Many businesses use a mix of channel partners and direct sales teams. But you shouldn't treat them the same when it comes to communication and rewards.
A company's sales teams are its lifeblood. Even if you have the best product in the world, if you don't have a great sales team bringing them to customers, you'll never make any profits.
It's become very common these days to use a mix of channel partners and direct sales teams to sell products. There are several advantages of doing so. With a direct sales team, you can have much more control over the way they are pitching your product or service, and you can feed them new sales strategy or product information easily and quickly.
Channel partners, on the other hand, have access to existing markets you might not otherwise be able to tap into. Entering new markets can be costly when using a direct sales team.
Using a mix of channel partners and direct sales teams holds clear advantages. However, this shouldn't mean you treat them exactly the same. The way they operate and pitch will differ significantly, and you need to alter communication and rewards practices accordingly.
How do channel partners differ from direct sales teams?
You shouldn't view channel partners simply as an extension of your sales force. Instead, channel partners differ in a number of ways:
Channel partners will sell competing brands' products.
Their duty is towards their customer rather than to your business. They will happily recommend an alternative brand if they think it will suit the customer better.
Channel partner sales cycles may take longer, as they often aren't just selling your product. They'll frequently be selling a value-add service, such as implementation or integration, and as a result this will take longer to pitch.
They are more concerned with margins than direct sales teams.
With direct sales teams:
You will have more control over the sales process.
They only have to sell your specific product or service.
They're much more focused on revenue and booking meetings.
How to communicate with your channel partners and sales teams
As a result of these differences, you will need to have separate comms plans in place for your channel partners. They will need much more information about your products, as you won't be on hand to give them advice right away. You'll also need to agree the amounts they can discount your products or services to customers in advance, to minimise any delays in accepting offers.
While you want to give them as much information as possible, you also need to remember that channel partners understand their market extremely well already - after all, that's the key advantage of engaging their services. So it's important to give them leeway when it comes to honing down their sales style and pitches.
How to reward your channel partners and sales teams
Just as you can't communicate with channel partners and sales teams in the same way, you also need to reward them differently.
In particular, you should remember the importance of product margins when creating a channel partner incentive programme. Don't just link rewards to revenue as you would for your sales team. Instead, there is a whole range of behaviours you can support to benefit both you and the reseller. This can include raising brand awareness or taking part in a certain number of training sessions.
While there are differences in the way you reward sales teams and channel partners, one thing should stay the same. You should always measure the results of your incentive programmes, to allow you to see whether it is improving performance and providing ROI.
Here at Power2Motivate, we can help you craft tailored incentive programmes for channel partners and direct sales teams. We provide direct reporting functions in real time, so you know exactly how well your incentive programme is working.
For more information, contact the team today.