The importance of indirect trade forces in today’s economy
After many years of managing indirect sales teams, it is always surprising to see that indirect trade forces remain generally poorly equipped compared to their direct counterparts. It does not make sense when both salesforces should be part of the same commercial ecosystem.
Sales is never completely outsourced to an external party; it is part of a strategically chosen collaboration model. Sales requires structure, a modus operandi, training- and education facilities, a marketing plan, a joint sales planning, all part of a collaborative partner engagement plan. Properly organized indirect channels can be powerful. Global tech and medical companies often make clever use of this. In many cases, it’s part of a strategic growth model because, with indirect channels, you can grow faster against lower selling costs. If you want to expand to so-called emerging markets, having a local partner is not only necessary; it’s often even a legal or regulatory obligation.
Although a collaboration model is essential, partnerships are about mindset as well. The vendor is often large and influential and works with a range of corporate standards and rules of engagement. Local distributors are usually smaller, often, family-based legal entities: companies with a country-specific DNA, influential in their region, an extensive network of potentials. All aspects to consider in a partnership.
At a time when most companies understand that their priority is to focus on their core activity, the temptation or need to outsource whole sections of service or products to outside companies (the famous world of subcontractors) becomes critical. These companies often act as assemblers of these services or products.
The last (sometimes forgotten) partnerships are manufacturers of parts working with OEM’s, for instance, as an innovation partner to incorporate more value in their products to end customers.
Partners are part of your business eco-system
You may have noticed that these types of collaboration seem to be characterized by a certain ‘dependency.’ Although equality or at least’ interdependency’ is incorporated in the word partnership, this is seldom the reality of things. Many collaborations are based on conflicting goals and objectives. Managing an effective partnership takes time, effort, and smart planning. Trust is something you create over time. The remedy is clearly to provide finite and integrated solutions rather than a myriad of components. Partners are part of your business ecosystem to reach the end-customer and should be considered essential. A partnership is about teamwork.
Let’s look at the direct and indirect sales team, for instance. The main question is:
Who has the lead?
Your indirect commercial force is in charge of the local mission, and your direct salespeople are responsible for prospecting your end-customers. Therefore, your partnership activity is vital if you want to win the larger deals. They are two very different professional activities, equally indispensable for the advancement of your business.
Is your indirect commercial force well equipped to meet the challenge?
The power imbalance that is so common in current day partnerships can block efficient cooperation. Therefore we like to challenge you to treat your partner the same way you would a customer. Equal partners, while not the same, recognize eachothers qualities. As you are then able to make use of eachothers strengths, and counteracts eachothers weaknesses, you create a synergy that adds value for the end-customer and thus a competitive advantage. Communicating about partnership ambitions is always a good start. Nevertheless, both your direct and indirect sales teams need to be equipped to support this strategy.
At Motion5 collaboration is one of our core values and therefore we dedicated an entire program to Partner engagement.