Preaching the Sales Alignment Gospel
It seems just about everywhere you go these days vendors are reminding solution providers how critical it is to align their sales efforts with one another. Otherwise, the direct sales force of the vendor is likely to step on the toes of the salespeople working on behalf of the solution providers, which almost always winds up ending badly for all concerned.
Of course, this is only really an issue for vendors that have large direct sales forces. But for all the talk about alignment, there hasn't been much in the way of real best practices to help vendors and their channel partners align their respective sales efforts.
In that regard, Carrie Maslen, global vice president for Small-to-Medium (SME) Enterprise at SAP, has some insights worth sharing. The first is, of course, vendors should put a “hard deck” in place that actually means something. That means the accounts its direct sales force is targeting are clearly identified. That doesn’t mean solution providers won’t be invited to participate in a sales deal involving in one of those accounts, but solution providers that go after deals in this space without keeping their vendor partner informed do so at their own risk.
But beyond establishing those rules, Maslen said it’s incumbent on the vendors to reach out to their solution provider partners to show them the alignment of their respective sales efforts actually mean something to them. In the case of SAP, for example, Maslen said it creates “Blitz Days” where it invites solution providers in for a few days to leverage the SAP inside sales team to go after certain classes of customers. SAP and the solution provider partner together come up with the prospective customer list and then decide on what revenue number the two companies are trying to achieve during the blitz.
In addition, Maslen noted SAP makes available a broad range of online marketing tools, access to free demo equipment and personal sales coaching. And, just to top it off, SAP just announced it is extending zero percent financing for up to 24 months on the purchase of any SAP product on its reseller price list in 2015.
In return, however, Maslen noted that SAP expects its business partners to commit to co-developing business plans and develop their own lead generation strategies.
None of this, of course, goes beyond the realm of common channel sense. But given all the focus these days on sales alignment in the channel, it would appear that a lot of that common sense is, for the moment, in very short supply.