The outbreak of the novel Covid-19 has witnessed significant challenges for organizations. Many companies are acting fast to enable their employees to work from home so that business can continue to operate. The safety of employees and the business continuity for customers should be their top priority. In the midst of this, you should not lose sight of your channel partners. Partners are your extended sales force and your feet on the ground. It is the efforts of employees and the loyalty of customers and partners that will see vendors through these extraordinary times.
What can you do for your channel partners? What are the changes that should be made to respond to this turbulent environment?
Vendors should work hand-in-hand with partners to conduct a review of the existing pipeline. This will identify and execute cross-functional sales sprints for the most critical opportunities. Map out potential revenue, by products and by customers. This will help guide your investments and resource allocations to help your partners win. Define tactical sales promotions for your partners to make quick wins, where possible.
F1 teams are working out ways to use their engineering facilities to manufacture and supply ventilators during the Covid-19 crisis1. While not every vendor can change their products in a short time, vendors can look at how their products and services may address the needs of industries with growth potential such as medical. In addition, customers’ needs are changing. They are enabling remote working and shifting their business to online, as consumers switch to online shopping and entertainment.
Once opportunities are identified, build the sales play, sales enablement, and marketing content that your partners can easily access through digital platforms or partner portals. Enablement training should continue in virtual classrooms that can quickly equip your partners with the knowledge and skillsets to drive business conversations and accelerate the customers’ sales cycle for these opportunities.
‘Partners are your extended sales force on the ground’. This phrase holds true not only when you need your partners to advocate and sell your products and services, but in uncertain times like these. Just as you would communicate regularly to your employees with updates on the Covid-19 crisis, develop a communications strategy and plan for your partners. Share best practices on how you are preparing your employees to cope with the situation. In addition, assure your partners of the continual support you are providing. The key is to continue to engage with your partners. That is to say, show them you care.
If your company’s fiscal year ends after the month of December, this is probably the time you are running your partner summits to recognize the ‘partner of the year’ winners in different categories. On the other hand, if your fiscal year starts mid-year, you are likely to be planning your partner advisory board. The aim being to plan and make changes to your partnership strategies for the new fiscal year. Such large-scale events have now probably been cancelled. But nothing should stop you from holding these conferences via video conference. Above all, it is more important now to recognize your partners for their contribution over the past year to keep them motivated and focused on your brand. Likewise conduct your partner advisory board using online collaborative services, and facilitate networking among your partners to share their experiences and best practices on how they are tackling the crisis.
In summary, it is crucial that you address existing opportunities, build a digital engagement strategy with your partners very quickly, and provide digital platforms for your partners that would enable new levels of collaborations.