It’s not easy being an independent sales rep or agent. They sell a range of projects, provided by a half-dozen or more companies, that all want them to focus on their particular product line. There are only so many hours in the day, and only so many clients a rep can talk to. So how do they decide which product gets top-billing?
That’s what you’re faced with as the Sales & Marketing team selling through the channel. How do you get more than your fair share of attention from your agents?
One approach is to strive to be the Emotional Favorite,
particularly if you are up against larger competitors. While it’s fair to say that most sales professionals are motivated by money, there can also be a strong preference to sell for the company that they like
. Becoming that emotional favorite – being a company that is easy and rewarding to do business with – requires a focus on several areas:
Product & Pricing
. How easily can they get help? Does someone always pick up the phone, or respond promptly to an email? Do they have a connection with one or more specific support people at head office? When they provide a quote to a client, can they be sure that you will protect that client relationship, and not undercut them on price, or give the info to a competing agent?
Contracts & Commissions.
By default, most contracts favor the Vendor. They include clauses that allow you to pick house accounts; reduce commissions on a whim; terminate the agent quickly, without cause; and many others that give all the power to the you. Differentiate yourself by making the contract clear and even-handed; provide for a soft-landing on termination, with a sliding payout schedule; and make the rules on house accounts and variable commissions, crystal clear. If the agent knows they can rely on you to pay fair, transparent commissions, you’ll win a lot of good will.
Dropping in twice a year to run a “lunch and learn” doesn’t cut it anymore. Agents want to receive training on the go, or at home in their off-hours. Make training available online, optimized for mobile devices; provide it in bite-sized chunks, and provide tracking, certification, and incentives to complete modules.
Follow the FAST principle – F
imple to understand and T
ied to objectives. They will be most effective if everyone believes that have a shot at winning, and the rewards are enticing. Travel is a great motivator for one-off contests with a large budget. A series of smaller contests can use a points-based system, which allows participants to dream big, and build their balance to attain their ideal reward. [Read more in this White Paper – Designing an Effective Sales Incentive Program
Each of these factors, managed properly, will resonate with an agent who is being pulled in many directions. As you build your reputation as a fair and responsive business partner, you’ll find that more and more of your sales channel team will be thinking of your products first when they’re talking to a client. And that means hitting your sales goals will get just a little bit easier.