Ask any channel sales manager what their favourite quality is in a person (any person!), and they are almost guaranteed to answer ‘loyalty’. Building channel loyalty in 2020 is a tall order for a number of reasons, and as the marketplace becomes more crowded the order is only growing taller. So, what is a forward-thinking business to do if they wish to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with their channel partners? The answer lies in one deceptively simple word: feedback.
Why is a strong relationship with your sales and distribution channel so important?
In the modern-day economic climate, sales channels have become an indispensable support system for indirect-sales businesses and companies that want to drive market growth by gaining access to new customers. However, the extended reach and cross-selling opportunities provided by channel partner relationships are subject to a variety of complexities that need to be understood and managed from the word go.
After all, when a significant portion of your company’s revenue is driven by your indirect sales channels, it only makes sense to ensure that those relationships are carefully tended and nurtured. As is the case in interpersonal relationships in other parts of our lives, it’s always more effective to consider what you can do to make a relationship more successful, rather than what your partner should do.
The benefits of loyal channel partners
In an ideal world, every channel partner you have will become a staunch advocate for your brand, both in business dealings and their personal lives, because they can tell that you value them. When everything goes according to plan, a channel will grow from superficial engagement, to conceptual and emotional engagement as time goes on. That is, they will graduate from a state of hearing about your brand, to believing in your brand, and ultimately living your brand to the point where they actively promote it. Then, they close the feedback loop by giving you insight into how to improve your product or services, thereby becoming a key part of your overall customer satisfaction solution. Of course, this can be easier said than done.
Challenges in building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships
Forming and maintaining fruitful channel relationships that satisfy the needs of all partners involved are challenging for a number of reasons. Collaborators are often pulled in many different directions in terms of business priorities and fluctuating market conditions. Not to mention the fact that a single sales force can represent multiple, often competing, brands. Add conflicting margin expectations and pricing practices, a lack of information sharing, insufficient clarity on roles and responsibilities, and the pressure of increased revenue demands on top of that, and it’s easy to see why channel sales managers have their work cut out for them.
Of course, there is also the impact of the digital age on traditional selling strategies – ease of access to service and product reviews and information has changed the sales funnel significantly in both B2B and B2C markets. Suffice it to say, things are pretty complex out there. In the end, it boils down to whether your channel partners believe in you and your brand, and if you can count on them to be advocates for your product or service when you’re not there. It’s as simple, and vastly complex, as that.
The power of direct communication by means of a strategic survey
Which brings us to the solution you have been looking for: a strategic survey. When it comes to using feedback to build channel loyalty, it pays to go straight to the source. After all, the people who know what they need to help you sell your product or service are the folks doing the actual selling. They are out there at grass roots, drumming up business, and perfectly positioned to share the challenges that may be hampering your collective success in doing so. With the effective use of a channel survey you could:
- Align your strategic and tactical goals. Surveys can help you determine what your partners’ strategic and tactical goals are beyond the maximisation of sales and profits. Once you know that, you can find touch points that will allow you to build a higher level of trust and collaborate on business activities that stand to benefit the entire channel.
- Help your partners identify with you. With the help of surveys, you can determine what your channel partners require to connect and associate with your brand in their marketplace.
- Find ways to provide the information your partners need. While gathering data to put to your own use, a survey could also simultaneously serve to provide data to help your channel partners to improve their overall business, not just your part of it.
- Help make your partners more successful. The saying goes that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and this is most certainly true when it comes to channel loyalty. A survey can help you to determine if your channel partner requires assistance with general sales training, social media use, certain technology upgrades, etc. If you can assist them in becoming more successful in small (or big) ways, they will have more time and resources to devote to the marketing of your services or goods.
- And so much more!
So there you have it – a concise look at using feedback to build channel loyalty in 2020 and beyond. If you would like to find out more about using a strategic survey as a channel management tool get in touch with the eValue team. Let’s talk about how a strategic survey, linked directly with your business objectives can help you make better decisions and take faster, smarter strategic action.