No matter what your product or chosen channels, channel sales are almost universally a B2B approach. What this means is that your conversion funnel isn't just convincing one person. You may not even be proposing a traditional vendor relationship, as channel sales is often about innovating the traditional lines of supply. Your initial contact may need approval from their boss who needs to run it by accounting and logistics and their boss, who will need to run some business model simulations before it's confirmed that buying from you is a great idea for the company.
While your targeted lead goes through their own process of approving the sale, your channel sales reps are the ones responsible for tending the customer relationship for the duration. Your reps are the ones keeping the connection alive, the ball rolling, and the account active even if it takes months to sign the first contract.
Today, we're here to offer a few expert tips on how to tend your channel sales leads during a potentially long conversion process.
Treat Each Customer as a Key Account
Key Accounts Management is a traditional way that B2B companies have interacted with each other for decades. A key account is a big-fish customer worthy of their own personal contact with the company with whom they can work and strategize to ensure the customer is happy with your company's services at every turn.
Channel sales is all about choosing your key accounts and then treating them as such. Each business lead that you target and begin to woo should be assigned one rep that they speak with every time and possibly an entire specialized sales team dedicated to making this sale happen. Each key accounts manager or team can work on multiple accounts, as long as there is a standard of care so that each and every channel sales lead feels special and gets the attention they need from your end to make a big vendor-changing decision on their end.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
It's true that your leads may need time and space to make this purchase happen, but it's your responsibility to make sure the connection doesn't go stale. The account manager or personal sales rep for each lead should make sure that they have a conversation with the lead at least once a week to stay apprised of the conversion progress and keep that effort at the top of everyone's mind. They should also be available to communicate and answer questions at any time during business hours to help move the process along at the client's pace.
Phone calls are the traditional way, but of course, times are changing and the phone is not how everyone does things anymore. Your KAM (in this case Key Accounts Manager) should stay flexible and remain available through email, live chat, and even SMS text message. Respond quickly no matter how your leads reach out.
Connect With Your Client's Network
When you're trying to change the shape and process of your lead's vendor network, it may be important to connect with the other members of that very network. Long-time vendors and suppliers who your leads are dedicated to may be applying back-pressure because they are uneasy about how your new deal will impact their sales and access to the lead.
So research, reach out, and get in touch. Build trust and let them know that you're not taking away their business. You're streamlining the internal process of your lead instead. Your best bet is to connect with members of your lead's network who may even benefit from the changes you're proposing based on how your entry will influence the production needs of your lead. Perhaps a supportive call from a valued supplier will be what finally makes the sale.
Mastering channel sales is all about being creative, flexible, and keeping the lines of communication open while your leads go through their decision-making process.