For many large businesses, using a channel sales system is more beneficial than relying solely on their own team of salespeople to sell products and services directly. With channel sales, companies allow retailers and distributors to benefit from their margins instead. The retailers and distributors then earn a margin themselves.
As with all types of sales structures, finding and then managing the ideal channel sales team provides a unique set of challenges. For instance, companies don’t have to spend time continually attracting new customers. They work with the same dealers in their channel sales team each day instead. While it isn’t always easy to create and manage these teams, successful sales channels do have several things in common. This starts with ensuring that each member of the team has cross-functional capabilities.
Build a Team as Cross-Functional from the Start to Ensure Scalability
Many sales channels begin small or perhaps as only an extension of an existing onsite sales team. Because of this, it’s common for sales managers to retain a small focus and then feel frustrated when the team doesn’t have the skill-set to sell new products and services or can’t keep up with the company’s growth.
One way to avoid this issue down the road is to involve other departments who are also impacted by the success of the sales channel. This often includes product teams, marketing, and finance. Sales managers need to keep in mind that channel sales truly affect every aspect of the company and can even cause those in product development to alter or delay release of a product due to feedback the team receives from end users.
While organizing the sales channel, an upfront conversation should take place with the other departments regarding how much company revenue the sales team has projected will come from the new channel. This will allow managers to inform the leaders of other departments how much time and how many assets the new sales channel will require from each area. Having this sense of collaboration from the beginning helps to avoid misunderstandings later.
After stating the projected revenue and the required assets, the sales manager should move on to discuss the benefits that product teams, marketing, finance, and any other invited areas can expect from this new venture. It gets them excited about the possibilities rather than apprehensive about the necessity of a new sales channel in the first place.
Successful Sales Channels Have the Support of the Entire Company
The success of channel sales should be communicated to even those without a close contributing role with the new sales channel because it needs organization-wide support. Starting and stopping the venture will make teams quickly lose interest because they won’t take the effort seriously. That’s one reason why the above step is so important. Support starts from the top and trickles its way down. The person heading up the sales channel is usually on the executive committee or reports to the CEO directly because every decision made by company leadership ultimately affects its sales partners.
Including a channel representative in regular planning meetings is also a good idea. They have direct, hands-on experience with selling the company’s products or services and know what works and what requires further tweaking. Each team should send a representative to these meetings as well to impart to the others how the work of the sales channel affects them. The overriding goal of a sales channel is for every member of the company to consider it just as much as the organization’s direct sales team.
Unified Channel Teams Offer Greater Benefits
A business should expect growing pains when members of its sales channel come from the company’s inside sales team. Sales channels require long-term efforts and results often don’t appear obvious right away. Team members have less control than when they worked as part of a direct sales team. Management should stress that patience will pay off when sales channel members earn greater leverage working as a team than they would have continuing to work on their own.
One last thing to consider is that this type of sales team needs to have unity. Managers can promote this by having them work trade shows together and inviting the whole team out for social gatherings on a regular basis. Many large organizations hold events specifically for their channel sales partners.
IT Xchange has supplied PC and server technology to resellers in the channel for over 20 years. Contact to learn more about how you can earn more margins from your hardware