So youíre a small but growing company, thinking about ... some reseller ... to push your ... Maybe youíve decided to expand into a new market where you donít have a ... Mayb
So youíre a small but growing company, thinking about establishing some reseller contracts to push your products. Maybe youíve decided to expand into a new market where you donít have a presence. Maybe youíve hit on a windfall Ė a company has come to you wanting to resell your products and they already have customers lined up! Or maybe you already have some reseller agreements in place that havenít been as successful as youíd hoped.
Thereís no denying that reseller agreements are becoming more prolific and are a great way to expand your sales reach and market penetration without having to invest in a large direct sales force. However, unless planned carefully, the road to reseller agreement bliss can be paved with pitfalls. Suppliers often complain of resellers who donít perform or who expect marketing dollars and sales leads handed to them without any return commitment. Resellers complain of suppliers who expect outstanding sales performance but offer little by way of incentives, support, and rewards. Both sides complain of opportunists looking for a quick sale, without any thought of long-term, mutual benefit.
The key to success is to structure reseller programs with the right vision, goals and rewards. Here are some guidelines to follow when structuring your reseller agreements:
1.Keep Your End Customer in Mind: Understanding the needs of your end customers will make the job of forming profitable partnerships easier. Start with some solid customer research and then identify what kinds of resellers will allow you to reach market segments most efficiently while providing superior value to your clients.
2.Establish a Program With Clear Guidelines: Companies with successful partnering agreements put some infrastructure behind them. Your program should clearly define the types of partnerships you engage in as well as the requirements and rewards for doing business with your company. You should also consider what goals you expect to achieve from engaging partnerships:
*What percent of your revenue to you hope to gain through reseller channels? *What markets do you want to reach with your partners? *What need can the reseller fill for the customer that you canít? *What value can you provide to your reselling partners?
Put some serious thought in to this, put someone in charge of the program, and consult your potential selling partners on development issues. Companies with large, established partnering programs put nearly as much effort into marketing themselves to partners and supporting those partners as they do their customers.
3.Require An Upfront Commitment: Opportunists are everywhere and both suppliers and resellers often make the mistake of focusing on quick sales. Instead, spend your energy on partners who are interested in a long-term commitment. Additionally, donít try to talk companies into reselling for you. Reluctant partners wonít do anything for your customers or your business. Start small with one partner who has an established business and a strong business model. Require training, certification, and forecasts to be sure theyíre invested in selling your products and helping you grow. Include partners in business planning and offer to help them with their business issues. In return, reward them for their performance. Once your model is in place, you can expand your partnering agreements to new segments keeping in mind that quality of resellers is always better than quantity.
4.Offer Rewards in Return for Sales/Profits: Partner program managers often complain about resellers who want them to provide money and sales leads with little or no upfront commitment. Prevent this by making partners prove themselves before offering up marketing dollars and customers. Quick and easy incentives for the resellerís sales force is another mistake some suppliers make. The best rewards will always be marketing dollars, product and training discounts, and support for the partner company. This serves to form a mutually beneficial relationship and keeps the reseller motivated to include your products in their long-term strategy. Partner programs with varying levels of performance and rewards work well as incentives. Most importantly, be consistent with your requirements and rewards, and donít make better deals with certain resellers. Your other partners will likely find out and there goes the relationships youíve been trying to nurture.
5.Build Strong Relationships: Your resellers may have agreements with other companies as well. How do you ensure that they focus sufficient efforts on your products? Make sure that you are the best supplier out there. Assign channel account managers to oversee those relationships and continually look for ways that you and your partners can help each other grow business. Resellers often complain that suppliers donít understand their business model and make decisions that adversely affect them. To avoid this problem, make sure that your channel managers understand the partnersí business model and take that into consideration when modifying strategy. A long-term relationship built on cooperation and mutual trust will bring a lot of rewards for both you and your partner.
6.Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: This is perhaps this most important rule in reseller agreements. Donít forget about your partners and always err on the side of over-communication. Successful companies use regular newsletters, emails, telephone calls, site visits and even annual conventions to stay in touch with resellers and keep them motivated. Remember, these are your business partners and they should be kept abreast of new developments, marketing efforts, and sales goals. Invested partners want to understand your business and how growing business for you translates into profits for them.
7.Measure Performance: Along with clear goals and expectations, you need to measure partner performance to establish results and rewards. All companies use reseller revenue as a metric. You might consider also establishing a scorecard system to rank your resellers and let them know where they stand in relation to other partners. Additionally, you should gather feedback about your performance as a supplier. Possible vehicles are reseller advisory councils or satisfaction surveys. You want to know what your resellers are doing for you, but you also want to be sure that you are the best supplier they have in terms of relationships, service, product quality and value.
8.Review and Revise Regularly: Letís face it, the business climate changes continually and a program you designed for partners two years ago may not cut it now. Successful partnering companies suggest reviewing the effectiveness of the partnership program every 1 to 2 years and make changes as needed. Including your resellers in this process will only help strengthen your relationships with them. You can also use this as an opportunity to let your unprofitable partners go and bring in new resellers that can better meet your goals and serve the needs of your customers.
The bottom line is that resellers should be treated as both business partners and preferred customers. By building strong reseller relationships, you will only enhance the value and service you provide to your end customers, thus improving your long-term growth and success.
Cynthia Bade is president of Carlson Bade Associates, consulting practice that helps companies foster stronger customer and partner relationships to increase growth and profits. For information about consulting services or workshops please email Cynthia at email@example.com or call 952-240-2161. Copyright 2003 Cynthia Bade