By Keith Lubner, Co-Founder of Channel EQ.
Great channel organizations truly focus on what really matters. By doing so, these companies and their people are able to accelerate revenues, increase market share, and continually stay “top of mind” with everyone. Conversely, channels that take their eye off the ball tend to slog along. They try tweaking the wrong things at the wrong times and they keep getting the same mediocre results. They exist in a world of frustration because they are not getting the results that they want.
So, what separates the great channels from the “not-so-great” ?
We have identified 5 items that you need to continually focus on in order keep your channel firing on all cylinders.
- Prospecting Matters. In 2007, it took an average of 3.68 cold calls to reach a prospect. Today it take 8 attempts. (Source: TeleNet & Ovation Sales Group). What this means is that not only are prospects getting bombarded with tons of messages (from multiple groups employing a variety of techniques), they are not responding. Messages are clouded (no pun intended) and prospecting excellence has fallen off. Focus on how you can become better at prospecting (especially telephone prospecting) and you will start connecting at a better rate and building higher quality pipelines in the end.
- People Matter. Technology is great. Technology also stinks. Where it goes bad is in helping people develop deep, meaningful relationships with prospects, co-workers, and partners. People are trying to connect through texting and social media. These mechanisms are necessary in today’s world, but they are not the building blocks of lasting success. Think about your core set of friends and family. You share experiences. You share time. You engage. Your relationships with them are important. Translate this to the sales world. People buy from people they trust. Initiate programs in your company around building empathy and interpersonal skills. TalentSmart did a study that revealed that 90% of high performers are people with high EQ (Emotional Intelligence). Makes sense.
- Customers Matter. We keep forgetting about the customer journey. Tiffani Bova of Salesforce talks a lot about this, and for good reason. Customer’s are buying differently. They have more information about your product and service before you even call them. Yet, as we conduct sales calls, we keep trying to “pitch” our products but the prospect is at an entirely different stage of the buying cycle. Therefore, the salesperson and the prospect are completely out of sync. The salesperson is conditioned to act logically and the prospect is buying on emotion. Get in sync and you win. My business partner Jeb Blount is releasing a new book in a few months called Sales EQ that goes into unbelievable good depth around these, and many more, concepts.
- Leadership Matters. The old ways of interacting with the channel just don’t work. There is a mentality of “set it and forget it”. Interactions today need to be more consistent and more meaningful. Partners are people. They are a vendor’s “customer”. Treat them as such. Engage with them as such. See #2 above for some tips, but it all boils down to the leader of your organization. Are they “expecting” the channel to just produce or are they proactively engaging and changing ? It has to start with a vision that is based on continual evolution.
- Being Different Matters. 3 partner levels. MDF. Lead registration. Ho-hum….everybody does this with the channel. Don’t get me wrong as it’s foundational to have some of these elements, but please don’t hang your hat on them. Your vision needs to be different. You need to act different and push out an image that displays this. We call it the “so what” test. Essentially, if you can look at your competitors and their messaging and programs and then look at your own of the same and say “so what?”, you have a problem because you’re not standing out. Think about the following:
- How are you attracting partners? Are you employing empathy? (that is, putting yourself in their shoes). Do you think they keep hearing the same value proposition over and over again?
- How are you thinking about your marketing and messaging? Constantly employ the “so what” test in order to validate or eliminate your message.
- There is a “reflex” response in the channel. The other week, a client of ours was asked about what they did. In this case, they develop CRM software. So, he responded with “we develop and market leading edge CRM software (not a good elevator statement…see above). The person he was talking to said, “oh, you guys are like so-and-so. ” This is what we hear a lot. It’s called a reflex , or automatic response to a question. Jeb Blount is an expert when it comes to this. He gives a simple explanation: “You walk into a store and need to get something very specific, say a certain drill bit for a tool. As soon as you walk in the door, a store employee asked, “can I help you?” Your response is a reflex; it’s automatic. You say, “I’m just looking” – even though you NEED help.” Back to the channel example. My client immediately tried to overcome their statement with differentiating facts about their CRM as compared to others. Wrong ! It’s what everyone does and it’s what your prospects are conditioned to hear. Be different. Come back with a disruptive statement to really get their attention. Once you do, you open the door to true and meaningful dialogue, because you did something different! Yes, we are working with them on this.
Make the changes that will produce the results you desire.
Keith Lubner acts as an advisor and mentor to several of today’s leading channel organizations on strategies, tactics, and programs to accelerate growth. He is a world-wide recognized expert on enablement, channel sales & marketing issues, and channel leadership. His training programs and workshops have been delivered across the globe to several start-up and multi-national organizations.