Lead tracking and reporting is a common problem for customers who sell through a channel. Passing leads to partners and asking for feedback is often a no-win situation. On one end of the spectrum, you get the standard refrain that you aren’t providing enough leads. On the other end, the quality of the provided leads isn’t very good. What’s missing from this equation is concrete information that can be used to improve the process and legitimize the feedback you are getting.
There are many reasons for the lack of cooperation by partners in providing feedback. The top two of this list are priorities and time. A distributor’s priority is immediate sales. Doing anything that doesn’t produce a sale for them is a waste of time. Add to this, the large variety of products available to sell from a broad range of distributors, and you can understand why they might be hesitant to spend an hour responding to your request for feedback, when they could be out making another sale.
To overcome the challenges related to improving your channel sales lead follow-up and get the feedback you are looking for, it’s up to you to reset their priorities in your favor.
To do this, the first thing you need to do is focus on the quality of the leads you are providing. When you’re first starting off, the onus is on you as the owner of the lead to do the heavy lifting in the qualifying process. This ensures any time spent by your distributors in lead follow-up is time well spent. This will reshape their opinion of those leads and increase their worth and the value of your relationship.
Once you have accomplished this, you can then focus on implementing a lead follow-up process that balances your distributors investment in time with perceived value of each lead. While simplicity is always better, the higher the lead quality, the more thorough your process can be. Integrating existing tools such as Salesforce.com or other sales tracking software are often seen as silver bullets. Unfortunately, unless all of your distributors already utilize these tools, adding one more system for them to update can be one too many. In these cases, a less sophisticated solution that uses email and links directly to an online lead record and bypasses the need for usernames and passwords can be much more effective.
With these two elements in place, you can then add incentives to your process to further encourage cooperation and participation. There are many ways of doing this including:
- Incorporating cash and merchandise rewards to individuals who provide feedback
- Linking the availability of new leads to your receiving the feedback of past leads
- Make providing feedback the easy path by integrating distributor management into the process
- Initiate a pullback or reallocation policy in which leads are given to another distributor if no feedback is received.
- Link feedback to potential customer communications (i.e., Let the distributor know that if they don’t provide feedback, you’ll go directly to the customer to get it)
Incentives play an important role in gaining buy-in to your channel lead management process, but they only work if the value of your leads are worth the time required to complete your process. In the end, building a successful channel lead management process requires that you have a firm grasp on your lead qualification process and can apply it consistently to the leads you deliver to your distributors and partners.