Are You Ready to Introduce Channel Sales Technology to Your Partners?
Sep 17 2019
In our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study, almost 70% of participants said they leverage a third-party channel to drive revenue. This level of reliance on channel partners has remained relatively consistent over the past two years. Yet when we looked at organizations’ use of sales technology with their channel partners, it was limited to less than one-quarter of respondents.
In B2B selling environments, many sales leaders see adding a third-party channel as a way to grow their business or enter new markets without the overhead of hiring, onboarding and developing additional in-house sales staff. In many cases, channel partners are often considered an extension of their sales force.
As such, one might expect them to provide their channel partners with sales technology as well. When channel is added as a go-to-market approach to grow business, for example, a common channel sales technology use might be to share information on customers and prospects. In our study, however, we found that this practice was not so common at all: Less than one-quarter (22.6%) of organizations that leverage channel indicated that they effectively use technology to share information on customers and prospects with their partners. (Click to tweet)
This does not come as a surprise, however, especially considering most organizations are challenged with their own sales teams getting the most out of the sales technologies they already have. (To read more on sales tech challenges, click here and here.)
Sales organizations that continue to be challenged with using available technology effectively should pause and take a closer look at whether they need (and are ready ) to introduce a new technology to their channel partners in the first place.
Thinking through why you need a technology before investing in one will help ensure you are implementing it at the right time, for the right reasons. This, in turn, will help ensure you use the technology more effectively when you do roll it out. It also will help drive better sales results. We found in our study that organizations that successfully used technology with partners scored 24 percentage points higher in “partners making goal” than those that did not. (Click to tweet)
Let’s take a look at four questions for sales organizations to answer when considering whether they should invest in new channel sales technology for their partners, and if they are ready for it. Whether you are in sales operations or channel operations, partner with each other and with your sales leadership to review these assessment points.
#1. What business problem or channel objective are you trying to address? (Click to tweet) First, be clear on the business objective or problem you are trying to address. Doing so will help you build a solid, strategic business case that includes a clear ROI linked to key business metrics. It also will help you develop clearer what’s in it for me (WIIFM) messaging aligned to your objectives or business problems for your channel partners and channel sales teams.
#2. What is the state of your channel processes? (Click to tweet) Do you know the state of your channel processes? Are they clearly defined, documented and enforced, or are they managed in a more ad-hoc manner? If your current channel processes need improvement, make those improvements before introducing a new technology. Also make sure your channel processes are actually used by your channel sales teams and channel partners. Partner with sales enablement to help drive channel process adoption. Technology adoption should be partnered with a high degree of process formality if organizations want to achieve more predictable sales results (2018 Sales Operations Optimization Study).
#3. How ready is your own sales organization? (Click to tweet) As mentioned above, sales organizations continue to struggle with sales tech adoption. If your own sales organization’s experience with sales technology is suboptimal, find out why. Gather feedback from sellers and sales managers as well as sales operations, IT and sales enablement – on what works as well as what could be improved. Understanding why your sales organization’s sales tech experience is suboptimal can help determine your own organizational readiness – across people, process and technology – to introduce new technology to your channel partners.
#4. How ready are your channel partners? (Click to tweet) Assessing your partners’ level of readiness is a critical step that is often overlooked. Readiness can be assessed in several ways. First, understand the current state of your partners’ process and technology. This could be assessed as part of Step #2 above – understanding the current state of your channel processes – from a partner perspective. Second, understand what their current experience is like, both with you as an organization as well as with prospects and customers. This will help you understand how their experiences might change and consider whether a new technology is worth it.
Third, assess your partners’ mindset readiness – how ready they are personally to accept and use the new technology. If they are tech savvy and have a growth mindset, they are more likely to embrace the change than those who are more “old school” and prefer their own way of doing things. Understanding your partners’ readiness across these three dimensions will help you determine what other considerations need to be accounted for or addressed in advance of introducing new channel sales technology.
With so many technology options available today, it can be tempting to consider investing in one. But taking the time to first consider whether you need one – and if you and your partners are ready for one – is well worth the effort. So the next time you come across a “shiny, new” channel sales technology, stop and ask yourself, “Do we need one?” and “Are we ready?”
Your participation will directly contribute to our research on sales operations and sales technology so that we can continue to share our findings and best practices through our studies and blogs. Thank you.
Questions for you:
- Are you clear on why you need a channel sales technology? If so, are you ready for it now?
- Have you assessed how ready your own sales organization is – across process and technology?
- Are your channel partners ready for you to introduce a new technology?
- Are the channel processes that your technology will support clearly defined, documented and available?
- What other internal and external (partner) process and system considerations should you take into account?
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