Success hinges on having the right tools

Kimberly King, Vice President Global Strategic Partners & Alliances looks at digital intelligence and was to improve work flow using IT.

In these challenging times, businesses are having to adapt quickly as they find their footing. Partners and vendors alike are having to rethink how they can best support customer needs, while grappling with their own set of challenges.

Businesses need reliable partners now more than ever. To solve their problems, customers need accurate, up-to-date information on the best solutions, at the right price-point. With customers demanding more, partners must act as trusted advisors. They need vendors who offer a range of products to fit diverse customer needs and budgets, and the tools to deliver an outstanding customer service.

In the same way customers are having to modernise, so too must vendors and their partners – creating new digital tools and embracing new ways of working.

 Smarter tools enable lead generation
AI and automation are transforming almost every industry, optimising repetitive and labour-intensive tasks. For channel businesses, digitalisation poses an opportunity to drive efficiency and deliver a superior service to customers. But vendors should help them with this – equipping their partners with smarter digital tools and automated solutions for better performance in a competitive marketplace.

Channel marketing campaigns, crucial for boosting lead generation, are one area where this optimisation is most needed. According to one survey, 8 in 10 partners say they’re committed to investing time into learning more about marketing, and have experienced increased business growth as a result. But vendors must offer a helping hand. Some have started to adopt through partner marketing automation to make it easier for partners to access and use brand-approved marketing materials for lead generation.

There are plenty of other areas where automation can be leveraged to better support partners. Vendors should really think outside of the box, considering where they can address their partners’ pain points. For example, analytics can be used to expediate the quoting process, generating a market driven price straight out of the gate and reducing the back-office cycles spent by the partner and establish a fair value benchmark for the end customer.

Upskill your sales team with online training
Understanding a product inside-out is key to finding and providing a solution that best meets customers’ needs.

At a time when customers are increasingly turning to their channel partners for consultancy and advice, your sales team should be able to analyse a customer’s challenge and put forward a solution that fits. Technologies that are built on an agile architecture, that allow for modular usage across a variety of use cases, customer types and sizes, aides in helping sales and presales teams to build true expertise. Incorporation of partner IP can also make an offering more unique and ensure it delivers the highest possible value.

I believe partner training tools should be just as robust as those used by vendors internally. A good vendor will provide readily available resources online and on-demand for their partners. But an even better vendor should provide meaningful, engaging and informative online content. They should enable partners to sell a product more effectively and leverage their unique domain expertise to provide industry insights that will position partners as thought-leaders in front of their customers.

Working smarter, not harder
At its core, the channel is a people business – and while that certainly won’t change, vendors and partners are having to quickly re-evaluate how they connect with each other and with their customers. My advice is to identify and collaborate with forward-thinking vendors who offer a suite of intuitive digital tools that make your sales team’s job that much easier – then make sure you’re leveraging those tools to work smarter and faster, not harder.

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