Some of the largest resellers in the world have solidified and regularly train their sales teams on the latest in sales methodologies, often investing in a specific role to ensure sales motions are repeatable and measurable. At smaller resellers, the focus is much less on sales motions and more on delivery outstanding service.
For smaller partner organizations, a clear go-to-market sales motion is the last thing on their mind and usually the one thing that is underinvested in. Given the largest percentage of partners in the channel ecosystem fall into the latter category, it might be wise for your organization to solidify and train your partners on how to fully qualify deals before submitting them through your deal registration software.
By enabling your partners with the qualifying questions ahead of time, it helps ensure that when deals are registered and created in your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) they are fully qualified and can easily be converted into an Opportunity. Leverage groups, and specific user permissions to ensure that a Qualifying question document is front and center for sales representatives when they enter your partner portal to register deals.
We helped put together a list of questions your organization might use to help your partners better qualify deals before submitting them.
1) Has a decision maker been identified?
Let us be clear, the decision-maker is not always synonymous with the signer or Executive Sponsor of the purchase. The decision-maker could very well be the end-user of the product or solution being purchased. For example, a Security Analyst might be the person who decides on which SOC2 automation provider is being purchased, but the CISO, CTO or CFO might be the signer of the order form. Ensuring your partners know the difference between the two, and always seek to understand the two individuals involved in the decision will help make chasing down a contract much easier.
Keep in mind, in smaller organizations this person could be the same person. So, be sure to have your partners always ask for both the decision-maker, and the signer of the order form.
2) Has the budget been allocated for this project?
Let’s be very clear, finding an opportunity where the budget has already been allocated is like finding a Unicorn, it rarely happens. Often, especially if your channel partners are cold prospecting, the budget is not allocated so a business case or use case justification must be established in conjunction with the end prospect.
So, the trick to enabling your channel partners to quickly identify if a budget can even be allocated should a strong enough business case be built with the end customer in the first place. This is a complicated process, with no clear path to understanding but a good first step would be to look at the qualification criteria your own sales team uses. Can you transfer that knowledge to your channel partners via your partner portal?
3) Is this a one and done deal, or does it have the potential for growth?
For sales representatives working at channel partner organizations, most of their business is hunted; they are actively prospecting to find accounts to sell to. Successful channel reps know the key to long-term success is landing enough accounts, and then selling as much as possible into that account to build a revolving book of business.
The reason this question is so important is because it will ultimately help the partner decide whether they want to push for as much business up front and drive the TCV of the contract up as high as possible; or are they going to play the long game and upsell this customer for years to come. Knowing this upfront should help your channel partners understand how to approach this end customer.
4) Does the solution match the customer requirements?
For anyone who has been selling any type of product for any period, they know that inevitably requirements are exposed and only identified as the implementation process begins. The key is trying to mitigate the newfound requirements to a minimum and do as much discovery as possible up front before the contract is signed. This helps in a couple of different ways.
First, it allows the sales representative at the partner to increase the TCV of the initial deal by aligning as many solutions as possible to end customer pain. Second, it provides a great end customer experience because the customer signs the contract feeling like the channel partner fully understands their needs and is delivering the right solution. Finally, the more modules or solutions in place, the less likely the customer is to churn which is good for the vendor. The key is making sure the qualification and discovery questions that your team uses today are properly delivered to your channel partners.
5) Why should the customer change?
The answer to this question is not always obvious. When the Fax machine was replaced by email, the reason for the change was obvious (to most). When cloud-based Google Docs replaced installed Microsoft products, again the reason for the change was obvious (some still hold on to their yearly Microsoft tax). Maybe the end customer is in manufacturing and decreasing overseas production costs, so the vendor needs to replace a human with a robot. The examples of objective, measurable reasons for change are usually obvious.
The harder reasons to identify as motivators for change are often emotional. Keep in mind, that the inverse might also be true, emotional reasons might be trying to block or prevent change. If your solution is going to replace three headcounts, the Manager of those people might be pushing back on your solution knowing the impact it will have on their team.
Just keep in mind, as you are enabling your partners to understand end customer reasons for change that there will be subjective, and quantifiable reasons the organization should change. Then, there will be reasons that are nearly impossible to measure, even harder for the prospect to openly admit, and must be inferred through active listening and rapport building.
6) How will success be measured (hint – it’s in dollars and cents)?
This is one of our favorite questions we coach our customers to consider enabling their partners with when building their channel engagement strategy. Why? Because it’s quantifiable. Usually, a business will invest in a new solution to either save money or increase revenue. Solutions that talk about saving time, increasing efficiency, decreasing errors, etc. are using leading indicator language that ultimately rolls down to the bottom line.
Thinking back to question 2, if the budget has not been allocated then showing the executive team at the end customer how your solution can automate tasks, reduce errors and increase production leads to an increase in profitability will lead to budget for the solution being approved.
These are just the first 6 questions you should be enabling your partners to ask; the list is to be continued with another set of questions to consider. To know the next set of questions, visit the next in the series.