathering? What critical information are you missing? Taking cognisance of this, it prompts the need to invest time and effort into building a well-designed and effective channel program that yields greater sales results.

A well-designed channel program can surely give your brand an advantage over your competitors by supporting your efforts in a variety of areas like

  1. Gathering actionable data to help you drive sales performance
  2. Developing effective training programs, offering result-oriented incentives that pay for incremental performance
  3. Providing marketing tools to give your distributors, dealers and retailers the edge over their competition
  4. Creating mutually beneficial ways for you and your channel partners to achieve both of your business targets.

Before delving deeper into the best practices for creating an effective channel program, it is important to take a step back and understand what all factors inspire high performance for a channel partner. Research in the growing field of behavioral economics shows that high performing channel partners demonstrate the following.

  1. They have clearly defined goals for selling your product
  2. They have the necessary knowledge and skills
  3. They know where they stand and how to improve to meet their goals
  4. They are emotionally engaged with your brand
  5. They are focused on selling the right products.

Here're some recommendations for you to create an effective channel program for your brand. These recommendations are basis our expertise in successfully running loyalty programs across industries.

Things you should CONSIDER

Keep it simple - Very often, program results that are the most successful are those which are simple, and easy for participants to understand. Simple does not mean that your channel program should not have multiple features and promotions to inspire and engage with your channel partners. All you need is an intuitive technology to bring forth a user-friendly platform for your partners to use. Make the platform vivid and provide enough nudges for your partners to perform as per the goals set by your brand.

Personalise goals - No two channel partners are alike, and as a leader, it is imperative to give your partners tailor-made goals, or a framework within which they can self-select their goals to keep them engaged. Self-selection of goals would trigger an intrinsic motivation amongst your partners to do their best to achieve what they have set for themselves.

Identify target audience - Right from your channel partners, down to your end-user, prepare a flow chart. By creating this chart, and accurately identifying the audiences at each stage, you will gain valuable insights that can then be analyzed to create programs that will be the best fit for your channel partners. While designing the program it’s important to consider both, your partner’s needs and motivators and your business objectives. A program designed based on just your business objectives might not be able to motivate or engage your partners.

Measure success - Albeit seemingly basic, this is one of the most overlooked rules of channel program design. How you measure success, can be determined by your process of capturing data. To gain maximum mileage out of your data, make sure it is captured in a way where you will be able to measure against your goals.

Things you should AVOID

One-time communication - Don’t communicate only at the launch of the program, communication is a continuous process that must be followed through at regular intervals. To increase engagement and participation in your program, develop a plan to touch the audience multiple times throughout the duration of the program. Using mixed media such as print, digital, mobile, and video conferencing to develop a plan that shows your partners you are with them throughout their journey, and that they have your full support.

No data, no program - Don’t get discouraged by the lack of data, you can still design programs to drive results. Initially, you might not have a lot of data to work with, but it's not the end of the road. Continue to develop programs, and with time, you will be able to gather more insights, which you can then analyze to drive results.

No deadline promotions - Set deadlines for your promotions, without setting the deadlines for your channel partners you might not get the desired results. Targeted promotions of 30-60-90 days drive the most focus, and the best results, it is an effective means of ensuring your partners are focused and motivated throughout their program journey.

Every channel sales network is different in its own unique way, what might work for one brand might not work for you. Create a channel program that builds an emotional connection between you and your channel partners while motivating them to perform at their best potential. Commit to leverage communication platforms, learn how to increase productivity and sales skills training, incentives, and promotions for your channel partners. Build advisory councils comprising channel partners to make them feel welcomed into your brand family. Once this feeling has been expressed and your channel partners have a sense of belonging and comfort, you can expect to see exponential growth and a long-lasting relationship.

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