Scott Salkin, founder and CEO of Allbound, discusses how social and collaborative tools are reshaping the way in which organizations are approaching channel partnerships today.
How many of you are reading this on your iPhone while Alexa turns on your espresso machine and tells you today’s weather forecast, your FitBit reports how well you slept last night, and your refrigerator adds a carton of milk to your next grocery list? Ok, maybe you don’t have quite that robust of a setup at home, but it’s not farfetched. And the point is, all of these on-demand conveniences and capabilities are impacting our expectations in our business lives.
In most cases though, we as consumers have a very different relationship with complex technology at home than we do at work. In business it tends not to be as seamless and frictionless. We’re forced to jump through hoops just to get answers or support, make purchases, and find information ––things we’ve grown accustomed to being extremely simple in our personal lives.
This connection between social, mobile, cloud, and IoT in our personal lives is starting to significantly impact the demands in the B2B environment ––and this is challenging sales. Organizations with indirect sales strategies and partner programs are at a pivot point in which they need to adapt their processes or risk becoming obsolete.
Adopting a modern-day program
Today partners expect more, and rightly so. Technology has been the catalyst that has changed the way people want to consume and sell in the business world. Partners are craving the same, personal and friendly experiences they’ve grown accustomed to in their consumer lives mirrored in their business lives. Organizations that take the learnings from B2C ––for acquiring and keeping customers –– and use those as their North Star to adapt their partner strategies stand to gain a major competitive advantage.
To make that shift, it starts with meaningful and authentic engagement, based on the following “4 C’s”:
- Content – Beyond marketing and sales enablement tools, what content can you provide partners to help ensure success? B2C marketers have tapped into relevant blog posts, thought leadership, creative videos and social campaigns, ebooks, and the list goes on, to attract and provide value to their customers. B2B brands should be collaborating with partners on the types of content they want and need, and making it available on demand ––all to drive customer success.
- Collaboration – B2C brands have also excelled in opening up channels for collaborating with their customers, whether it’s to provide answers or problem solve ––and they’re doing in as near real time as possible. In that same vein, we as consumers have also been conditioned to being able to get information right away whether via Google or a live chat feature on a retailer’s website. Don’t make partners search around in a portal or file a ticket to talk to someone. Give them the ability to chat or collaborate with people in real time at the supplier level. Collaborating with partners, in real time, throughout the sales cycle improves success for all involved.
- Customer success – the definition of customer success will vary for every brand, but in a nutshell it’s ensuring customers are happy and their needs are being met. As consumers, when we bring a new piece of complex technology into our lives, we expect the brand to provide the on-demand education and troubleshooting tools needed so we can effectively start using it right away. Provide that same seamless success for partners with regular business reviews, coaching, delivering relevant content, or being able to answer their questions in real time.
- Culture – this is the bedrock of it all. Like any member of your team, partners want to work with companies who help them grow and feel valued, communicate regularly and effectively, and make it easy to conduct business. Organizations have kept their partners siloed and disconnected for decades thanks in large part to legacy technology and partner relationship management (PRM) platforms focused on management and control rather than collaboration and empowerment. Today’s partners won’t stand for it, and it’s up to you to ensure that the right culture starts inside of your business before extending outside.
Involve partners along the way
There’s no denying the most important aspect in partner relationship management is making sure your channel partners can sell as efficiently and easily as possible. Talk to them to learn how they would like to receive important information, learn about new tools, or get their questions answered. Maybe that’s via a real-time collaboration tools like Slack, or a cloud-based dashboard with on-demand information they can access anytime, anywhere.
Your end consumer is also driving the pace at which partners need information and answers. The faster you get that information into the hands of your partners –those on the front lines of consumer communication –the more successful they, and you, will be.