Mention the word outsourcing and most people will think of customer support centers in faraway countries with hard to understand, unhelpful agents. Mention it in conjunction with the selling function and most senior executive's first reaction is "there is no way I would trust my most critical function to an outside party".
But if your firm has a desire to grow and expand your geographical reach there are alternatives to simply adding more high cost sales people. It might make sense to explore indirect selling channels as a means of expanding your sales reach.
Indirect or channel sales have been used by many producers or manufacturers as a way of augmenting their existing selling teams and increasing their selling reach. While can be downsides to this selling approach, such as; market cannibalism, inaccurate sales pipelines, and prospect confusion, for many companies it may still be the best way to boost your top line at the lowest possible cost.
In a recent Aberdeen report entitled "Partner Relationship Management – Channeling Better Sales Results", 213 end-user firms were queried about their channel sales effectiveness practices. Implementing partner relationship management enablers and technologies are key to successful channel programs, here a few from the study.
Elements of Successful Channel Sales Programs
- Incentive programs are critical (no surprise here!)
- Lead generation/referrals for partners drives positive sales behaviors
- Lead registration is needed to prevent channel conflict
- On-line access to pricing, promotions, and products is a must have
- Partner visibility into supply chain/order processing system will reduce customer service expense
- Dedicated partner relationship management teams drives channel partner mind share
Whether you are looking to drive top line growth, expand your geographic presence, or enter a new market, developing an alternate sales channel may be a good bet. Take the time to understand the processes and sales strategies needed to give your partners a high lead-to-win ratio and make sure that you have the ability to set and measure the critical benchmarks, it will pay off in the long run.