Channel conflict happens. It leads to commissions being lost, partners working with competitors and other consequences that ultimately lead to you losing revenue. One form of this conflict is between your direct sales team and your partners.
You’re creating conflict. Your direct sales team is interfering with a partner’s account or opportunity by directly selling to them. This undercuts your partner, makes them look bad and results in them losing revenue. It also damages your relationship with your partner and your relationship with the channel. People talk and no one wants to work with a vendor that undercuts their partners.
Unfortunately, we can’t prevent this. No matter what you do, someone isn’t going to get the memo and your direct sales team and your partners will step on each other’s toes. But, there are ways to reduce the possibility of it happening.
Ways to reduce conflict
- Keep them separate
Your direct sales team is less likely to come into conflict with your partners if they sell in different spaces. This can be done by geography or by product line. Doing it by geography lets your direct sales team and your partner sell in different regions. While they still may sell the same thing, they’re doing so in different places. Separating them by product line lets both your sales team and your partner sell in the same place, but they’re selling different products. Both of these methods reduce the likelihood of your partners and your team going after the same prospect.
- Turn them into a team
Instead of letting your sales team and your partners compete for prospects, make them work with each other. This is easier if you’re working with partners who complement your product. Let your direct sales team and your partners strategize with each other. They’ll see who’s involved with which prospect and come up with the best ways to present your product.
Allow them to swap ideas and train each other. Your sales team will have a better understanding of your product than your partner, but your partner may understand the market better. Let them learn from each other. It’ll build relationships between them and your partners will feel more comfortable going to your sales team for support.
- Find complementary partners
Instead of targeting partners who compete with your sales team, find partners who add additional value to your product. This allows your sales team to sell directly to prospects who want your product as a standalone offering. Your partners offer your product along with additional services or products to those prospects who want your product as part of a package.
Your sales team and your partners can then work together to sell to both groups.
- Register leads
Here’s a scenario.
Your partner speaks to Jane. Jane then comes and checks out your website. She downloads a whitepaper and her information gets sent to your direct sales team. Your direct sales team calls her and your partner finds out.
Your partner gets upset because they’ve spoken to Jane first. Your direct sales team thinks Jane should be their lead because she went to your website and downloaded a whitepaper.
Who gets the lead in this case?
Both your partner and your direct sales team have spoken to Jane. You don’t know what stage of the process Jane is in. She might be ready to sign a deal with your partner for all you know. You don’t want both your partner and your direct sales team talking to Jane. That’ll just confuse her and if that confusion turns into frustration, she’ll probably decide to go with your competitor instead.
Registering leads can lessen the chances of this scenario happening. When you register leads, you claim them for a set period of time. During this time period, no one else is supposed to sell to the lead.
This claim period ensures that the prospect is only talking to one person and lessens the chances of them being told different things and getting confused. It also lessens the chances of hurt feelings as both your direct sales team and your partner knows whose lead it is.
While you’re finding ways to reduce conflict between your partners and your direct sales team, don’t forget to make it clear where the boundaries are. Let your sales team and your partner know how opportunities are owned. Make sure it’s clear on how your partners and your sales team are compensated. Offer additional incentives to your sales team for working with your partners.
Conflicts between your direct sales team and your partners are unavoidable. You can reduce the chances of those conflicts happening by making sure your partners and your sales team are selling in different regions, by making them work together and by finding partners who add more value to your product. Having your sales team work with your partners may even expand the number of opportunities that come your way increasing you and your partners revenue.