Two Ways to Minimize Channel Conflict

Channel conflict is common. It happens when a partner or vendor’s interests come into conflict with another party’s interests. This is seen when one partner tries to poach another partner’s prospect, when pricing differs, when one partner finds out that the other is getting a better deal from their vendor, etc. While channel conflict won’t disappear, deal registration and other methods can help minimize it. 

Prospects are potential customers. They bring the money while partners and vendors offer a product that solves an issue they have. Prospects are so important that people fight over them constantly

Partners usually find prospects through their own network, through referrals, through their own marketing and through other sales and marketing techniques. However, it’s common for two or more partners to go after the same prospect. This often leads to channel conflict. 

What is Channel Conflict?

Channel conflict occurs when two or more partners bring the same prospect before the vendor. Who does the vendor give the commission to? Is the vendor’s direct sales team also after the prospect? How is the vendor supposed to navigate this? It’s complicated and there are no easy answers….if there even is an answer. 

So what do you do? Aside from trying to solve channel conflict, you can try to prevent it. But like trying to solve channel conflict, that’s also incredibly difficult to do. However, instead of trying to prevent it completely, you can try to minimize it. 

P.S. For more on Channel Conflict, see our previous post, Channel Conflict: The Ultimate Standoff – Can It Ever Be Solved?

Deal Registration and Transparency

While channel conflict won’t disappear completely, there are two ways to minimize it. 

  1. Deal Registration

Deal Registration is an important part of how partners make money. It’s a way for them to share leads and deals that they’re developing for their vendors. This process minimizes channel conflict because once a deal is approved, the partner has a certain amount of time to work the deal without interference from anyone else. Once that period of time has expired, then that lead is available for someone else to work. 

This process works because vendors can enforce that period of time. If another partner approaches a vendor with the same deal, the vendor can easily check to see who registered the deal first. The vendor can then enforce consequences for the partner that didn’t register the deal first. These consequences can range from the loss of money to ending that partner’s relationship with the vendor. 

  1. Transparency

Partners talk to each other. They compare notes. They talk about you. It’s in your best interest to be transparent about who you work with and why. 

Transparency involves clear communication. Communicate with your partners on a regular basis. Make any restrictions you have on region, market, product adjustments, etc….clear. Be clear about your expectations for the relationship and your goals for the partnership.

Communication is key to a good business relationship and channel partners need to trust that they’re playing on a level playing field. 

Transparency also applies to data. Do you know what your partners are doing with the content you give them? How many campaigns are they sending out? What are the open rates? 

Knowing this type of data will ensure that you know how engaged your partners are and which partners may need more support. You’ll be able to see which partners are registering the most deals, sending you the most leads and if they’re not a top tier partner, you  may decide to move them up. You’ll also be able to determine which partners need additional training in your product. If some of your partners have downloaded your quick start guide 10 times, then it might be time to schedule an additional training session on the product. 

You’ll be able to predict how specific partners will handle specific types of campaigns. For example, your partner on the East Coast gets good results with the video campaigns you send them while your partner on the West Coast handles email campaigns really well. In this case, you’ll want to give more of your video campaigns to your East Coast partner while giving the email campaigns to your West Coast partner. 

Knowing how many campaigns your partners have sent out, their open rates and other associated metrics gives you greater insight into what your partners do with the content you send them. This enables you to make better, more informed decisions and allows you to understand how your partners market your product. 

Conclusion

Partnerships are critical to your business and it’s important that your channel partners have a clear understanding of what markets and geographic boundaries and other qualifications they might be working under in representing your brand.

It’s imperative that you recognize that keeping the channels of communications open with your partners is essential. Establishing guidelines and setting expectations will go a long way in minimizing partnership conflicts. At the end of the day, treat your partners with respect, settle disagreements quickly and fairly and you’ll find that these actions will improve your relationships and business. 

How to make sure your direct sales don’t collide with partner’s deals

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

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

3 ways to improve your partner’s experience and 2 reasons why you should

Partner experience is more than your partner’s experience with whatever partner management platform you pick for them. Your partners talk to end customers and are more than happy to share their experiences and impressions about your company. So it’s important that your partners have a good experience and impression of you. The better your partner’s experience with you, the more likely they are to resell or recommend your products. 

What thinking about partner experience can do for you

Happy partners are better partners. Here are the top 2 reasons why you should improve your partner’s experience. 

  1. Drive sales

Partners who have good experiences with you and your products are going to sing your praises every chance they get. 

  1. Increase your reputation 

People talk. When word gets out about your partner’s amazing experience with you, you’re going to be the most sought after company for partners to work with. 

What should you consider when thinking about your partner’s experience?

  1. Consider the type of support you’re giving them

Many partners are small businesses, who often have just a few contracts and renewals. But with the changes in technology, these contracts and renewals are bringing in less and less revenue. These partners have little to no marketing experience and struggle to go beyond their personal networks. They need support and training to thrive in the new environment. 

  1. Is your content personalized for that particular partner?

Don’t throw every piece of content you have at your partner. Take the time to consider exactly what they need from you. For example, a partner who resells your products to the European market doesn’t need campaigns geared towards the South American market. You don’t have to be hyper personalized, but considering what your partner doesn’t need access to will make your content less overwhelming for them. It also reduces friction for your partners and makes your partner program stand out.

  1. Your relationship with your partner

Do you have someone who works closely with your partner. Does your partner know who to go to with any questions or concerns they may have? How do you respond to your partner’s feedback? Do you keep in regular contact with your partner? Having a good partner relationship is essential to your partner’s experience. Partners who are kept top of mind will keep you top of mind. 

How to gauge your efforts

How do you know if your efforts are working? Aside from your partners giving you feedback, there are a few ways to tell. 

  1. Revenue increase

If you track your partner’s revenue over time and it’s increasing, then your efforts are working. Your partners are getting the support they need from you and as a result, they’re able to do what they do best. Sell

  1. Partnership length

Has your partner been with you for years? Did they leave and come back again? Are they referring you to other partners? Long lasting partnerships are the best sign that your efforts are working. 

  1. Total number of partners 

Do more people want to work with you than before? Do they cite your partner program as one of the reasons why? Your partners don’t just recommend your products and company to customers, they also recommend it to other companies in the partner marketing space. Improving your partner’s experience, improves your relationship with them and other prospective partners. 

About Us

At xAmplify, we’ve kept partners top of mind. With our decades of experience, we’ve helped companies improve their partner experience by giving them a marketing automation platform designed for partners and by partners. Our platform solves the challenges that partners face and automates much of the work they have to do.