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As I travel the country working with our top tech indirect sales channel firms, one thing is apparent: The rules have changed. Within the indirect channel, these companies are no longer simply distributors; they have developed independent identities, offerings, and value propositions for customers. They have built strong brand recognition through various methods that better position them as reliable providers nationally, regionally, and locally.

In the past, many sales providers had an established relationship with a customer’s purchasing or procurement office, and used that to win business. That method still has its place in today’s world, but it’s only part of the overall strategy. Partners have expanded that circle of influence to include the CIO/CTO/CISO and even the line of business leaders.

Our channel firms work with more than just procurement because they know that they are selling more than a product or service; they are selling a business solution for customer’s needs. Involving multiple decision-makers early in the solution design discussion increases your chance of a sale by gaining the buy-in of key leaders. Partner programs traditionally supported this process by providing documents indirect sales could co-brand or make their own — but that’s simply not enough any longer.  

We are seeing a continued increase in networking — both traditional and digital — as a sales strategy across many industries. For example, while crowd funding was unheard of 10 years ago, with the evolution of digital communication it’s now a viable opportunity for small start-ups to find success without traditional investors.

How customers are acquired and retained by indirect sales channels is a new game, and savvy channel sales teams have found that they needed to create and lead a robust social media strategy in order to sell more. They know the core buyer profile has shifted towards Millennial buyers, and so has the way these buyers educate themselves — in their social media circle.  

Simply existing on social media platforms doesn’t help you sell — it only helps potential buyers verify that you exist. It’s more than a corporate brand posting motivational tweets or updating your LinkedIn profile and liking your connections’ posts. I’m describing a purpose-driven, sales-focused social media plan. The winners in this sales relationship game have built a very specific real world strategy to connect, communicate, engage, and win using a robust data set built with artificial intelligence from social media channels, and managed continually using their Salesforce tools to maximize their funnel.  

As a vendor, my teams are using this trend to offer benefits to our indirect sales channel to help make a sales driven social media strategy easier to execute. We offer packaged marketing development funds (MDF) that include developing, launching, and running a program for social sales — where you have real tools to demonstrate measureable impact. We encourage our channel firms to take advantage of MDF to better educate potential customers. Quality content inspires peer-to-peer sharing.

Incorporating social selling into your strategy goes far beyond simply knowing who switched jobs on LinkedIn. It does not mean a website is going to replace sales. It won’t. Think of it as a value-added enhancement, but not exploring it can negatively impact your business. It knits into the very fabric of demand generation for our channel providers, and is the difference moving forward between thriving versus just surviving in sales. Here are a just a few simple examples I have seen recently work:

  • Yelp review: “No Wi-Fi in this restaurant chain — skip it.”
    Opportunity: Partner sales for guest Wi-Fi solution.

  • FB post: “If you are in a hurry, don’t go here — lines are out the door.”
    Opportunity: Partner sales mobile point of sale (POS).

  • LinkedIn: WSJ article share — a firm is moving 1,000’s from remote to HQ.
    Opportunity: Partner sales of new technology to headquarters to aid in transition.

When buyer trends point to an increase in using online channels, can you afford not to compete digitally? This is why incorporating social selling and digital engagement into your business plan is critical for channel partners.

Simply existing on social media platforms doesn’t help you sell — it only helps potential buyers verify that you exist.”

Janet Schijns | Vice President, Verizon Solutions and Sales Channels (Formerly)

Learn More

The 7 Sales Skills That CAN’T Be Taught By Dan Ross,
Sr AVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce
Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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