It is thought that roughly a third of businesses support indirect sales channels. And for good reason. A successful channel partner programme can deliver huge rewards, extending the sales team and expanding industry expertise that can increase revenue, reduce time to market and drive international growth. But to be successful takes time and investment. Just as businesses wouldn’t think twice about allocating a significant portion of resource to marketing and sales enablement internally, channel partners require the relevant technology, guidance and information if they are to sell effectively.
According to 24% of companies, channel partners take more than a year to become fully productive. And yet, channel management remains an area of sales that is often overlooked. Research undertaken by Aberdeen suggests this is a costly mistake to make. When businesses invest in providing the right platforms and processes, channels can achieve:
- 28% shorter sales cycles
- 13% more sales reps achieving quota
- 12% higher lead conversion rates
- 10% better attainment of team quota
- 8% higher acceptance of marketing leads
So, how can businesses best empower their channel partners to achieve these kinds of results? It is recognised by Gartner that quality partner sales enablement content is essential. We outline best practice advice for improving your channel partner marketing to build trust, support learning and increase sales:
Identify and develop the right resources
It has been said that businesses should invest twice as much on content for channel partners as for their direct sales representatives. After all, it is far more challenging to motivate, educate and monitor those you have no direct influence over. So, if channel partners fail to perform, the chances are it is for one of three reasons:
- Limited access to engaging or insightful material to support sales
- Limited understanding of the solution offering or the company’s key messages
- Lack of communication or process in place to locate the relevant information
Identifying and developing the right B2B content and strategies to address these challenges is key. Speak to your channel partners to help inform your content development, but ensure your inventory is largely universal or customizable for the best use of budget. Material should be available that supports each stage of the sales funnel that your partners are involved with, that answers customer questions, addresses their objectives, clearly communicates USPs and delivers technical know-how.
Consult your internal sales team, too. What are their most valued assets – and how can they be made accessible to your channel partners? Think: sales presentations that can be customized to the company and their industry, case studies that show proven ROI, white papers and eBooks that demonstrate in depth or thought leading expertise, and visual demonstrations or videos that complete the story. A variety of quality content is just as beneficial for your channel partners’ representatives as it is for their customers and your business, ensuring brand consistency, ease of engagement and an informed sale. Find inspiration on some of the best B2B lead magnets, here.
Continue to communicate
Creating a strong bank of content to support your channel partners is just the beginning. The next step to consider is how best to provide access to these assets, how to update them, and how to maintain momentum with frequent communication and ongoing value.
The trick is to create an environment, or ecosystem, where channel partner representatives are integrated as an extension of your team. A regular newsletter will help to ensure your company and solution remains front of mind, while informing partners of the latest news and developments to improve knowledge and understanding. Include links to new online content such as blogs that offer relevant industry analysis and inform them of the latest sales enablement assets available for their use.
Communication is one of the major hurdles of a successful channel partner marketing framework; how to ensure reps have access to a point of contact who can provide a timely response – how to provide instant access to content, and how to prevent the dilution of brand messages by ensuring any updates to content are adopted across the board. A sales engagement tool or channel partner marketing system should be a consideration here, with dedicated portals that can be allocated to each channel partner for direct access to content, real-time updates and a direct line of communication – supporting their ease of management and yours.
Provide sales training and incentives
Continuous training and incentives are crucial to the success of channel partner representatives – equipping them with the knowledge, confidence and motivation to communicate your solution to customers. Enlist your product managers and sales talent internally to help create tutorials, FAQs, example pitches, and face-to-face training for a partner’s sales managers, who can then coach their team in line.
The main thing is to make training manageable and easy to take onboard – consider ways to gamify training, make it accessible in multiple formats, and deliver it over time in bite-sized chunks. Provide induction material, not only on your solutions and services, but the programme as a whole, its framework, and the technology put in place to support it – such as sales enablement platforms, while content marketing and co-marketing opportunities can also be utilised as an avenue to incentivise success and build upon it.
Channel partner programmes are an invaluable platform for B2B businesses to accelerate their sales cycle, but to do so requires a robust content marketing framework of sales enablement assets, continuous communication and training support.