On some level the recent Channel Meet Up event, held virtually, served as a microcosm for the challenges and tribulations that every business has had to endure since the pandemic struck us all so hard.
Originally scheduled as an in-person experience featuring good food, great networking opportunities and even better informational exchanges, The Channel Meet Up had to completely revamp its way of working. To reach what was already a “switched-on” but now sequestered audience, the CMU had to go online to become available. And after months of planning, it had to swap out its agenda in favor of topics that no one could have envisioned a short time ago. In other words, it had to adapt.
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During the opening panel hosted by Peter Thomas of E2open; other executives featuring Larry Walsh of the 2112 Group, May Mitchell from Cylance, Jennifer Judy at Poly and Sandra Glaser Cheek from Channel Chief, talked about the reality of the day which is that channel sales and marketing initiatives need to be reimagined, redirected and repurposed if they are to remain relevant and effective tools.
As a Business Development Director focused on sales incentives (both within the channel as well as with direct sales audiences) the session got me thinking about the important things that apply more today than they have ever before.
Here are just a few of the points I took away after listening to such an esteem group chat about some of the challenges we are all confronting.
1) The importance of adaption
We are clearly in unprecedented times. No one knows what tomorrow will look like. Each day calls for flexibility and fluidity and channel program planners need to remain agile. At the very least, they need to understand what their target audiences are going through and adjust the various measures and hurdles they set to match today’s reality.
They also need to think about how their reps are perceived in the marketplace—one that is overwhelmed with fraught and worry. Forget about what your program’s “structure” looked like pre-pandemic, it’s time to consider the current climate. Should you reexamine your program’s goals and objectives? Yes, of course. Should strategies be more short-term (vs. longer in length) to address the here and now in a contemporary fashion? Most likely. But here is the big question: Should your programs focus more on behavior than they do revenue? “Yes” with few exceptions. In fact, the panel agreed, that in most situations a move to motivate “behavior” made the most sense right now.
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2) Consider this: Reps who are not helping may be hurting
Never, and especially never during a crisis, do you want your organization to be perceived as self-centered or tone deaf. Of course, representatives who lead with their own agendas are creating exactly that impression and are damaging the brand along the way. Those who lend a “helping hand”, do just the opposite.
Salespeople who conduct themselves like they want to help (vs. wanting to close a deal) are more likely to have successful client relationships—not to mention better quota numbers—in the end.
Now, more than ever, reps need to understand their clients’ pain points. They need to be good, empathetic listeners. Quite frankly, its what their clients need more of. In today’s climate, the difference between success or failure will come down to the rep’s ability to create a “helping value proposition”—one that not only communicates how something works, but how it helps.
On some level that’s basic selling. But its also the part of the process that some reps have forgotten about. Finding pain points, thinking of products as solutions and merging all their client’s spoken and unspoken fears into a professional (and personal) solution is an old, but timely model.
Why bring sales 101 into the conversation? Because during the outbreak, channel programs must help reps focus on the fundamentals and that means using the tools and techniques that work.
3) Enablement is the new currency
Some might say enablement is where preparation meets motivation. There are organizations better equipped for the shock of COVID19. They had, and continue to have, the resources in place to not only survive the stretch, but to thrive during the lockdown. However, most companies were simply not ready. To survive, not only do these partners (and their reps) need to rekindle dormant skills, they need to learn new ones.
Selling and presenting via video, for example, has reshaped the way reps interact with potential customers. It is time to concentrate them on the winning skillsets that they either do not have or have not thought about in some time (if at all).
Ask yourself, how are their virtual skills? They may know how to use Zoom, but do they know how to make an impact during an online meeting? How are they at handling online discovery sessions? Have they learned to “read a room” now that its morphed into heads on a screen?
Times have changed and the ability to inspire a rep needs to keep pace. Motivating by the numbers or by changes in behavior are two options. Presenting volume thresholds or pushing online learning skills and/or finding a value proposition that is predicated on helping their clients are just a few ways vendors can offer a type of highly segmented, “market-based” incentive plan to their partners.
Programs that are current and useful will get a lot of play in the new environment—and they will help distinguish one sponsoring company over another within the channel’s eyes. That is why when motivating channel reps its important to keep their circumstances in mind and push them toward behaviors or outcomes that make the most for their situation. It is also why the dialogue at the online Channel Meet Up was so spot on!
To discuss how we can help build and implement new channel sales and marketing initiatives within your business, contact us today. Or check out how we have successfully implemented reward solutions in these businesses.