The Crucial Channel Sales Strategy You Can't Get Wrong

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 @ 10:10 AM

Our business is different.
Our salespeople are really good. 
We have a sales process. 
We sell consultatively. 
We don't have a sales force - we sell through a channel.

Those statements represent the 5 most inaccurate things we hear every day from executives before they become clients.  I say they are inaccurate because each statement is invariably proven to be incorrect after we evaluate their sales force.  If we take the 5th statement, break it apart, and make it two statements, then I could make a case for each being a true statement, but not when taken as a single statement of fact.  They "sell through a channel" is very easy to agree with.  They "don't have a sales force" becomes easy to agree with because channel salespeople are quite often among the weakest salespeople we see anywhere!  But there is a larger, more important issue with the channel statement. Whether or not you currently employ channels as part of your goto market strategy, you must understand this one crucial strategy which, if you get it wrong, absolutely sabotages your results with a channel.

Executives tend to believe that there is a major difference between selling directly to their customers versus selling through their channels. In reality, what is it that is so different?  When selling directly to a customer we’re trying to persuade them to buy what we sell.  When selling through the channel we’re trying to persuade the channel reps to sell what we sell.  The commonality though, is that we are trying to persuade them to do something.  Whether it's buy what we sell or sell what we sell, the only real difference is where the money ends up coming from!

The answers to "why you should sell more of what we sell" and "why you should buy what we sell" are similar.  Their respective reasons for taking action may be different, but the overall sales approach is identical!

The problem is that most companies view their channel salespeople as channel managers despite the fact that the channel managers don't actually manage anybody or anything.  The title reinforces inappropriate beliefs, behaviors, activities, messaging, questions and outcomes.  How would things change if their titles changed from channel manager to salesperson in charge of getting reps to sell more of our stuff?

Let's not disguise what we expect our salespeople to accomplish. Providing them with superficial titles that make them feel important, but mask or change expectations, does a huge disservice to all.  Call them what you want them to be! 

I don't write about channel sales nearly as much as I should, especially where so many of our clients sell through channels.  If you want to read more on channel sales, you might enjoy this article about the 10 biggest problems with channel sales.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, selling tips, sales revenue, channel sales

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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