Your biggest influencers are your partners. Do you track them?
By Diane Krakora, CEO
I realize it’s silly to declare a sales process overrated or worse, irrelevant. But the acquisition of the purchase order (which ignites the operational processes to ship product and book a sale) is meaningless. In days when revenues are paramount, the act of transacting business with customers seems to be the most relevant action within the sales cycle. However, I assert the sale actually happened long before the quote was created or the contract signed.
The Purchase Order is Small Potatoes
It doesn’t matter who gets the PO from the customer. Since customers can transact directly with the vendor, through a marketplace like AWS or via a channel partner, they don’t care where the product comes from. Forrester cites that 73% of business buyers find buying from the web most convenient. The business customer doesn’t need a channel partner – be that an agent, reseller, systems integrator or MSP – to purchase products or services.
As the industry moves to subscription models and buyers become more comfortable buying online, purchasing products becomes easier. Business department heads can purchase products themselves with a credit card, rather than wading through a lengthy evaluation via the IT department and procurement process with the purchasing group.
If 65% of the purchase decision is made before the customer ever contacts a salesperson (Gartner), who is influencing your future customer? Providing advice on what to purchase and why? Who is helping to determine how products fit together with what the customer already has? Partners design the solutions that produce outcomes to business needs and opportunities. Partners help install and configure the products, integrating them into current solutions. Partners change business processes to optimize the usage of these products. All these critical partner roles are why 75% of the world trade flows indirectly (Forrester).
The REAL Role of Partners
The utility a manufacturer should want from an indirect channel is influence over a customer’s purchasing decision. Manufacturers want customers to purchase their brand of products and channel partners want to make money on the services surrounding that purchase. No one cares where the transaction is processed. What matters most is who influenced the customer.
Manufacturers need to focus less on the percentage of revenues transacted through their channel partners. To keep up with new buying behaviors, manufacturers need to ensure they are engaging and rewarding the channels that influence the purchase decision. For decades, vendors measured the success of their channel teams on the revenues that passed through the partners. In the last five years, we’ve started to measure the revenues driven by the partners, which many vendors have started to track as “partner sourced” revenue monitored via deal registration programs.
Find New Metrics of Influence
Current measures and metrics of channel performance need to shift to influence. Vendors must recognize and reward partners on the influence they wield to drive the brand decision. After all, your partners are on the front line steering the customer to your products over something similar (you know, that other guy).
Measuring the channel’s ability to influence a customer decision is more difficult than tracking a purchase order, but also more relevant to the future of business when the transaction can and will happen just about anywhere. One way to start shifting to measuring influence is to map your sales cycle and your customer journey. Understand each “touch” to your potential customer along that journey. Then determine how to recognize, inspire and reward those individuals for influencing the customer to pick you. And only then, transact.
Excited about evaluating your channel’s influence but overwhelmed on where to start? We are here to help.