The Need For Leads
Solution providers want more end user leads. Here's what they can do to get them.
The message is clear - resellers and solution providers want more leads. Unfortunately, they're not coming in as quickly as many would like. Despite the lack of leads, many solution providers say they still look to the channel as a resource for generating business prospects. However, the shortage is hampering their efforts to boost profits and prepare for future growth. Vendors, on the other hand, have their own frustrations with lead distribution. Many vendors say they often don't get the follow-up they need from resellers to track the effectiveness of their leads programs. It's a complex issue to be sure, but is it a problem without a solution? Not necessarily. Despite the challenges, solution providers can follow a few simple steps to help improve the situation.
Develop A Leads Strategy
What's the old saying? "Plan your work, and work your plan." Let's face it, leads can be expensive to generate and vendors prefer to provide leads to partners who have a strategy to turn leads into buying customers. Here's a suggestion: develop your own "Leads Strategy". Don't reinvent the wheel. Simply develop a brief outline. What should it include? For starters, determine who will handle the leads you receive. Will it be you, one of your top salespeople, a business development person, or a new sales representative? What protocol will you follow? Do you plan to visit the prospect or just make a phone call? At the appropriate time, should you create a formal presentation or just wing it? How do you communicate your value add to the prospect? Hopefully, you get the idea. The bottom line: if you're serious about closing leads, here's your chance to demonstrate that commitment to your vendor partners in writing.
Many leads programs bog down because of a lack of communication regarding lead status. From a vendor's perspective, distributed leads can at times seem to fall into a "black hole," never to be heard from again. Many times, vendor leads managers are responsible for providing specific information about the status of leads they have passed on to the reseller community. If they don't get quality feedback from solution providers, they're left scrambling to provide answers and updates. As such, it stands to reason that they will distribute leads to those solution providers they know will keep them informed. It's simple: more communication, more leads. You may want to consider providing a detailed status report of lead activity to vendor partners on a regular basis (some provide you the capability of responding electronically). By doing this, you'll make vendors comfortable knowing that their leads are being worked aggressively. You'll also be providing the vendor with valuable research, providing a snapshot as to the overall quality of the original marketing efforts that generated the lead.
Of course, you would never recommend a solution that won't work for your customer. But if all things are equal, remember who brought you to the party, and represent your vendor's interests as well as your own. The quickest way to get out of the "leads loop" with a vendor is to sell a competitor's solution to your lead prospect.
Create Your Own Leads
Finally, solution providers should continue to seek new methods for building business in their own communities. It's just as important to effectively communicate your value proposition to potential customers as it is to communicate it to vendors.
However, finding the time, money, and human resources necessary to actually develop and execute a marketing plan for your company can be a challenge. Here's where the channel can work together to further its mutual goals. Many vendors already have programs designed to help solution providers create marketing programs. Typically, these programs offer template-based assistance, including direct mail campaigns, as well as telemarketing services, trade show planning, presentation assistance and more. These services are often relatively easy to access and activate and are typically available at affordable costs. For example, ScanSource offers a variety of lead generation tools created specifically for resellers to use in marketing for their end user customers. The most popular services include direct mail, telemarketing, and e-commerce enablement services. My guess is that if you communicate that you'd like assistance marketing their products with your own value-added services, they might be willing to help.
Ultimately for solution providers, the greatest advantage to being part of the channel is that they're aligned with partners who are committed to, and depend on, their success. If you don't succeed and thrive, your channel partners won't either. That's why regular and open communication is the most important tool for VARs who want to gain more leads. The more your channel partners hear from you, the more they'll think of you when it's time to pass along business leads, so don't be afraid to make your voice heard. Let the channel know what you offer, and the channel will have more to offer you.