• 5 Keys to Managing Leads Through Channel Partners

    With today’s CRM tools, managing leads in a direct selling environment is relatively straightforward: sale leads are collected, qualified, nurtured and then deposited into the organization’s CRM system for sales conversion. But what about sales lead collection and management for reseller channels?
    When working with channel partners, you may find yourself asking the following: Which reseller or distributor should receive specific leads? How will you know if partners are paying attention to the leads you send them? How can you find out what happens to the leads you send partners? And how can you ensure partners respond to leads in a manner that aligns with your brand message?
    A new report from Michigan-based lead management solutions firm MarketNet, “Five Misconceptions of Lead Management for Partner Networks,” seeks to find answers to these questions. The report distills the following key lead management strategies to help secure partner commitment to your sales program:
    1. Get partners to be proactive with your leads. Partners should be able to see and respond to leads within 60 minutes. It may sound obvious, but ensure that lead quality is satisfactory. Sending too many low-quality inquiries will inevitably, over time, cause partners to abandon your leads. Finally, ensure proactive use of leads by setting clear performance expectations, including standard response time, manner of response, and the consequences for not meeting these standards.
    2. Set up a sales reporting system. The goal of this system is to make it easy for partners to record and report on lead activity. Using a system that links to the partner’s internal CRM system is ideal, but any system in which recording tools are basic and easily understood can provide myriad benefits, including giving you full visibility of partnerships that are actively pursuing your leads. A sales reporting system should also install incentives, including leveraging existing incentive programs to reward partner behavior, as well as tools for providing helpful feedback.
    3. Create a partnership that tracks partner behavior. One central concern of lead sponsors is that competitors will use leads to sell competitor’s products. Most studies indicate that partners are more likely to sell their lead sponsor’s products over competitors. However, it’s important to be able to measure and track this behavior. Partners are obviously less likely to sell to competitors on a large scale if they know you can track this behavior. Create an open partnership in which both parties understand the consequences of switching leads away from your products. Of course, partners should be given enough latitude to determine whether a competitor’s products are better suited to a prospect’s needs, but frequent lead-switching should not be rewarded.
    4. Establish a fast-acting lead distribution system that bypasses sales administrators. Many companies deal with lead distribution by having a sales administrator or territory manager see each lead and then determine which partner should receive it. However, this approach can waste time and hinder conversion. Instead, establish a lead management system that quickly distributes leads according to a set of predetermined guidelines Maintain a sense of urgency about lead follow-up with partners.
    5. Give partners disclosure on lead distribution system “rules.” Many companies fear that vendors will view lead distribution systems as unfair. Provide reasonable disclosure on lead distribution guidelines and rules to ensure partners that they will receive a fair share of incoming leads. However, make it clear that a lead distribution system is in support of your overall sales and marketing strategy, and that the system may adapt to support partners who demonstrate greater support of your products.
    Use this link to request a copy of MarketNet’s White Paper, “Five Misconceptions of Lead Management for Partner Networks”.
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