Enter the Advocate Zone – Tips for Engaging Channel Partner Reps.
Here’s the thing about developing channel sales advocates—you’re doing it wrong. Okay maybe you’re doing some things right and your channel sales are going okay, but your program can certainly use a boost. Reaching your full channel sales potential requires turning reps into advocates. Before we dive into the best practices, it’s time for some Merriam Webster. “Advocate” is defined as “one who defends or maintains a cause or proposal.” That’s pretty strong stuff. They’ll defend the cause or proposal, in this case your brand. That’s what you want. Channel partner reps that will defend and maintain your brand because they understand your merits and know that you stand behind your products.
Another way to look at advocacy is to think of it as the next step beyond “awareness”. Your indirect sales force might know about your products, but do they know about your brand in the broader sense? Do they have a sense of your company culture? Do they know if you like salt with your margarita? Ensure you present your company to Reps in a way that answers the big and little questions, so that you control the way your brand is presented.
So how do you get your Channel partner reps to reach this state of advocacy?
Talk to me Baby
Channel reps are busy. They might be encountering issues with your content or product, but maybe they’re minor concerns and they just don’t have time to reach out. You need to take the lead and ask for feedback on your product, the overall market, and how you can work together for mutual gain. Respect their opinions and take action on their requests and you’ll start building an advocate relationships.
Open lines of communication can improve results for both parties in this relationship. Not only do you need to communicate, but you need to be timely and provide contextually-significant dialogue. When you have a new Channel partner rep, don’t just overload them with massive amounts of data sheets and other information. Focus on the relationship and the bigger picture of what your brand can offer for their customers. Be specific about why your company stands out from the crowd. Communicate often with condensed and relevant information to keep it (and your brand) top of mind.
Performing surveys is great but consider asking the hard or silly questions in order to grab the reps interest. You can ask “What makes you crazy about our product?” or “If our service was an animal, which would it be and why?” These types of questions might elicit some more in-depth and insightful responses than standard survey questions. Surveys can bring about advocacy because you’re actively listening. People inherently like other people that are engaged listeners who know how to contribute to a conversation and know when to be quiet and listen. Try to get your brand to be the person at the party that everyone wants to talk to and everyone is talking about. “Oh you just have to talk to Susan, she’s the best!” Be Susan.
Everyone Needs a Little Support
Solve your Channel partner rep’s problems, and you’ll increase their chances of becoming an advocate. This means providing impeccable support to the end users and the partners themselves. Answer questions quickly and fully. You want the channel partners to have confidence in your support team, so if a complex question arises, they don’t panic. Instead, they say “my person will handle it,” and then you do. Do some self-reflection to see how your support group represents your brand. Can they be reached through various communication methods? Is higher-tier technical support readily available? Asking these questions again shows you care about the relationship and are focused on being sure your brand stands out.
Extend your support to helping them close deals. If the difference between someone being a prospect and a five-year contract customer is a simple phone call, then be sure your team knows when to make that call.
We Got This
Bringing your reps up to advanced advocate status is possible through our Optimize95 platform. Why the 95? Because it’s our own version of the 80/20 rule, but in channel sales you’re likely getting the most revenue out of just five percent of your partner reps. Optimize95 pushes the other group of reps to perform better and ultimately become advocates. It offers instant communication with reps so you have the visibility you need into the sales funnel. We add gamified learning they’re engaged with your content, and then we put some loot and cash into the mix with our mix of personalized incentives. The platform is designed to move channel reps to that fabled advocate state.
All of these tactics come together as a goal to get channel partners to understand your firm on a deeper level. To do this you must be authentic with them in terms of your offering, your content, and your communication. The term “authentic” is overused in retail and restaurants because it’s “inauthentic authenticity”. Building a team of advocates cannot be faked or forced. You need the real stuff, which you can get through transparent communications, stellar support and engaged listening.