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Channel Matters Blog > June 2015 > Should We Require Channel Partners to Use Our Sales Methodology?

Should We Require Channel Partners to Use Our Sales Methodology?

by Rich Blakeman
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Here's a question I routinely get asked by channel organizations: "Should we force our partners to use our sales methodology?"

If you read my posts on a regular basis, you already know part of what I'm going to say. Partners do things for their own reasons, and you can't really force them to do anything long-term. If they adopt your selling process, it's because they see a benefit in it for their business.

That said, I understand why channel leaders ask the question. It's the same reason we standardize on a single sales methodology within our own organizations. As complex as selling is these days, it helps when everybody speaks the same language. And, a common methodology is vital when reviewing opportunities, assessing the funnel and creating forecasts. Without this common foundation, sales has almost no predictability.

So, how do we go about creating a common language between our organization and our channel partners to facilitate the process as we work toward the same goal?

Your Process is Not the Customer's
The first thing we need to accept is something that we talk a lot about with direct sales teams: Your Selling Process is Not the Same Thing as the Customer's Buying Process.

Customers don't care whether or not they've progressed in your selling process. They only care whether they've addressed the requirements of their buying process. If the two are disconnected, the sales professional may see the opportunity as "ready to close" when the customer thinks they're nowhere near ready to sign on the dotted line.

Figuring out the customer's buying process can be a real challenge. After all, it's not nearly as static as your sales methodology. Even if the account has been with your organization for many years, their buying process can change with every opportunity based on the buyers involved and the type of product being purchased. It can even change mid-opportunity as buyers come and go from the buying process. One of the hallmarks of world-class sales professionals is their ability to figure out the customer's buying process and map the sales process to it.

As if mapping two elements isn't hard enough, every channel opportunity introduces a third: the partner's selling process. A misalignment between your selling process, the partner's selling process and the customer's buying process isn't just unpredictable. It's complete chaos.

Realigning the Partnership
To bring everything back into alignment, you and the partner need to agree that the customer's buying process trumps any methodology they (or you) may follow. It's a principle we call customer core. That is, everything in sales revolves around the customer's journey: partner selection, our enablement process, marketing collateral, demand generation campaigns...and especially sales methodology.

While the principle may seem obvious once you dig into it, a channel manager with poor credibility can kill even the best message. Your channel team needs to have a certain degree of channel acumen in order for the message to get through. This is how the channel manager establishes the right to begin coaching partners as peers.

They also need to be working with their partners as true partners in the process. Instead of telling partners how "things will get done" they need to sit down and work through their challenges together. If you've followed the advice we gave in recent posts on channel discounting, demand creation and market coverage, you're well on your way to forming real, lasting partnerships with your channel.
Last modified on 6/29/2015 5:17:24 PM
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