New research undertaken by The Channel Partnership in conjunction with The Leadership Foundation highlights and published in the report, ‘What Channels Need to Succeed 2012’ The research questioned 250 channel sales executives in IT and Telecoms companies to find out what makes sales channels successful.
The participants were a mix of senior managers, board members, first line management and non management. Participants were questioned about their relationships with vendors and what was needed to maximise the effectiveness of channel partnerships.
Better Insight into Market Trends
The research found that 59% of salespeople said that better insight into market trends, competitor activity and customer needs would have a significant impact on sales performance. Sales execs are hungry for more market intelligence and information so they can engage effectively with potential customers. They recognise that today’s customer is very discerning and sophisticated and they need to have strategic conversations rather than discuss products and technology.
Organisations also need to invest in their brands, 66% of participants claimed that investment in brand has the biggest impact on their sales performance. In addition, 59% said that brand strength was the number one reason they would choose between two vendors with similar products, followed by the quality of pre and post sales support (45%). The commercial terms offered by vendors were deemed less important, cited by only 36% of respondents.
They also need to invest in product and technology training. Over half (51%) of sales executives identified product and technology training and having good sales leads as the most valuable asset to them. Additionally, 55% said that better products and services training would have a significant impact on sales. With the majority of participants in the survey selling technology products from more than six different vendors, it is unsurprising such emphasis was placed on having good product training.
In terms of the top frustrations facing sales execs, inflexible product pricing was highlighted by 37%, the lack of support for individual sales by 22% and insufficient training and education for sales teams on products and technology by a further 22%.
It appears from the research that channel salespeople want regular communications from their vendors, but don’t want to be overloaded. Over half (51%) said they prefer monthly contact, 31% weekly and 17% quarterly. Email is the preferred means of communication for 73%, closely followed by face to face meetings. Just 10% said that social media was an effective way of communicating with partners, suggesting that all of those vendors investing heavily in social media programmes to engage their channel, shouldn’t neglect more traditional communication routes.
Channel hungry for information and greater support from vendors
This research clearly shows a hunger for greater knowledge, information and support from in product and technology training and sales exec need this kind of information to engage with customers.
Customers don’t simply need a product demo and a price; they want advice to help them navigate the best technology options for their businesses. The vendors who enable their sales channels to have such conversations are more likely to be successful than those who focus on pushing product.
However, the challenge for many vendors is how to tap into the knowledge, market trends and customer drivers that exist within their organisations and deliver it to their channels in a useable format. Most companies are sitting on a wealth of knowledge that could be incredibly valuable to their channel partners but many aren’t very good at externalising this knowledge.
Recommendations from the Channel Partnership
Based on these findings, organisations should review their enablement programmes and look at how they can provide greater insight and intelligence to support their sales and marketing. We now know that sales professionals are keen to receive this type of support and will respond positively to those who deliver it.
This research also highlighted that greater support is needed in some key areas including product and technology training, market intelligence and sales leads. Market conditions are very tough out there, margins are tighter than ever and customers are increasingly sophisticated and discerning. Sales people need to work harder to win sales so vendors must equip them with market intelligence and sales support and invest in their brands – those that do, will reap the benefits.
by Phil Brown, The Channel Partnership
To download the full report, go to www.thechannelpartnership.com