How to Align and Motivate Your Channel Partners

By Ted Dimbero

Sales managers who oversee their own teams have a wide array of tools and techniques to boost revenues and performance – and the amount of information and advice on how to do this today is truly staggering. But there’s another layer of complexity for channel sales, where leaders rely on resellers and salespeople who are partners rather than direct reports.

However, it’s possible to get channel partners aligned and motivated – and the key to unlock this potential is sharing accurate, actionable data.

Knowing exactly how, when, where, why, and to whom products are sold via indirect sales channels can be incredibly powerful for both sales leaders and channel partners. This data can drive more intelligent marketing campaigns, faster and more accurate incentive payments, and better customer targeting, among many other benefits.

Today, channel partners around the globe hold roughly $1.5 trillion worth of unsold products at any given time. The opportunity to convert this unsold inventory into new revenue has been overlooked in the past, but enterprises are quickly realizing that boosting channel sales performance can be the fastest path to greater sales and margins.

Two major developments have begun to transform the way companies manage channel sales:

  1. Cloud computing has led an exponential growth in the number of new channel resellers.

  2. New digital processes are making it possible for sales leaders to gain visibility into the channel beyond the manually-filed quarterly reports from partners that usually provide the bare minimum of total sales sums and inventory sold.

The explosion of new partners – and the ability to access data that was nearly impossible to obtain before (if it was even recorded) – could bring about a channel sales renaissance. Here are just some of the important ways enterprises have turned channel intelligence into greater revenue (or cost savings).

#1: Leveraged special programs to target specific customer segments.

For channel sales, it’s important to identify the segments to which partners are selling – and effectively leverage that information. With accurate and timely data on the individual buyers resellers are reaching, sales leaders can better identify and raise awareness about strategic customer market segments. This actionable sales data also helps generate new leads and uncovers new up-selling and cross-selling opportunities for existing customers, which empowers resellers to bring in more revenue and increase their own earnings.

#2: Identified deals early in the indirect sales funnel via real-time channel data.

Companies can also use timely data to accelerate the sales cycle by identifying important leads and routing them to the channel partner with the highest probability to close the deal in the quickest timeframe. A strong channel data feed empowers companies to proactively cultivate new and existing partner relationships – highlighting new, up-and-coming reseller partners and providing early warning signs about less-effective partners and what needs to change. For example, sales leaders can set automatic parameters to enroll successful resellers into a preferred partner program, or track significant week-to-week declines in sales volume to ensure corrective partner management actions before it’s too late.

#3: Used automated payouts to motivate channel partners, increase their productivity, and reduce their workloads.

Incentives and rebates often have the most immediate effect on motivating channel partners, and the efficiency of companies’ sales credit and commissioning processes can make or break partner programs. With a feed of accurate point-of-sale (POS) and inventory data from the channel, companies can automate incentive and rebate payments instead of relying on time-consuming and error-prone manual processes that require a lot of heavy lifting from partners. Not only does this accelerate payments by facilitating claimless processing, but it also reduces the administrative costs of the incentive programs and saves money by eliminating erroneous or fraudulent claims.

The common approach to channel sales has been stuck in the dark ages for too long, but new technology and processes that shed light on indirect sales activities offer enormous potential for companies looking to grow quickly. By establishing systems to ingest and share accurate, timely, and actionable channel data, sales leaders have an immediate opportunity to increase revenues, build better partner relationships, and more closely align sales objectives. These are just a few of a growing list of benefits that channel data management can unlock for enterprises ready to embrace the next evolution of indirect sales.

Ted Dimbero is chief customer officer at Zyme.