Vendors are always looking to find ways to keep top of mind with their partners. One of the best ways to do so is to provide leads to those partners. By doing so you are not only getting the partner's attention, but also providing an opportunity to close business together and potentially give the partner additional services revenue as well. The challenge that most vendors face is how to distribute those hard earned and expensive leads to those partners they know will follow up on them and bring them to close.
To properly manage the lead distribution process to your channel, the following best practices should be adhered to achieve the best success:
- Employ a partner portal system to manage the lead distribution process
- Encourage your partners to follow up in a timely manner
- Do not provide more leads than your partners can manage
Lead Management System
Often times a vendor will send leads to their partners either as a one-off via email or during a conversation, or in bulk through a spreadsheet. Both provide immediate distribution to the partner however they lack one thing; the ability to report on what was sent. By not having one central system with the ability to accurately report what was sent and to whom, you will not be able to accurately measure the results of the leads, manage channel conflict (in case you resend the same lead to another partner) or track the effectiveness of partners on their ability to close leads in general.
As a vendor, look for a lead management system that encourages the partner to login to the system for the full lead information. By sending the partner complete lead details in an email you are removing any incentive for the partner to act in a way that can be measured. By requiring the partner to login to the system, they are forced to take a trackable action to access the lead. In addition, the vendor is able to build on that behavior by making it easy for the partner to utilize the system to also update their progress on existing leads. In addition, if the lead turns into an opportunity, the partner should be able to quickly convert the lead to a deal registration within the system, providing a closed loop process for both partner and vendor.
Partner Follow-Up on Leads
As anyone knows, the quicker a person can act on a lead the more likely the lead will be ready for at least a conversation and hopefully a next step in the sales process. By waiting too long the lead will become cold and the potential prospect may move forward with another solution. With a strong lead management system in place that requires the partner to note their process with the lead, the vendor can quickly determine how the sales process is going. If they see that a lead has not even been opened, they can easily revoke the lead and send it to a different partner. It is also a best practices to state the expectation by the vendor on the lead follow-up and what will happen to that lead if the expectation is not met. With most leads costing at minimum $50, it is too costly to not make sure that all leads are being pursued without delay and correctly.
Providing Too Many Leads to Partners
While we would love to believe that sending a bunch of leads to a partner is a great thing for the relationship, it is often not the right way of distributing leads if you expect proper follow-up and ultimately new customers. Those that are distributing leads to partners, whether it is the Channel Marketing Manager or the Channel Manager, must have a keen understanding of that partner's ability to follow-up (i.e. their track record), their key industries or target accounts, as well as additional details that one would find as they profile that partner. By mapping leads to a partner's strengths, you are more likely to have that partner understand the value of the lead and how to properly follow-up with the prospect. Without understanding their strengths, the vendor may be sending a lead to a partner who, while they can provide the follow-up, will not be as successful as another partner. In addition, if you find that you have a number of leads that do not truly match the strengths of any of your partners, it may be time to recruit new ones that can address the types of leads you are finding. (Having leads available is a great way to bring new partners on board and get them up and running quickly!)
Leads are very valuable both in how much they cost to obtain but also in their value to the partnership. By keeping in mind the best practices noted above, the vendor can develop a method by which they can provide leads to the best partners in a way that can show the entire process and eventual success.