„Marketing is the New Sales“, was the headline of a recent Forbes article. Marketing is expected more than ever to deliver a clear contribution to the company’s success. However, party-colored pictures are becoming a thing of the past. Marketing should be measurable stuff! But what is measurable? – and what is the primary task of marketing when it no longer works with a ‚normal’ sales department but with sales partners, in case products and services are promoted over a distribution channel?
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF OPPORTUNITY MANAGEMENT IN CHANNEL?
What does every sales partner dream about? Right! That new customers come served on a silver platter! Without much effort. But even when the vendor has some, they would face the lead distribution problem. What normally looks like distributing leads internally to the sales department is now distributing leads to channel partners in the indirect sales process. If a lead develops into an opportunity according to defined criteria, it is often called a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). Those are normally given to the sales. If the sales accept the lead and go ahead to process it, we would be talking of a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL). Working with these definitions in practice is quite easy for most organizations where direct sales and marketing collaborate over a common technology platform (CRM).
But, how do you organize the lead process with channel partners? They are not part of your organization. Vendors and channel partners seldom work on a common database. This is the reason why vendors and channel partners have few chances to develop a well-judged, conclusive and efficient process for customer management. However, to have one is critical for the positive perception of the Customer Journey. Why? Because the customer would quickly forget the name of the partner sales representative that follows up too late or unprepared (or doesn’t follow up at all). The vendor’s reputation is damaged when the wrong person – or no one – speaks with the customer on their behalf. Consider this: if you order a test drive on Mercedes website and no one calls you, whose good name would be damaged – the name of Mercedes Benz or the one of the dealer who was really supposed to contact you?
WHY IS CHANNEL OPPORTUNITY MANAGEMENT SO IMPORTANT?
Lead management is seen as a continuous process. In relation to this many experts speak of a 360 degrees’ view of the customer. Customer behavior is continuously documented, summarized and assessed to optimize customer communication. Algorithms (Scoring and Rating) analyze where the customer stays in the purchase process and what the relevant next steps would be. Organizations focus on feeding the right information at the right time through the right channel to the customer. When the signal arrives that the customer further needs to be processed by the sales, the lead is transferred to the sales department. And now? Once the lead has been distributed to a channel partner, the vendor has no more insight into what’s happening with the customer. However, this is exactly the point when transparency is extremely important! If you know the outcome of the negotiations with the partner, you can react to that. In the form of follow-up programs (Nurture Flows).
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR LEAD MANAGEMENT?
Organizations that market their products through partner channels must include those in their enterprise process for lead processing. Otherwise they risk that their marketing process comes to naught.
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