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?


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