According to new research, 89% of business buyers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. Many companies have started to embrace a more customer-centric approach to doing business. But what about your partners? What experience are you providing them?
If you’re like many manufacturers, you rely on a network of dealers and distributors to build a bridge between you and your customers. Just as customer expectations are on the rise, partners, too, have come to expect a personalized experience from you at every step.
Evaluate the partner experience
Distributors and dealers are the backbone of your business. They’re on the frontlines interfacing with customers — both to close deals on your behalf and to surface customer insights to help shape potential new product offerings. But, too often, partners are bogged down by messy email inboxes or multiple unfamiliar online portals not tailored to their needs.
Nothing slows down your partners more than constantly hunting for the right customer data or product resources. What’s more, dealers and distributors often have to wait for channel account managers to share performance analytics to understand how they stack up against KPIs.
For manufacturers, your partners’ success is tied directly to your own. But when they don’t have access to the tools and resources they need, no one can reach their full potential. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to reinvigorate the distributor and dealer experience to breathe new life into the relationship.
Enable partners and build demand
The distributor or dealer experience starts with a successful foundation.
When partners begin working with you, it’s important to get them ramped up quickly. Investing in effective onboarding is one of the best ways to ensure long-term success. Instead of publishing a myriad of training materials, create personalized learning journeys catered to specific partners’ needs. Help them navigate the nuances of your organization. Remember, they are selling for you, so they need to know you!
Beyond the onboarding and training process, you want to make it as easy as possible for dealers to communicate your value-add to customers. Offering pre-built, cross-channel marketing campaigns helps them do this faster while staying on brand. Sustain an effective partnership by giving distributors the tools they need to represent your business and build demand on your behalf.
Enhance sales and support
When routing leads, consider characteristics like distributor geography, expertise, program tier, and so on, to match prospects with the partner best suited to close the deal. Then, once your partners are in the sales process, they need real-time access to customer data — from any device — to serve your customers. They don’t have time to scavenge their email inboxes or wait for the information they need to close deals. Creating a smooth quoting experience is another way to smooth out the buying process for partners and customers alike.
Note that even when you provide training materials on demand, customers may need a mechanism to address follow-up questions and customer inquiries. Providing partner access to articles, FAQs, collaborative groups, and even live chat will ensure they keep customers informed and on track to purchase.
Manage performance and engagement
You have a symbiotic relationship with your partners. You likely have certain expectations of dealer or distributor performance, but oftentimes they are left in the dark about KPIs. Designing dashboards for individual and team performance is a great way to tune distributors into what you want and keep them on track for collaborative excellence.
To keep the lines of communication open, allow distributors to provide feedback, ideas, and competitive and market input to make sure they are engaged and feel valued. Give them the space to share their expertise. After all, you’re partners!
Are you a manufacturer who’s ready to create a partner-centered experience for your dealers and distributors?
Our ebook, 3 Steps to Transforming the Manufacturing Partner Experience, will guide you through the process of building empathy for your partners, assessing the current state of your organization, and mapping out specific actions you can take to fill any gaps. You’ll receive guided support to break away from partner maintenance and move toward putting partners at the center of your business processes.
It’s time to revitalize the partner experience. It’s time to help your partners help you.