The establishment of a distribution channel can be a daunting exercise. The process requires a substantial investment in research, planning, and ultimately executing the various contracts, programs and operations that support the course of getting a product or service into the marketplace. However, in order for a channel strategy to be successful, the investment does not end with implementation. It takes a lot of hard work and a little LUCK along the way.
In the short term, the single most important aspect is ensuring that distributors have been adequately trained. Taking the time to arm the troops in the field with product knowledge is important. However, what may be of greater importance is educating them on the competitive advantages of your product or service. Distributor representatives should also thoroughly understand the market they are supporting. Not just from a product perspective, but also from a business operations and/or technical perspective. This knowledge will enable the channel partner to have a more meaningful dialogue with end use customers. Ultimately, the customer should view his/her distributor sales rep as a knowledgeable extension of the manufacturers team, not just another rep trying to push the product or service they make the most margin on.
Now that your extended team is ready to represent your product or service, aim to treat them as though they are as valuable an asset to your organization as your own employees are. This concept starts with Listening. The channel partner provides the voice of the customer from two different angles. First, from the perspective of the experience they have directly with you, the manufacturer. Secondary to their personal experience, is the feedback they bring from the end use customer, as they interact throughout the initial sales cycle and via repeat business with loyal customers.
Once you have taken the time to listen, invest the resources to really Understand this information. The insight is invaluable as you begin planning future product, sales and marketing strategies. How does your product or service stack up against the competition from the end user and channel partner perspective? Are there cost effective quick win features that could be easily implemented to level the playing field or provide that slight competitive advantage you are looking for? Are there corporate measures that could be considered to set your company apart from the competition? For example, generous customer satisfaction policies, implementation of a loyalty program, investing in the surrounding communities, or providing an opportunity for students to gain some insight into the industry or trade to help guide them as they make decisions pertaining to higher education.
Routinely Connecting with your distribution channel is of the utmost importance. From a technology perspective, this may be known as Partner Relationship Management (PRM). Is it easy for them to conduct business with you? Can they find everything they need in one place, or do they have to visit a myriad of websites and reference documents to complete simple transactions like placing orders, tracking shipments or returning products? Do you have your channel partner’s back when they are being challenged by an end use customer? Do you proactively ask how you can help them be successful not only with your products or services, but with their business in general? Do you manage the tough situations so that they can truly be focused on delivering value to end use customers rather than just delivering a product or service?
Finally, do you and your channel partner both Know where the product, sales and marketing strategies are headed, and more importantly where you have been, so as to avoid any repeat pitfalls? Taking the time to reflect on lessons learned, plan the road map for the coming year and measure the success and failure along the way is not only a wise investment in your organization, but a step in the right direction with regard to investing in the success of your channel partners. Sharing insights, celebrating successes and mutual investment to enrich the relationship can only lead to gains for both parties as you work to keep up with the business and technology demands of an ever changing market place.
Do you have some tried and true advice that has helped you navigate the ins and outs of channel distribution? Please feel free to leave a comment and share with others.
For more information about LUCK guided frameworks for your business, please Contact Us.
The complementary paper includes over 12 years of research, recent survey results, and CRM turnaround success stories.
This 60-second assessment is designed to evaluate your organization's collaboration readiness.
Learn how you rank compared to organizations typically in years 1 to 5 of implementation - and which areas to focus on to improve.
This is a sandbox solution which can be activated per site collection to allow you to easily collect feedback from users into a custom Feedback list.
Whether you are upgrading to SharePoint Online, 2010, 2013 or the latest 2016, this checklist contains everything you need to know for a successful transition.