How to Effectively Evaluate a Sales Channel Partner Part 2

Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this two-part article, we outlined the considerations needed to evaluate your sales channel partner’s ability to produce results in the pre-launch phase. In particular, we addressed key questions to ask about your sales channel partner’s recruiting practices, confidentiality policies, and steps taken to uphold your brand image.

In Part 2 below, we’ll suggest the key questions you should ask your sales channel partner to determine how they will support your program launch—and how they will continue to support your program in the long term. It’s critical to get answers to these questions at the outset so your expectations are aligned with what your sales channel partner is prepared to give.

Ask the following important questions:

• What are your goals and how are they expressed?  In our experience, the best successes occur when we are able to articulate sales goals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and then manage to those expectations.

• What does your initial training program consist of, and how is training provided in the long term? It’s important to understand how new salespeople will be brought into the program and trained, so you can be comfortable that the knowledge imparted is reflective of your brand and your company values. Pay close attention to the trainers themselves. Ask about their experience in sales training and find out how long they have been with the sales channel partner. The relationship you want with your sales channel partner is one of trust and confidence—and that should be reflected in the relationships the sales channel partner keeps with their employees and resources.

• What are your reporting capabilities? When it comes to reporting, you need to know exactly what is done with the generated reports. Ask your sales channel partner to explain when and how the sales management team will intervene to ensure that sales representatives are on track to produce the results that the program requires. Understand how conformance to your goals is tracked and managed—and how all of this information is shared with you.

One of the goals of this process is to track and measure the assumptions that were made during the goal-setting phase at the start of your partnering relationship. For example, if you assumed that it would take an average of three calls to close a sale, but the data shows that this metric varies widely by industry type, you must be provided with this information so that you can refine your assumptions accordingly. It’s when you get to the granular level of reporting that you can make actionable process changes that can tremendously impact your sales force’s efficiency and success—but none of this can happen unless your sales channel partner has a clear and consistent reporting process in place, and a communication plan to get that information in your hands.

• How will you keep my program information up to date and communicate those updates with the sales teams? Nothing about the sales process is static. When updates are made on the brand side, how does that information get translated to the salespeople? Are there refresher or advanced training sessions offered? If so, who is identified to participate in these? Follow-up and refresher training can be just as critical to the success of a project as the initial training, so find out what options are available to the sales teams in the long term.

• How is deployment managed?  Ideally, your sales channel partner should be prepared to analyze sales by target element (i.e., zip, size, industry, etc.), measure penetration and make recommendations based on that information. A seasoned sales channel partner will have the background and depth of experience to set you on the right path from the outset. This is just one of the many areas in which Experience Matters.

• How will we interact so that I am kept in the loop? A good sales channel partner deems providing its clients feedback and suggestions for program improvements as a top priority. Find out how your sales channel partner intends to keep you in the loop, whether through more formalized business reviews, one-on-one meetings with a single point of contact, and so forth—and ask about the frequency of these reviews. Keep in mind that the ability to have an open dialogue and information exchange can be especially beneficial to your program, as these discussions can often lead to new and exciting ideas and analysis.

And what about conflict resolution? If any issues arise, you should know whom to contact to resolve them and what the escalation process will be.
Asking the above questions will help you get a clear handle on your sales channel partner's process once the program gets underway. Posing them early on will better prepare you both to work cooperatively toward a positive end goal—and have the benefit of open communication and understanding along the way.

How can Netpique share our deep experience in the science of sales to extend the reach of your brand? Contact us today.