It makes sense to provide leads to channel partners who can be counted on to follow up on leads. This assumption may seem costly, but it makes sense. Here’s why: One of the key value adds for channel partners is their position with regard to procurement for major accounts within a geographically local area. The days are long gone for most major accounts as to doing business with just anybody, let alone a company that is largely under the radar. The probable answer on this one is a very likely “no thanks.” So what’s a poor under the radar company with a channel strategy to do to get a critical foot in the door at that behemoth business down the street? Pass the ball to the channel partner on your team who is listed with procurement and fast track that order along your sales cycle.
Try this strategy and you’ll probably like it. Further, don’t be fussy about what constitutes an acceptable follow up on a lead. In some cases it may be no more than pushing the order through procurement or merely catching it when procurement goes out to the roster of approved vendors to see who can fill the order. Be happy that you had a mitt out there to catch the order and don’t complain.
All of the above is not to say that channel partners will not add value to sales development efforts. Rather, I am pointing out these factors to help you expand your concept of what actually amounts to value add to include just catching an order coming out of procurement. I have literally worked with clients who lacked the public financial credibility to pass a procurement review. Without a channel, there was no recourse but to look to wealthy partners to collect the order, else the business would have been lost altogether.
Of course there will be certainly channel partners who can be relied upon to make tons of effort to promote your product with each and every lead that you bequeath upon them, but be wary. A partner may make that effort to crack into a top account riding along your lead. I applaud a business that will go an extra mile to bring my product home to a new account. But I would rather stake my chips on a partner who is already a prime vendor to the prospect.
In sum, managing channel requires a certain finesse and certainly does not lend itself, at the onset of a channel program, to rigid policies and guidelines. Maintain flexibility to win at this game.
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved