Sunday, June 21, 2015

Product or Technique? The "Roadmap to Success"

In the world of Channel sales, just about every independent sales Agent operates with multiple products in their sales kit.  Regardless of your industry, the product set will typically range from entry level services to the most cutting edge technology available, paired with everything in between.

So how does the Channel Sales executive convince the Agent to sell their product over someone else's?

A lot of factors can play a role in this decision.  Let’s examine a few…

1.       Residual Income – just as in direct sales, the amount of commission to be made in the comp. plan will drive what the Agent sells on a regular basis.  If the Agent makes 20% residual on Widget A and 7% on Widget B, he/she is going to sell Widget A whenever possible.  Simple 

2.       Support – Support from the Channel team also plays a critical role in the Agent’s decision on who’s product  to sell on a regular basis.  If the sales support on Widget A is better than that received on Widget B, easy decision.  It becomes complicated when Widget B provides exceptional support while the sales team support on Widget A is less reliable or even non-existent. The extra sales support makes Widget B easier to sell, and becomes a viable option as you should close more sales with Widget B, offsetting the lower residiual number vs. Widget A.

3.       Customer first – We hope every Agent sells with the best interest of their customers in mind but we know that is not necessarily the case.  Many times the products are driven by Factor #1 (residual Income) rather than customer needs.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.

4.       Training – the amount of training provided by a Channel team can be critical in persuading an Agent to choose one supplier over another.  If you take the time to visit your agents, train them on the latest product offering your company has, and arm them with customer success stories and references, it helps build confidence in your business model and will drive more opportunities your way.

So with all these factors plus many more in play, is it best to confront the factors head-on or try another proven method to drive business?

IMO, accepting the fact that your Agents are going to sell other companies’ (even your competition) products is the first step to being successful in the Channel.  Trying to convince them to do otherwise simply doesn't work.  Once you understand the model, how you adapt your business model to the competition is critical.  

I have found developing a “Road map to Success” by using your product and illustrating how the Agent can add your product line to every potential sales opportunity they come across is the quickest and easiest way to grow business with your Agents.  By developing and training your Agents on a technique to put your offering in front of every prospect, you will see more interaction and more sales revenues.  The key is to differentiate your product by highlighting your advantages over your competition and illustrating why only your product will fit the “Roadmap to Success”, close sales quickly, and make more money.

To learn more about my “Road map to Success” and how I have successfully driven more business by integrating a “Road map” approach, drop me a note at  Happy to share my thoughts. 

Have a great “Road map” in place already? I'd enjoy sharing your comments with my readers

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Phone calls? Emails? On site visits?

A lot has been said about sales prospecting techniques over the years and what works and doesn’t work…..

Sales Cold Call?
Having worked in sales for more than 25 years, both in front line sales and executive roles, I have my own personal opinions on what works best and what is really a waste of time.   But I’m not here to give my two cents worth, because I’m a strong advocate that everyone’s sales technique will be different.  And you should do what brings success to YOU, not what someone who says they are an expert in sales is telling you to do.  I liken it to a baseball player…..some players can hit a fastball better than a curve, and other players are vice versa.  But both players can end up being Hall of Famers.

What doesn’t change is what’s important…having a meaningful conversation with a decision maker.  So how do we accomplish that?

Do you prefer email?
There a 3 main goals to accomplish when prospecting a new client. 

  •      Be Brief – no one likes to read a long email or listen to a long drawn out message 
  •      Do your homework – have some direct knowledge of the business or person you are reaching out    to….it shows you’ve taken the time to do research
  •      Bring Value – it’s wonderful you have a great product, but that doesn’t mean someone is going to buy it. Turn it around to show how you bring value or cash flow to your prospect

“Sales” is a profession and it takes a professional to succeed at it.  Sales rarely come on the first contact with any prospect, and often don’t close until the 5th, 6th, or even 10th contact with the customer.  Bottom line is you have to be creative and find ways to stay engaged with your prospect even when you don’t have a meeting or call scheduled.   It is here where the “Email, phone call, & site visit” come into play.  All great ways to stay in front of the customer.  Another easy, yet often overlooked method is social media.   

Here's a tip that works great for me.....Many companies maintain blogs today and even if your prospect isn’t the writer of his company blog, you can be sure they follow it and would see a comment on it if you were to make one.  I have personally had great success with this method over the years.

Don’t overlook Linkedin.  Send an invite to your prospect after a couple contacts; I wouldn’t recommend sending it too early in the process.  Too presumptive for me….

ALWAYS Follow Up!
 Don’t give up!  ......Often it takes me 2 or even 3 cycles of 6 to 7 unanswered contacts to finally get in front of a prospect.  If they don’t answer you in your first go around, push a follow up out 4 months and try another cycle of contacts.  If that doesn’t work, push it out another 6 months and try again.  Using a CRM tool will help you keep your schedule on track.  Salesforce, Outlook, ACT!, and any one of a number of more systems will do a nice job.

Remember my earlier baseball reference?…..My favorite quote that I post in my office to remind me to follow up, follow up, and then follow up some more:

 “ It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up”  -- Babe Ruth

Let me know how you run your sales business?  I try to learn a new technique every day….you should too

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Makes a Good Vendor?

Having worked in Channel Sales for 20+ years, I have had many varied experiences with my Channel Partners.  I have seen people produce many, many thousands of dollars in sales, consistently year after year and make tons of money with my programs.  I have also seen the opposite end of the scale, Channel Partners who sign a marketing agreement and either never produce a single sale, or close but a few sales over the years.

So what is it in a Channel Sales group that drives an “Independent Sales Agent” to use one supplier over another?  I have my ideas which I try to run with faithfully with my team of Agents, but I’m really curious what you think?

The most important item I have found over the years, required to even get an Agent on board, is a good, meaningful Product.  Without a marketable product, there’s no reason to sign an agency agreement in the first place.  So let’s assume for this discussion we have a great product…….
A good Channel Team will drive more sales

After product, IMO, Responsiveness is the next most important reason to choose one supplier over another.  If an Agent sends in a quote request, and has it returned within the same day, they have a  GREAT Supplier to work with.  As the time to return a quote extends itself, it exponentially reduces the opportunity to close a sale.  I’ve heard of sales agents waiting days to get sales quotes, only to be told when they do present it to the customer, the prospect has already selected another vendor and has an install date scheduled……..ouch!

(As this is my #1 important trait, for the record, my team at Granite Telecom turns simple, non-complex quotes around in 24 hours or less)

Relationship is a vital cog in any partnership.  I try to be as involved in my agents sales efforts as possible and do my best to contact them at a minimum, once every 3 weeks by phone or email, with in person visits every 6 months.  Covering the entire United States and Canada, visiting even this often is a challenge.  For more regional reps, a monthly stop by would be great to cultivate the relationship with your Channel Partner.

Customer Experience or Service runs a close 4th.  If your company can provide a top notch customer experience to the sales agent’s customers, you’ll have a better retention rate, meaning long term residuals, which is the name of the game in agency sales.

I have loads of other components I think fit in somewhere, just not sure where to list them?  There’s “financial stability of your company”, “price”, “sales ability”, “promotions”, “SPIF’s”, “commissions”, “flexibility” and many more……

I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on how these components line up when you’re choosing a supplier…..maybe all of my fellow Channel Managers can learn a thing or two from our sales agents?