Do you send leads to your channel partners?
Then you know how difficult it is to get information back from them about how their leads are progressing. Which reseller’s doing what? How do things stand at the moment? How much revenue have your channel initiatives generated? Not sure? Then it’s time to introduce professional channel opportunity management (COM).
Why is it so hard to get feedback about what’s happening with the leads you send to your channel partners? The interests of vendors, distributors and resellers can differ quite a lot, even if you have a good relationship with your partners. One difference is that you as a vendor want as much visibility as possible, while resellers want to reveal as little as possible about what they’re doing. Why is this? Some resellers are worried that a vendor will snatch back a prospect as soon as it starts looking interesting. This is often the case where vendors run direct and indirect sales in parallel. The same goes for distributors concerning access to the resellers. For channel partners, there’s no benefit in giving a vendor more visibility into their sales activities. So if you’re a vendor, how do you get round this problem?
When you’re organizing an opportunity management initiative and trying to include your partners, there are nine crucial principles you’ll need to take into account.
- The good deal principle
- The honesty principle
- The laziness principle
- The push/pull distribution principle
- The competition principle
- The perfect recipient principle
- The carrot and stick principle
- The “all in the same boat” principle
- The push/pull reporting principle
We’ve included all these principles in our “leadtributor” product – and here’s how it works for each principle.
(1)The good deal principle
It’s no secret that resellers will only work hard on a lead if there’s something in it for them. There has to be a positive ratio of effort to reward. And that’s quite understandable – so your opportunity management process needs to be set up so that your partners are only getting really high quality leads. That means ensuring that they’ve gone through a thorough qualification process before they’re distributed. Your partners should always have the feeling that working on a lead is worth their while. There’s no point forwarding unqualified contacts who have downloaded a white paper from your website. High-quality leads are the main cornerstone of good lead management. So a good opportunity management tool should ensure that qualification processes – such as telemarketing – are completed before the lead is sent out.
TIP 1: Don’t send leads to the channel if they haven’t been qualified. Define a clear set of criteria for qualification. That means letting your telemarketers know what type of information they need to get from the contact – because that will make the partner see it as an interesting prospect rather than a chore to be ignored.
(2) The honesty principle
When they’re trying to recruit new partners, many vendors promise the reseller that they’ll be receiving red-hot leads on a regular basis or lots of help to generate them. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. If resellers get any leads at all, they tend to be trade show visitors, or people who have downloaded a white paper or participated in a website competition. Those aren’t leads. And there’s nothing more demotivating than following up cold contacts or people who just aren’t interested. Partners might do it a few times – but then their motivation to follow up that vendor’s leads will drop to zero. Some partners are prepared to work on this type of contact – but they want to know where it came from and what they can expect from it. That’s why it’s so important to give them as much honest information as possible – whether it’s a real hot lead, a tradeshow booth visitor, or just a white paper downloader.
Here’s a little trick. Generally speaking, the longer the text describing the lead, the more interested the partner will be. They’ll get the feeling that someone has already worked fairly hard on the lead so it must be more than just a white paper downloader or the owner of one of the hundreds of business cards collected during a trade show.
TIP 2: Use lead temperatures and tell your partner honestly whether you think the lead is hot, warm or cold. Honesty pays! If you use motivational incentives with your partners, perhaps you could increase their reward for working on cold leads.
(3) The laziness principle
When vendors and channel partners work together, there are often a number of processes that need to be completed to keep things running smoothly. These processes are often dealt with on web portals or similar systems. Fair enough. However, some resellers have partnerships with several vendors, and the number of portals, tools and ERP or CRM systems adds up very fast. If partners played it by the book, they’d be spending all day filling all these systems with information. That’s why you need to set up your opportunity management so that it’s quick and easy for resellers to use. It can even be fun!
Good opportunity management tools should provide three ways for you to work with partners on leads:
- Web client. An interface that’s child’s play for the reseller to use. Needless to say, it shouldn’t involve any training, demos or manuals.
- App. It’s a great idea to use an app if you can. It enables your resellers to work on leads wherever they are – via their tablet or smartphone – and send you regular feedback.
- Email. If partners don’t want to use any tools to download or follow up on leads, they should be allowed to do it by email. You can send them HTML emails containing feedback options that make it easy for them to get involved in the opportunity management process.
TIP 3: Make it as easy as you possibly can for your partners to fetch their leads – and they shouldn’t have to read manuals or take a training course to do so.
(4) The push/pull distribution principle
Leads that are distributed by phone, fax or email are hard to manage. You always wonder who received what and when. Do they intend to work on it? Is your partner on vacation or away on business? How are you supposed to answer the customer’s question about who will get back to them and when?
Most opportunity management solutions available today are sorely lacking in this area. If you’re offering a partner leads, you need to be 100% sure they’ll start working on them immediately. The push/pull principle is the only way to do that. How does it work? Quite simple: don’t send out any leads. Partners should come and get them. If they do, you can see right away that they’ve seen it, reserved it for themselves and are starting work on it. An escalation tool ensures that no leads are left lying around and forgotten. The partner should also be able to receive an email letting them know that new leads are available, define how often they want to be informed, and indicate what type of leads they want to know about.
TIP 4: Don’t distribute any leads. Let your resellers come and get them instead!
(5) The competition principle
As a vendor, you obviously want to be sure that a reseller’s going to start work on a lead quickly. There’s no way you can do that if you just send out leads unconditionally. And that’s why opportunity management works best when there’s a bit of pressure. How? By making leads available to several resellers. First come, first served. They should get the impression that it’s important to select the lead and start work on it fast. If they’re not quick enough, someone else will get it. And if they don’t work on them properly, they won’t get any new ones.
TIP 5: Competition is good for business! Try offering leads to a group of partners instead of just one. The reseller who reserves it first receives all the details on it – and it’s no longer visible to the other partners. Don’t forget to reward the fastest and most committed resellers.
(6) The perfect recipient principle
Companies often use subjective criteria when deciding which partner will receive a lead – maybe just because they like them as a person. Purely objective criteria don’t come into it much. Yet it’s best to send leads to the partners best qualified to deal with them. Professional opportunity management systems should facilitate this by providing an intelligent matching mechanism that works out who is the best partner for a particular contact. This could be based on expertise, certifications, partner level, conversion rate or geographical proximity and vendors should be able to define the criteria according to their needs. Allocating leads based on objective criteria is fairer and increases the partner’s motivation to work on them. Many partner programs reserve leads exclusively for premium partners, but that may mean they receive leads for small projects they’re not interested in. As a result, they don’t put much (or any) effort into following up, whereas smaller partners would have been happy to receive and handle these leads. Try to ensure that your criteria aren’t too rigid and that every potential customer gets the best reseller for their needs.
TIP 6: Ensure that each lead is handled by the perfect recipient – by distributing leads based on objective criteria.
(7) The carrot and stick principle
Every partner wants red-hot leads. But not every partner wants to give you feedback on how those leads are progressing. And none of them likes having someone looking over their shoulder all the time. So how can you make them provide feedback? Or to put it another way: how can you stop resellers wasting leads by not contacting them? What you need to do is motivate them rather than punish them. It’s the good old carrot and stick principle! The best opportunity management systems stop leads being selected and then forgotten. Intelligent processes, such as a queuing system, ensure that partners only receive new leads once they’ve provided feedback on the old ones. If they don’t, they can see new leads in the selection list but can’t reserve them. When they provide the required feedback, they can select the leads they want. That’s the “stick” side. For the “carrot” element, you could introduce a motivation system that lets the partner collect points that count towards rewards or additional budgets. That makes the whole opportunity management process much more effective. You could let them “save up” for MDF budgets or award them higher discounts or gifts, in a similar way to frequent flyer miles.
TIP 7: Partners who don’t provide feedback on how leads are progressing shouldn’t be able to select or reserve new leads for themselves.
(8) The “all in the same boat” principle
Opportunity management gets much more complex when multiple people are involved in it – that’s clear to us all. They might be:
* Staff from a qualification, advertising or telemarketing agency
* Distributors (salespeople and management),
* Resellers (salespeople and management),
* Vendors (partner account managers, sales director and management)
All these people tend to have different motivations and perspectives on things. That’s why it’s crucial that they all work together in the same system. Good opportunity management tools should be able to reflect all types of sales organizations, even very complex ones. That enables channel staff to monitor their own area or territory, distributors their resellers and reseller sales managers their sales teams. All the data should be synchronized regularly with the vendor’s CRM system.
TIP 8: Have everyone involved in the lead process work together in the same system and ensure maximum visibility into all relevant data.
(9) The push/pull reporting principle
One of the most important goals of a well-organized lead process is to create transparency. Identifying who’s doing what – and when and how they’re doing it – is only half the story. It isn’t only there to measure how partners are performing, but also to optimize the support that the vendor provides to the partner. Important KPIs include:
CR = conversion rate
ADT = average deal time
ADS = average deal size
These indicators are invaluable for analyzing your partner business. A report that shows you that a partner’s working hard but isn’t closing many deals lets you provide targeted help to that partner. However, the reports shouldn’t be too complicated or difficult to generate. The best thing is to produce them regularly – maybe once a week – and send everyone involved the section(s) of the information that are relevant to their job. It’s important to send them out rather than expecting people to hunt for a report themselves. And if they want more detailed information, they can always access it on the web.
TIP 9: Provide everyone involved with automatically generated, relevant reports.
Even if you adopt and use all these principles, it won’t necessarily guarantee that partners will pounce on every lead you send them and provide immediate feedback. That would be too simple! But you’ll certainly benefit in two ways: 1) you’ll have the visibility you need to be able to react quickly and manage lead follow-up better, and 2) you’ll convert significantly more leads to sales. And that’s what it’s all about, right?
If you are interested in experiencing the leadtributor live in action or if you have any questions, we would be glad to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org or +49 89 716 77 59 40.