To say that the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on global business is a vast understatement. Businesses are already feeling the economic pinch while they scramble to recover and prepare for what looks to be a very trying year. Most companies initially focused on getting employees settled in work from home situations. And now that some of the coronavirus dust has settled, businesses need to turn their attention to sales—both direct through sales departments and indirect via channel partners.
Channel partners can sometimes be the unsung heroes of a company’s sales initiative and a significant percentage of business growth. They function as a fast and effective way to break into new markets and expand existing ones. They’re typically a plug-and-play entity which keeps on producing without much direct support. But there’s the rub. Channel partners are not extensions of a company’s sales organisation, but separate entities that need to be managed, mentored and incentivised accordingly.
And here’s the stark reality of channel partner relationships—if they can’t easily sell a company’s products, they have plenty of other options out there. There are usually all types of perceived impediments to channel sales, but the recent COVID-19 pandemic has probably been the highest hurdle most channel reps have experienced. But there are ways to keep channel partners engaged during this challenging time, so, let’s take a look.
It’s time for a little nurturing.
While the rest of the world is stepping back for some self care during this confusing time, it’s a good idea for businesses to engage channel partners as an investment in their success. Channel partners can get stretched pretty thin and the COVID-19 crisis is proving that to be true. The vendors who can make their partners’ lives easier will be the ones that the channel partners will embrace and work diligently for.
Selling B2B in an uneasy market.
Your channel partners are a resilient bunch. That’s why they’re so good at what they do and why you continue to engage them. However, selling during this pandemic takes a particular set of skills and mindset to overcome any fear and uncertainty. One of the things you may want to do is talk to your channel partners about revised sales expectations during this time.
How has COVID-19 altered the buying habits of customers? What deals are in the pipeline? How many of those deals are likely to close? These types of questions will level set the situation between you and your channel partners so there are as few surprises as possible. Discussions like these also set a tone of honesty and respect in an open communications environment.
Ironically, the pandemic quarantine has so many people working at home right now with more time for phone and web meetings. Take this perceived extra time to communicate with channel partner reps on a regular basis to stay firm in their consideration set when it comes to promoting your products and solutions now and after the pandemic has subsided.
It’s all about digital now.
Channel partners are clearly familiar with a digital business life. Hosting web meetings and calls from hotel rooms and home offices is nothing new for this bunch. So the stay at home directive related to COVID-19 was no real challenge for channel partner reps so their communications with customers haven’t missed too many beats.
Plus, less travel and field time now gives partner reps more time to engage with you and with customers. They can also facilitate digital communications with customers in the form of webinars, email campaigns, social selling, new web content and more. Ironically, the slowdown in channel partner can be a boon in business communications, especially digital assets.
Members of the family.
Clearly, channel partners are not actually a part of your business but creating and maintaining close business relationships is a definite plus. People need to feel important and want their contributions to be valued, especially during the uncertain days of this pandemic.
When you treat them as extended members of your business family, you build familiarity, trust and loyalty—welcome commodities during any time. And catering to their preferred method of communications will underscore your commitment to them. Will you make phone calls? Host webinars? Launch email campaigns? Your partner reps will let you know which tactics work for them when it comes to staying connected to you.
One day, when we’re all on the other side of this pandemic, you’ll be glad you were proactive with channel partners to not only make your products and solutions top-of-mind with them but also further entrench them as valuable members of your team.
Practical advice for tech vendors on the how, what, and why behind successful through-partner marketing.
In this ebook, We’ll be discussing full spectrum channel programmes that include multiple touchpoints and we’ll also look to detail a standard bill of materials that can be used as a starting point or checklist for future campaigns.
With that in mind, it’s time to go exploring.