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It might seem a strange question. Whoever is responsible for your sales is looking after all your clients. Or client services are. Or somebody trustworthy in your organisation. However, for many that’s not quite the case.

Your best client might be looked after by somebody not even in your own organisation. As soon as we have an alliance or a distribution channel, we are not fully in control of that relationship. Why would we trust our fortunes to somebody we cannot hold to account? It would appear a risky strategy.

On the other hand, that third party has got a far better reach into our target market, has built their business on the back of great relationships with our target clients and it is perfectly capable of selling our products and services to their own client base for a moderate commission fee or mark up. Suddenly we can expand our own business quickly and efficiently. Our own people can look after several partners who in their turn have lots of the correct clients. We can leverage and grow in a way that we could not hope to do with even a large salesforce. So now the model makes sense.

The problem now lies in the fact that we cannot control what our partners are saying or doing on our behalf. They have their own ways that work for them. And what is more, they also have the opportunity to choose which vendor they use. They can demand a lot from us therefore without necessarily doing everything we want them to in return.

That means our people who are managing that channel have got to be very good at motivating the distributor in two directions simultaneously; they need to keep the partner happy but also get that partner to behave in the way we want them to. This is difficult balancing act. In fact, it would appear almost impossible to get both sides right. Therefore the temptation is to keep the partner happy, as that’s the easiest. All we need to do is have our people stay in regular contact, keep the partner well-fed with information, training, good pricing, good offering, excellent service, and the business will come in.

Trouble is, the partners are not necessarily as good at selling to their clients as we would like, they take the vague promises from their potential clients, add on their own hopeful promises on top and we suddenly have no idea of what is reality and what is pure fiction. Internal salespeople are bad enough at forecasting; with so much noise in between it becomes almost impossible to know what to expect.

I started working with an alliance and I realised for myself just how hard it is to get the introducer to do what I want to happen. I felt almost powerless in the relationship and I have completely misunderstood budget and decision and not really had a good idea about 'pain' either.

We are asking our people to work some magic. The first thing we have to look at is who we have trying to pull off this feat. Are they just pandering to the partner, at their mercy? Do they have the backbone?

The second thing, how well do we have them trained? The job is different to an internal salesperson, so they need specific training. The channel manager has to be a top performer in supervising, training, coaching and mentoring. They have to be good at hiring, they have to be good at strategy and great at tactics.

The good news is we at Sandler have been looking at this for some time and have brought together our tools and techniques to make a specific package. If you want more details of training Channel Selling, contact me and we can talk about what we can do to help.

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