With stronger competition than ever, it can be difficult for the channel to help their teams succeed in their sales proposals – here are eight tips to help you on your way
When the competition is rapidly evolving, it becomes harder for channel organisations to customise their proposal.
In the worst-case scenario, they may reach out to a prospective client, invest time in a demonstration, and arrange a proof of concept (POC), but without yielding any results. The client may postpone their decision for some time, before ultimately declining.
This article will explore eight top tips that channel organisations can follow to help their team succeed.
1 – Add value with certification programme
Organisations should ensure that sales team know how to position each product in the portfolio correctly, otherwise a client may have inaccurate expectations, which may result in disappointment for both sides.
Learning more about solutions they sell is an obvious piece of advice, but many channel organisations do not leverage certification programmes provided by vendors.
A good certification programme will offer data sheets, cheat sheets, educational videos and online quizzes to assess and build knowledge, while a great programme will offer a real person as an examiner during the whole certification period. This adds more value to the educational process as it helps to better test the knowledge and showcase product implementation under expert supervision.
As a result, pre-sales engineers are able to better identify customer challenges and POC the technology correctly, so that everyone can identify the most appropriate solution.
2 – Closely follow each prospect during discovery stage
Discovery stage is a very important, yet sensitive, time. Sales best practices tend to focus more on those who are likely to make a purchase, so many sales people treat customers with no real intent to buy as unimportant.
However, if sales teams show interest and are quick to respond to any question a prospect may have, the chances to identify all the challenges and close a far bigger deal than expected will be greater.
It is also advisable to maximise time dedicated to working directly with prospects. It may come at a price of a well-configured customer relationship management (CRM) system, or restructuration of the entire sales team, but it is definitely worth it.
3 – Identify the real need
One deadly sin of sales is being too pushy. A sales person who pushes to run a POC too quickly without fully understanding the prospective customer’s needs is likely to fail. Spending more time with them at the discovery stage is key.
A common problem is that many customers do not know what they need from the very beginning, so spending more time to learn about the real issues will allow sales teams to identify needs that the customers may not have even been aware of.
They should make sure to ask the right questions: What are the customer’s business challenges? What do they want to achieve as a result? What solutions are currently in use? Is there any competition for this deal? What are the mandatory features and what are just nice-to-have? All of this insight will ensure that time is spent wisely and will maximise the chance of a deal ending successfully.
4 – Build the relationship with a potential customer
Building a long-lasting relationship with a prospect is an investment in future deals. Many enterprises plan budgets in advance, and it may take some time before a prospect is ready for a purchase.
Developing a trusting relationship will allow sales teams to build awareness about their company’s offering and position themselves as an expert. They should be actively sharing free tools, sending invitations to seminars, and asking about their daily challenges.
What’s more, sales personnel should demonstrate that they can help the prospect through anything from a digital transformation to a compliance process. By acting as an advisor, the customer will be more likely to return to make a purchase when they have the budget.
There are often cases when so-called low-priority leads result in purchases down the line, all because sales teams spent the time raising awareness, offering trials and advice.
5 – Engage with the customer at the demo stage
Demonstrations are an important stage as they allow you to show how the product works in real life.
The key to success here is to demonstrate the exact use cases that the customer needs to solve. Sales personnel should engage with a prospect before a demo is held. They should make sure they know who is going to attend from the customer’s side and find out the pain points of each.
This will help the main point of contact and the sales engineer to plan the demo process in advance to highlight the most valuable features and show use cases that address these pain points.
During the demo, they should not hesitate to ask clarifying questions and have something extra to share such as customer references or additional interesting features. After the demo, it’s always advisable to follow up and offer to proceed to POC stage.
6 – Develop and follow definite POC plan
If a POC is not well managed it will run on endlessly. With this in mind, the sales team should carefully define the POC stages, its time frames, and success criteria. They can use the identified pain points as POC stages and show how the solution addresses each of them within the customer’s environment.
They should also fix all of the achieved results – for example, the number of identified stale or redundant files, the amount of sensitive data outside of a secured location, and the number of users with passwords that never expire. This will help both the sales team and their prospect to summarise their overall experience and consider if the POC was successful.
7 – Be responsive at the stage of POC
A prospect should never be left completely alone during the POC stage, as they might not be able to find the features they are looking for, leading to frustration and disengagement. It’s important to keep in touch to offer assistance and to prompt the client appropriately.
They should also respond quickly to all requests and make sure the prospect is satisfied with the answers.
8 – Offer additional benefits
When the POC is finished, sales teams should identify the options for upsell opportunities, taking time to write down notable details, such as main pain points and business challenges while it is still vivid in their memory. They should then use this information to define the scope of services that can be offered after the purchase.
This can include additional technologies, consultancy services, maintenance, compliance health check, and so on. The main idea here is to keep the relationship with the customer and remain a trusted advisor, who knows how to add more value to the business and is able to offer services that would perform best in the customer’s environment.
Completing a deal is a complicated process involving multiple stages, where challenges or obstacles can arise. The best general advice is to keep an open conversation with the customer and be ready to replace a solution if necessary. Ultimately, the goal is to keep customers and prospective customers happy, as happy customers will always come back.
By Ian Ashworth, EMEA channel director at Netrwix