Revenue-Driving Channel Sales Strategies for Manufacturers

by | Jul 28, 2020 | Manufacturer Marketing

Channel sales offer a number of benefits for manufacturing companies. Channel partners help you bring in significantly more sales than a single sales team ever could. You’ve got built-in trust with channel partners, and you have the customer service support you need to help every client if they need it. 
But, channel sales have a few drawbacks, too. The biggest being that it’s difficult to control, manage, and track the sales process. The feedback cycle can be slow, which means it’s hard to react quickly to shifts in the end-user’s buying preferences. These drawbacks can make it difficult to measure the success of your channel sales strategies. It’s not always easy to see how your product is doing at any given moment or to establish effective marketing and sales tactics. 
If you’re struggling to improve your channel sales process, or are looking for ways to better support your channel partners for bigger, faster sales, here are a few revenue-driving channel sales strategies to help manufacturers grow that bottom line in a big way. 

Focus on Existing Partnerships First

Most sales teams know it costs significantly more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. That same theory applies to your channel partners. 
The best channel sales strategy is the one that helps you capitalize on the resources you already have.

Before you go out trying to recruit new partners, make sure you’re supporting the ones you already have.

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Communicate with your channel partners

A great place to start is to just talk to your existing channel partners. 
  • Does your team talk to your partners regularly? If they do, what have your partners been saying lately?
  • What do your partners think about your product?
  • How do they feel about your service or support?
If it’s been a while since you connected with your channel partners, you might consider sending out a survey with a few quick questions, and a few open comment boxes encouraging partners to let you know if there are areas where they feel you could improve. 
Jokes aside, keep clear, open lanes of communication for your channel partners to provide feedback whenever it’s convenient for them. 

And when you do get feedback, act on it. 

In addition to making some improvements, make an effort to set up regular, quarterly meetings with your channel partners. After all, they’re the ones interacting directly with your customers.

The better your relationship with your channel partners, the better you’ll be able to understand your end consumer. 

Develop marketing resources to support your channel partners

Once you have open, clear lines of communication with your channel partners, consider developing some marketing resources they can use to better sell your products. 

 

Let’s think about it: if you were a busy sales or marketing team, which product would you push? 

Fredricks-Design-Interactive-Header

Option #1

A product that came from the manufacturer with a ton of ready-made email campaigns, social media content and imagery, and print collateral.
channel-sales-strategies-example-product

Option #2

A great product, but with no support from the manufacturer, you’ll have to develop content and marketing strategy from the ground up.
As a busy marketer myself, I can go ahead and tell you that if I had beautiful marketing content at my fingertips, that is absolutely the product I’d put in my email marketing campaigns and social media posts. 
If you’re regularly creating and providing marketing resources that make it easy for your channel partners to talk about and support your brand, there’s a much higher likelihood that they will. 
Consider developing imagery, social media content, and even email marketing campaigns your channel partners can take and use however they like. 
When it’s easy for them to get the word out about you, they’re more likely to do it. And when more of your channel partners are putting out great branded content and email campaigns about your products, you’re going to start to see more sales. 

Create Sales Enablement Content

The best way to drive revenue with channel sales strategies? Think of your team as an extension of your partner’s sales team. Not the other way around. 
If you’re not selling directly to consumers, then your sales efforts should be focused primarily around doing everything you can to enable your partner’s sales teams. 
  • What content could they benefit from to help close sales faster?
  • Are their email sequences or workflows you could develop to help the sales team nurture and close leads?
  • What about pricing sheets or helpful documents that show customers how to choose between a few similar products?
Again, discovering what sales enablement content might be most helpful to your channel partners starts with talking to them. Find out where their sales teams tend to get stuck, or where leads tend to drop out of the funnel. 
Then, look for ways to develop content and sales enablement materials that address those pain points in the sales cycle.

The more you empower your channel partner’s sales teams with the content and tools they need, the more sales they’ll be able to close, and faster. 

Provide Education and Consider Establishing Partner Certification

This is an especially useful channel sales strategy for manufacturers with partners who supply more than just your products. 
Think about it — if you had two very similar products in stock, one that you knew a lot about, and one that you didn’t, which would you talk about to a customer?
Probably the product you were comfortable with. 
When your channel partner’s sales team feels comfortable talking about your products with customers, those are the products and parts they’ll sell.  
How to get to that top-of-mind position?
Offer it up — the more education and onboarding resources you can offer to your partners, the better. 
How to get them to use it? 
Incentivize learning more about your products. 
One really common way to do this is to establish certifications or different partner tiers. 

How manufacturers can implement certifications to boost channel sales

GAF logo
GAF logo
One of my favorite examples of a smart, effective certification program for channel sales comes from  GAF, the shingle manufacturer. GAF has a special certification, its Factory-Certified Master Elite Roofing Contractors. This certification is only given to about 2% of roofing contractors in the US. 
What’s unique about their certification is that Master Elite contractors have exclusive access to top-tier products, and are the only contractors allowed to offer GAF’s gold-level warranty. 
For GAF’s certified contractors, being Master Elite certified is a clear benefit. They can offer better warranties and better products, which means more consumers who value a quality roof will seek them out. But, this incentivizing certification program also provides value to GAF. 
GAF-Master-Elite-Program
GAF knows that only their top channel partners — their Master Elite contractors — can offer high-tier warranties and products. These contractors have to take many educational courses and must provide a certain level of service. This helps GAF ensure that they’re protecting their brand’s reputation, while also helping them sell more of those top-tier products. 
While your certification program doesn’t have to be as involved as GAF’s, tying your educational materials to some sort of reward is a great way to show your appreciation for top-tier partners, and incentivize other channel partners to get educated about your products.

More than just showing your appreciation, these awards and rewards can also help boost your brand’s reputation, and get your name out there. 

And when your brand is the first that the end-consumer thinks of, you’re driving revenue, guaranteed. 

Implement Tracking & Reporting

It’s always difficult to track partner sales. 
Especially for manufacturers, it’s tricky to get a full understanding of how well your partners are doing, and which of your specific efforts are driving revenue. 
They’re not your books, so it can be tough to get the data and sales info you need to see what efforts are working, and which aren’t. Here are a few ways you can implement tracking and reporting to evaluate your progress and double-down on the efforts driving revenue. 

Tracking and reporting tactics

If you’ve already implemented other channel sales strategies, like setting up close communication with your existing partners, tracking and reporting become much easier. 

01. Ask your channel partners what’s working

The best way to figure out what’s working is to talk to your channel partners.
Surveys are helpful and can be implemented either on a quarterly schedule, or a few months after you implement a new marketing or sales effort. 
Make sure to ask your partners specifically which efforts they feel are driving value. If they’re comfortable, you can ask them to share their data collected from that new marketing campaign or sales enablement tool. 

02. Implement your own reporting

Though you can’t always get all of the numbers you want, your sales team and account managers can implement their reporting methods to track the success of your channel sales strategies. 
If your channel partners use a common CRM, their account managers can ask for view-only access to take a look at key performance indicators like conversion rate, how many deals have closed, and where those leads originated from. 
This should help you identify which of your efforts are working, and which might need a bit of finessing. 

03. Key performance indicators (KPIs) that indicate channel sales success

If you’re really in the dark when it comes to your channel partner’s sales data, there’s still a range of questions you can ask and data you can collect. 
Obviously, the biggest indicator of success would be an increase in sales. 
But, if you’re implementing new channel sales strategies, like helping your channel partners set up ad campaigns, email marketing workflows, and more, you want to know which of those efforts are working. 
Here are a few KPIs to look in on to determine what is driving your channel sales success: 
  • Average sales cycle length 
  • Percentage of partners who used provided sales and marketing materials
  • Percentage of partners who completed ongoing training
  • Partner satisfaction score — how they’re responding to your regular surveys
  • Percentage of partners who attempted, and who completed certification
HubSpot also has a full list of ways to measure your channel sales program’s success. I recommend checking that out for more ideas on tracking and reporting. 

Reward High-Performers

Have great partners? Let them know! Offer incentives to high performers and partners who close the most deals and do the best job of educating themselves, and their customers. 
While you don’t have to hand out cars like Oprah, incentives help you show your appreciation for the channel partners who are doing great work, and they also serve as an example for newer partners who might not be sure how to implement all of the great tools and channel sales strategies you’re providing. 
Let’s say you host an awesome industry event. Give top performers a certain number of free tickets. 
Or, offer exclusive materials or products to just top-tier partners. Thinking back to the GAF example I used earlier, you could make certain highly-technical products available only to top-tier channel partners, or you could simply provide extra support to those top-performers. 
Whatever you do, it is a good idea to reward your top-performing channel partners. The more your channel partners see that you’re there to truly support them, the more empowered they’ll feel to sell your products and parts. 
Channel sales offer many benefits to manufacturers, but they’re also notoriously difficult to track and manage. These channel sales strategies for manufacturers should help you get a better handle on how your channel partners are doing, establish strong relationships, and start putting marketing and sales efforts together that drive overall revenue for your manufacturing company. 
Struggling with your channel sales strategies? Talk to the team at Evenbound. We’ve worked with many manufacturers who rely on channel sales, and we’ve helped them all align marketing and sales efforts and grow revenue. We’d be happy to help you too. 
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