How to Win Over Your Channel Partners’ Sales Reps
Over lunch today one of our client’s sales executives mused how challenging it has been for his sales team managing channel partnerships (aka “channel account managers”) to bond with their counterparts in their channel partners’ sales organization. Building tight connections is especially hard nowadays with the suspension of face to face meetings. By “channel partners,” I mean the gamut of value added reseller (VAR) to solution provider to managed services provider (MSP), and to global systems integrator. Turns out this is a very common challenge that many of our clients face – how can my channel partner sales team drive better sales of OUR product through and with channel partners? I emphasize “our” because most channel partners have 40+ vendors that they work with and your product needs to be the easiest path to revenue to make the cut.
So what are some best practices that we’ve seen from vendors that rely heavily on channel partnerships such as Atlassian, VMware, Cisco, and HP Enterprise? Here’s our short list for recommended practices for your channel sales reps to bond with their counterparts:
Show you care
Seems like an odd statement in a business context. But recognize that your channel partner’s sales rep probably has at least ten other vendors that are clamoring for attention. Most approach the rep with an attitude of “will you sell my product?”. That’s not necessarily wrong but a better approach is to show the rep that you care about them. That means taking time to understand their territory, quota target, customer base, selling challenges, sales process, favorite “hooks” to get an appointment, etc. Then equally, get to know them as people. What do they like to do for fun? What’s new in their family? What are their career and personal aspirations?
Be a net giver
One of the ways to stand out from other vendor reps is to deliver two or three deals on a golden platter. That means literally owning the end-customer sales process to a purchase order then handing the fulfillment to the channel partner rep so they get money in their pocket with almost no effort. Deliver a minimum of one new, high quality lead per week and book the appointment for the channel rep.
Check in often
Proactively call and email at least twice a week with something useful for the channel partner rep. It might be to pass along more leads, alert them to any company/product news, share with them another win, etc. Channel partner reps even appreciate it if you request a one-hour block of time to make calls to prospects and current customers. It may seem intrusive, but they actually like a productive use of their time.
Schedule a quick virtual visit
Too many sales managers working with channel partners rely on phone and email to maintain communications. While no one wants yet another Zoom meeting on their calendar, you can still book a 30-min session once a month to share meaningful content, best practices, and any new tools that would help your channel partner seller. I’ve seen some account managers even schedule a comedy hour or improv just to lighten up their channel partners’ day with fun and humor.
Mentor and educate
Most reps have neither time nor patience to sit in vendors’ product and sales training sessions. But if you have expertise that the channel rep values, make it your job to pass that along. Bring them up to speed on your domain knowledge or specific product in a manner that is best suited to your channel partner’s sales rep’s learning style. For example, if they learn by seeing and doing, book a customer appointment and show them how to pitch by doing it yourself. If they learn by reading, send them short articles on very specific topics—customer case study, selling “hooks,” value propositions, competitive news, and industry trends, etc.
Make them look good
Since recognition is one of the top motivators for sales reps, what can you do to help your channel sales rep look good? Clearly, some of the practices above like handing them deals or quality leads helps the partner rep’s scorecard before their sales management. We had one client rep take on a personal mission to make one of his channel partner reps the “showcase” for the entire partner sales organization. They did this by quickly closing a couple deals then writing up a case study featuring the channel rep and how the deal was won. That pdf quickly made its way around the sales force and led to more relationships.
VARs and distributors place a premium on vendors who are responsive, easy to do business with, and do what they say they are going to. Set the tone by quickly following up on the promises you make to the channel rep. Then show how you value accountability by reminding them of any commitments the channel rep made to you. As with all relationships, there must be give/take and trust that arises from follow through on commitments.
We hope you found these tips helpful as you support your channel sales team in forging tighter bonds with your channel partners’ sales organization. For more on the topic, check out our #AventiLive Chat: “Channel Sales – What Really Works to Drive Successful Partnerships” featuring Sridhar Ramanathan, Aventi Co-founder, and Steve Cross, formerly Atlassian Channel Sales Manager.
Let us know if you’d like a quick assessment of your channel partner enablement. We’d be happy to schedule a 30-minute session with you.