No matter how good Channel Management technology gets, If you put your technology between you and your partners, you’re maybe being more efficient, but it’s efficiency in a penny-wise-and-pound-foolish kind of way.
You Can’t Outsource a Personal Relationship
Companies should implement channel management/PRM and CRM tools to see trends and to know where to have personal interactions – not to remove them. Those tools are in place to enable interaction, to help you be smarter with how you use your time, and to have more effective interactions – not fewer of them. They’re not meant to keep channel advisors at their desk and protected from talking with partners. Instead, they can help vendors see at what point in the sales cycle a conversation would help partners, on the phone or in person.
That may mean less interaction but that’s because you’re getting more efficient. Personal contact with partners will be more meaningful – you’ll have quality over quantity. So instead of – for example – fielding requests for materials (which a partner portal can do more quickly and more easily for both partner and vendor), conversation can about strategizing around a particular customer or resolving sales issues.
Let Partners Be Drivers
Interactions should support partners’ sales process, and partners know what they need, so follow their lead. Ideally, technology serves the partner relationship – not the other way around. Build things that they’re asking for, not for the sake of technology.
For example, you may implement a partner discussion forum to cut back on the number of requests for answers to common questions. But the partner may email or call you anyway. In that case, take the opportunity to have the interaction. Clearly, this is when they want it. Maybe this is an area where they don’t want self-service.
It’s About More Than Providing PowerPoints and Sales Sheets
A key place for an interaction to happen is strategizing. Automate lead distribution and deal registration, and have your portal provide all the sales materials. But when it comes down to channel management brass tacks, when they’re getting ready to talk with a big client, be there for them.