Channels Hungry for Market Insight

A new research report, ‘What Channels Need to Succeed 2012’ undertaken by the Leadership Foundation on behalf of The Channel Partnership, has highlighted improved market intelligence, better product and technology training and increased investment in brand awareness as the things channels need most from vendors to increase sales.

59% of the 250 channel salespeople questioned said that better insight into market trends, competitor activity and customer needs would have a high impact on their sales performance. This highlights the fact that channel sales execs need to be able to talk about more than just products and technology to compete in a challenging and dynamic market environment. Only increased investment in brand awareness, rated highly by 66%, was ranked higher in terms of impact on sales performance.

59% of channel salespeople also said that brand strength was the number one reason they would choose between two vendors with similar products, followed by quality of pre and post sales support (45%). The commercial terms offered by vendors were deemed less important, cited by only 36% of respondents.

In terms of vendor support, over half (51%) of the channel sales executives identified product and technology training and having good sales leads as most valuable. 55% said that receiving better products and services training would have a significant impact on sales. With the majority of participants in the survey selling technology products from more than 6 different vendors, it is perhaps unsurprising such emphasis is placed on good product training.

Just 8% of channel sales people rated the support they receive from vendors as excellent, while half said it was good – so there is room for improvement in many areas. And whilst 61% said they thought their marketing activities was aligned to their vendor’s marketing, 17% said it wasn’t and 22% were unsure.

The top three frustrations facing channel sales are inflexible product pricing from vendors (37%), lack of vendor support for individual sales (22%) and insufficient training and education for sales teams on products and technology (22%). Other problems included poorly managed conflict with direct sales, the lack of support for ‘go to market’ planning and failure to protect sales margins.

Channel salespeople want regular communications from their vendors, but not overload. 51% preferred monthly contact, 31% weekly and 17% quarterly. Email is the preferred means of communication for 73%, closely followed by face to face meetings. Just 10% said that social media was an effective way of communicating with partners, suggesting that all of those vendors investing heavily in social media programmes to engage their channel, shouldn’t neglect more traditional routes.
Phil Brown, Director at The Channel Partnership commented, “This research shows the channel is hungry for more information and greater support from vendors in product and technology training, but also improved market insight.

“It also highlights that technology buyers today are looking for different things from sales people. They don’t engage with them simply to get a demo and a price, they want advice to help them navigate the best technology options for their businesses. The vendors who enable their sales channels to have such conversations are more likely to be successful than those who focus on pushing product.”

“The challenge for many vendors is how to tap into the knowledge and insights about market trends and customer drivers that exists within their own organisation and deliver it to their channels in a useable format. Most organisations are sitting on a wealth of knowledge that could be incredibly valuable to their channel, however, they’re often not very good at externalising this knowledge.”

“Based on the findings we recommend that vendors review their channel enablement programmes and look at how they can provide greater insight and intelligence to support their channel’s sales and marketing activities. The channel is keen to receive this type of support so will respond positively to those who deliver it.”

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