Using sales partners can be a great approach for growing a company’s sales, allowing the company to grow into new territories or markets without having to expand headcount to support the territory with a dedicated sales team. The right sales partners will have the market knowledge, sales expertise and customer relationships to successfully sell your product portfolio within the territories and/or market segments that you agree with them.
Managing these relationships is a very complex and time-consuming task and significantly impacts profitability, and many companies don’t make the same investment in enabling their sales partners to successfully sell as they do for their internal sales force.
Your sales partner is an extension of your sales force.
Your partner is selling the same products as your own sales team and face the identical challenges as your sales team. In most cases, a sales partner will experience those same challenges to a much higher degree – as the focus on sales training, product training and communicating success stories and the latest product messaging can often be restricted to the internal sales teams. This can result in a sales partner being less able to operate independently as they require higher levels of support from your channel managers, product specialists and product managers in order to identify customers in their territory, run sales campaigns and make initial sales calls. Unless significant resources are spent developing a sales partner to a level where they can operate independently they will be unable to sell your product portfolio effectively and also require too much support from your own teams to justify the amount of business that is generated.
Sales partners are also prone to the same practices as internal sales teams when under pressure to achieve sales targets they will find themselves using the path of least resistance to do this, which might mean relying on selling older products that they are more familiar with but do not match the corporate long-term strategy. However, in the case of sales partners who have a wider portfolio of products from several principles, this might mean that attention is taken off your product portfolio altogether in favour of a different vendor from whom they can generate more business, marginalising your portfolio altogether.
To ensure that your sales partners focus on your product it is essential to put in place a partner enablement strategy with the focus of making it as easy for the partner to sell your products as possible. It is essential to gain mindshare within your partner’s salesforce and making it as easy as possible for them to make sales can accomplish this. To achieve this they will need the same level of investment in product training, new product introduction and sales enablement tools as your own sales force.
Your sales partner shouldn’t be a “black hole” in your sales strategy that you are reliant on providing orders, they need to be an extension of your own team. Working with and managing strategies for a sales partner, identifying their strengths and areas that require further work and development is a difficult task, made more difficult by the fact that the team you are trying to manage aren’t part of your organisation, but it is essential to create success for both sides of the partnership. Putting in place common sales enablement strategies and tools is crucial.