Global Business in EDA
Modesto Casas, has 28 years of worldwide market successes. He is multi-lingual and multi-cultural having lived in six countries. Mo has taken several start-ups to international regions and developed them into compelling local enterprises. His company, In Region, takes high technology companies … More »
Focus a global reseller channel on selling your product effectively
May 1st, 2010 by Mo Casas
One common complaint from many of my clients is how frustrating they find selling through distributors or resellers. This commission-only channel is motivated very differently than salaried and commissioned sales people. Making the right changes to the managing processes and the field support can turn an indirect channel into a very effective face of the company.
These field people collect commissions only when they sell something. The most successful resellers will always focus on the lines that bring in the money. Help them to bring in the money and you will be on top of their line card. The game is all about maximizing their limited selling time, providing good information and avoiding surprises that defocus them from selling.
I often see excellent products that are very successfully sold by a vendor’s direct channel, but struggling with an indirect distribution channel. This is a sign that the channel may not have enough information and they cannot credibly represent the product or answer objections. There are a few simple things that the sales manager can do to make his/her product easier to sell.
Solve the selling time problem
One good way for a sales manager to increase the channel’s selling time is by eliminating meetings and reports. I keep sales reports to a forecast only. I use a simple spread sheet with customer name, products, sales stage, expected volume, closing dates and comments. I call my channel people regularly with the forecast spread sheet open. In about 15 minutes, I can discuss the important deals and enter any updates. I focus on what they need in order to close the business. After the call, I am fully updated on their important business, so when they need something, they contact me or my sales manager and we can act quickly. I get a forecast spread sheet once per week and send all the sales people my updated version once per month. This keeps everyone informed and focused with a minimum paperwork.
There are software programs available that provide on line forecasting (www.salesforce.com, www.aplicor.com, www.kyliptix.com). If you go this route, keep it simple and make sure you can output spread sheets that a sales person can print and carry when they travel. If you want to really simplify and don’t have many deals to track, you might be able to use a spread-sheet while making sure that there is enough information to track, manage and support the sales effort.
Share good information with the indirect channel
I provide distributors and resellers the same information as the salaried sales force and sales management. Preparing them to sell in the same way as the salaried people, including them in sales training, product training and roll out events. I strive to give them access to the same training and marketing support as if they were located at headquarters. Today’s technology facilitates this type of inclusion. Skype www.skype.com is a platform that can create a virtual office between the sales manager’s laptop computer and anyone in the channel. Chat, free calls and video conferencing with screen sharing are included. GoToMeeting www.gotomeeting.com and Webex www.webex.com offer excellent platforms for remote communications at a reasonable cost. Remember to include a Non Disclosure Agreement with every reseller and distribution agreement to protect sensitive information.
I keep the indirect channel up to date. Many of my clients fly them to meetings, include them in corporate conference calls and company events. Resellers meet the corporate super stars and form relationships with support people that will help them sell in the future and enhance the communication with headquarters. Active participation by the channel provides up to date competitive information and regional trends long before this information becomes a lost business report. I ask the channel players attending sales meetings present at least a general trend for the past 12 months, one win, one loss and what they learned from the experience. Then I ask them how they are going to change their business in the next 12 months. This information illuminates the plans of each reseller and helps set the priorities for changes in structure, positioning or support.
A password protected intranet offers another excellent way to share information globally. Price changes, promotions, new policies, customer wins, competitive tactics or strategic changes are easily transmitted to all. A few words or newsletter from the President of the manufacturer to the channel from time to time is another powerful way to tell them that they are a significant part of the company.
Reduce the problems created by bad surprises
I like to give the earliest possible warning on changes that affect the channel’s business. This is challenging, because in many cases, it is not possible to share the most critical information in product discontinuations or mergers. The key is to share the difficult information at the earliest possible moment and to be prepared with all the pertinent information affecting the channel, details, FAQs and how to move forward. The more difficult the news, the more important it is to share them honestly. Once my client determines that it is time to release sensitive information, I present the bad news, the reasons behind the situation, the expected consequences and how the manufacturer and the channel will move forward together. Then leave enough time for Q&A from the channel and give them time to digest the information before implementing the change.
When I first engage with existing international sales channels, I find most are suffering from lack of information. I have had repeated success by installing these initiatives immediately. Some of them may work for you. Maximizing selling time, providing good information and avoiding surprises, makes it easier for the global channel to represent your company properly, sell more of your products and serve your customers well.