How Channel Sales Enablement differs from direct Sales Enablement


Success in B2B sales largely depends on the effectiveness of the company’s sales channels. Sales enablement is now being seen as the driving force behind well-managed sales channels, successful selling partners who meet or exceed quota and, ultimately, the key to driving sales revenues. This has caused the average sales enablement budget to double in the last two years. The overall investment in sales enablement has increased by over 65%.

While channel sales enablement can make sales channels more effective, it also presents unique challenges. In the case of direct sales, ultimately the company and the salespeople are clearly a team. There is no conflict of interest and the challenges are pretty much the same across all sales teams in the company. However, channel sales enablement is a very different ball game. For one thing, every channel partner deals with multiple vendors. This translates into intense competition amongst vendors to grab the channel partner’s attention. Vendors want to ensure their brand gets the attention it deserves. To add to the complexity, you have multiple channel partners to manage, and not every partner’s needs are the same. For every channel partner who works wonderfully, there’s one who is struggling to push the brand. For every partner who is extremely successful with marketing campaigns, there’s one who wishes the vendor offered them better marketing support.

Adding to this chaos is the lead generation challenge—the challenge to capture the attention of the next-generation buyer and holding it. Today’s buyer is more knowledgeable and empowered than ever before. With information at their fingertips, the next generation buyer is constantly evaluating the seller’s brand, researching, getting peer reviews and has pretty much made up their mind before the seller’s channel partners even approach them. How can businesses help their channel partners engage with these buyers at the right time? How can they make their brand a favorite with their channel partners? How does one ensure that products and services are marketed effectively? Vendors all over are having a difficult time answering these questions.

This blog outlines the unique challenges that are a part of channel sales enablement and explains how this affects channel sales enablement efforts

Challenge #1: Maintaining the brand
When you sell through channels, channel partners become your brand ambassadors. They become the face of the business as far as the end customer is concerned. But how do vendors ensure that their brand and its messaging are portrayed exactly the way they want? What if there are compliance requirements in relation to the messaging. How to ensure they are met? One inadvertent slip-up can prove fatal for the brand.

Sales enablement for channels requires providing channel partners with tools that allow them to customize sales collateral, without disrupting the vendor’s branding standards.

Challenge #2: Generating, following and closing quality leads
Lead generation and closure is often a bone of contention between vendors and their channel partners. Vendors may perceive that their channel partners aren’t pursuing their leads effectively; channel partners argue over the quality of leads handed over by vendors.

With leads flowing in from multiple vendors, it is only natural that partners  gravitate towards leads that are hot. They invest time and efforts where they believe results will be better and quicker. However, this means leads that are not ready to buy immediately are often ignored and lost for good.

Sales enablement for channels means providing channel partners and vendors with lead scoring, segmentation and nurturing tools that ensure only the most potent leads are shared with channel partners and those that are not ready to make an immediate purchase are automatically groomed until they are worth the channel partner’s time.

Challenge #3: Poor marketing results
Vendors feel they are not being marketed correctly by their channel partners and that their channel partners don’t always use the right messaging. Ultimately, companies and their channel partners alike are disappointed with their marketing programs as they don’t bear the desired results. For the best results, the marketing campaigns designed by vendors should be tightly woven into the channel partner’s business goals and should be easy-to-implement. If this isn't done, no one is happy, and both blame the other.

Sales enablement for channels entails empowering vendors to provide their channel partners with pre-approved marketing and sales collateral. This ensures that the message sent out by the channel partner resonates with corporate messaging, yet still can be personalized by the channel partner to reflect their identity. 

Challenge #4: Lack of trust between vendor and channel partners
Vendors often accuse channel partners of not giving enough preference to their offering. There is a general sentiment that the vendor’s products/services are not being ‘pushed’ enough by their sales channels. Also, vendors end up relying on complex spreadsheets or sales/marketing records of channel partners which contain manually input data. From the vendor’s perspective, such records raise questions about the accuracy, authenticity and freshness of data. Channel partners, on the other hand, feel that vendors are on a fault-finding spree and not truly interested in supporting them.

Sales enablement for channels entails bringing about transparency in the relationship between vendors and their channels. This becomes possible by providing access to a detailed reporting system so that vendors know every bit of important information such as marketing/sales campaigns run by channel partners, actions taken by them on incoming leads, lead closure/drop rates, etc.

Challenge #5: Measuring channel effectiveness
Vendors have too much to keep track of: managing multiple partner relationships, various marketing programs, and multiple products and services. All of these elements come together creating a complex mesh that makes it difficult for vendors to measure the effectiveness of their channels. Often vendors know who their top-performing channel partners are, but when it comes to identifying the problems with their other channel partners, vendors are left clueless. End result? They are left battling poor channel performances with no idea of what’s wrong with their channels.

Sales enablement for channels entails keeping the vendor in the loop with respect to every interaction that happens between channel partner and prospect. It involves making the performance reporting system independent. When vendors need not rely on their channel partners for performance reports, it helps on three accounts. One, it lends more authenticity to the reports, since they are system generated and can be directly accessed by the vendors. Two, reports pertaining to all channel partners are available in a single format. Third, the vendor is able to provide all its channels with a standard repository of marketing/sales assets; making an apple-to-apple comparison of channel partners easy. This enables vendors to understand which channel partners are doing well and which ones are struggling to perform. With all the subjectivity and ambiguity out of the relationship, vendors are able to make effective channel partner management decisions that are based on solid facts and figures.


The 7 Traits of a Successful Salesperson

Success is not an exquisite dish reserved for a few.

To be successful you don't have to belong to any class, creed or sex. The only criteria you need is a burning passion to be up there among the best.

Out of the hundreds and thousands of sales reps out there, only a few can boast about being the best in the world. In this post we are going to look at 7 qualities that make the world’s best salespeople stand out.

1. Be honest with yourself and your customers 

People are generally wary of salespeople. You cannot get them to trust you unless you believe in what you’re selling. If, for some reason,  you are stuck selling something that you don't believe in, try and look at the positives of the product and play on those points. Do not try to convince the customer unless you can convince yourself.

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.”
-Zig Ziglar


2. Speak the language your customers use
“Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.” - David Ogilvy

Often sales reps can scare their prospects with the use of highly sophisticated jargon. Reason? The prospects are unsure of what the rep is talking about and as a result choose to do business with someone they can talk to without feeling stupid. In your face to face conversations with prospects or written communication, keep the jargon locked away.

3. Persistence
These words by Dale Carnegie are enough to explain the importance of persistence.

“Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.”

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

4. Be customer oriented, not target oriented
"Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life." – Mary Kay Ash

Mary Kay couldn’t be more correct with this one. “Target oriented sales reps” are the bane of the sales world. Not just does it make you mechanical, but it takes away the core element of all selling: catering to your customer’s needs.

5. Be confident
A sales rep must be the most confident person in the room. The slightest hesitation or self-consciousness on your end can give your prospects the wrong notion. Do not be afraid to believe in yourself. Do your homework well and reassure yourself time and again that everything’s going to be alright. This self-reassurance will boost your confidence and your prospects will find you more believable.
"If you don't see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner." -Zig Ziglar

“Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” - Mary Kay Ash

6. Time manager
An efficient sales person is an achiever who has understood the nuances of harnessing time. Orderly distribution and management of your time can help you achieve much more as opposed to working haphazardly. Schedule your prospect meetings and your sales calendar in a way that you can make the most of every minute. Employ tools like automation systems and sales playbooks to help you.

“When it comes to time management, if you are not in control of your time then, simply put, someone or something else is in control of you.”- Bobby L. Butler

7. Be a listener
Unlike what most people assume, sales is more about listening to your clients than you talking to them. Give your prospects the impression that you are there to listen and solve their problems. During your meetings with a prospect, your goal should be to understand them, their business and their challenges. This involves asking your prospects a lot of questions and listening for answers. Even if you know exactly what challenges your prospect is facing and how you can help resolve them,  hearing out your prospects completely will convince them that you truly “get it”.

“Most people think "selling" is the same as "talking". But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.” – Roy Bartell

“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.” – Wilson Mizner

 Keep these 7 ideas in mind, but if you can only remember one, remember the last one and listen.

The thin line between enabling and elbowing your Sales team

sales enablementThe increasing demand for sales efficiency and sales enablement tools has made organizations highly sensitive to the needs of their sales teams. Marketing departments are taking pains to keep themselves on the same page with sales,  while management is doing everything it can to ensure that the sales team is constantly supported with comprehensive training and simpler, more convenient tools.

While sales may love the attention, there comes a point when it can get a bit too much. I mean, no one likes to attend training all the time, nor does anyone like to be given tools that “take care of everything” so much that they lose the leeway to be creative or their professional growth becomes limited.


So how do you stop going overboard and get back to enabling your sales team the healthy way?

1. Do not go overboard with your training

Are your sales reps bombarded with training all the time? Do your recruits have to go through the ordeal of sitting through week after week of classroom training? Well, we suggest you change that. Create a solid on-boarding or training program for sales reps using sales playbooks and give them access to it. This way they can undergo the training whenever they want or wherever they want, at their own pace.


2. Too many tools spoil the sale

Okay, your reps need the tools to keep up with the competition. They need the CRM. They need to make personalized assets (another system?) and they need to track their prospect activity (a third system?) What they don’t need is ten different systems to do all this. Giving them an endless list of tools with distinct features can confuse them. Instead, give them a comprehensive one; a system that embodies the more important tasks like data analysis, prospect tracking, sales-marketing automation and asset management. It is also important that your system be flexible enough to integrate your existing CRM system

3. Let them automate tasks

Sales reps are always short of time due to their hectic schedules. Between their countless meetings, squeezing time in for an immediate reply to a prospect’s interest or updating the CRM may not be possible.  An automated task means that your sales rep needn’t feel guilty about not being prompt with a reply to every prospect.  Brainstorm with your team and decide which tasks can be automated. This will offload a lot of unimportant tasks and let them focus more on selling.

4. Stop flooding them with ready-made collateral

Sales people know what their prospects want better than anyone. So stop handing them the collateral that they do not ask for. Instead give them a smart system that lets them create personalized sales collateral. This will  ensure that they do not infringe on your brand’s identity in any way.  

 

5. Paperwork is passé

Well, I  don’t really mean paper, but do you still ask them to update your word document? Do you ask them to email you at the end of the day? You should stop that. The last thing a sales rep wants to do after a long day of work is to write a report. Use a system that auto-updates crucial data so that everyone stays  updated without tedious paperwork.

Conclusion


Don’t mollycoddle your sales team. Provide them with limited yet useful tools that aid the selling process. Over-supporting  will most likely turn your reps into dependent and unproductive workers.

 “A rep’s knowledge must continue to be fed over the long term in order for productivity to grow.” 
-Jim Ninivaggi, SiriusDecisions

16 things You can Learn About being Social from Richard Branson



Defying norms is what Sir Richard Branson does best.

At a time when most business professionals complain about being too busy  to be active on social, Branson has taken to it like a fish to water. He is devoted to his almost 4.7 million followers and keeps them engaged with his tongue-in-cheek updates. And, unlike most entrepreneurs who have a digital marketing team ghostwriting for them, Branson believes in doing his own writing. Also, very significantly, he allows and encourages his employers to be active on social. Not everyone does this.

Here are the top 16 things that we can pick up from this legend:

  1. Social media isn’t for selling
Branson doesn’t use his social media ID to give updates about his business.He uses social media to talk to the world. When you post, talk about what you stand for and your passions. Show everyone the part of you that isn't the CEO.

  1. Social is the best way get customer feedback
Being candid on social has its perks. Your customers will know that you take them seriously and that their opinions matter. As a result, you can ask them anything and expect honest, useful answers.

  1. Your social persona (photographs + writing style) should reflect your organizations’ persona and ideals
Let yourself be the voice of your organization’s ideals. Note that Branson always uses “we” instead of an “I” when talking about beliefs. That signifies that the whole organization functions as one big family, strongly affirming each other’s goals.

  1. Praise your team and employees on social
You will often find Branson bragging about the amazing staff that works at Virgin. He is all praise for the hard work and the success they bring to his brand. (Who doesn’t like a little appreciation from the boss?)

  1. Images speak
All of his tweets and  blogs are accompanied by vibrant images. You may not have those “happening” images of yourself scaling snow-clad mountains or scuba diving with sharks, but surely you have pictures that showcase who you are as a human being. It doesn’t have to be crazy unique, it just needs to be you.   

  1. Praise outside the organization
Do you appreciate some webinar that you just attended? Did a fellow entrepreneur accomplish some achievement and you truly feel happy for her? Go ahead and praise her. Congratulate her on the achievement or tell her that you believe in the cause she supports. This will not go unnoticed and will expand your voice in the community.

  1. Share your updates across all social platforms
When you update something, it is important to do it across all your social networks so readers across all platforms will know what you are up to. This also increases your visibility.

  1. Consistency
We all know that social media is tough to keep up with. Despite that, you need to be consistent with your updates. Don’t leave your readers and followers wondering about your disappearance for days on end. You shouldn’t  bombard them with endless posts about everything you do, of course. Just strike a balance.

  1. You don’t have to be a millennial to be social-savvy
Branson is the ideal answer to “I’m too old for social media”. Branson is 64. ‘Nuff said.

  1. Tell stories
People love stories, but hey don’t like advice or criticism. If you want to give advice about something, tell them a story of how you learned the lesson yourself. If you want to sell them something, tell them a story of how it changed someone’s life. (be careful, though. Blogs aren't for selling)
  1. Your social profile needs to be an extension of you
Branson’s social profile is what he is, without any apparent pretense. His thoughts and pictures are all a reflection of his flamboyant, go-getter, fun-loving personality. In order to create a genuine connection with your audience, remember that you have to be yourself.

  1. Social media is a two-way street
Social listening is just as important as talking. The value of social media is to hear  what people are talking about and what they expect from you. Doing all the talking doesn’t create any value for you or your readers.

  1. You are allowed to have fun
Make “having fun” an integral part of your social personality. Don’t be all serious and corporate-y in your updates and blogs. Let your hair down, and except for occasional official updates, keep your posts fun, friendly and informative.  

  1. Add a little humor
Make your posts fun enough to be share-able with other people.

  1. Encourage your employees to be social
Virgin allows almost all of its employees to be active on social sites. They are encouraged to do so because the more employees on social, the more listeners the company has. Don’t be afraid you will “lose” control. This is too valuable a public relations tool to be lost to fear. Your employees are another way to connect your company to customers and prospects. Don’t miss out.

  1. Continue to explore newer platforms
Don’t be content with just one social space. Your users are always seeking and exploring newer platforms, so don’t lose them

Who are your favorite social personalities? And what have you learnt from them? Share it with us below.