Carsten Reisinger - stock.adobe.
Reaching out to try and develop fresh customer relationships has become a major challenge in the coronavirus lockdown.
“Resellers would normally meet prospective customers face-to-face, use trade shows and events to meet them, but none of those options are possible at the moment,” said one source.
The result has been to develop digital marketing skills, with vendors pointing partners at a host of online tools to help them develop those techniques. Recent examples include Dell and IBM, which used the partner keynote at this week’s Think event to point the channel towards its free My Digital Marketing platform, which could help them put together campaigns to reach out to customers.
Even before the coronavirus hit, most vendors had started to develop digital marketing tools for partners to take advantage of and were signposting them as an increasingly important means of getting through to customers.
When Cisco launched its Marketing Velocity programme in July last year, the vendor made it clear that digital was becoming more important.
Boon Lai, vice-president of global partner marketing at Cisco, said channel partners needed to improve digital marketing to get greater rewards.
“The role of marketing is becoming more crucial than ever,” he said. “Companies that embrace digital and have a strong digital marketing practice see a 9.5% increase in revenue year-on-year.”
Skip forward to the pandemic and the shift towards digital has been accelerated, with many channel sales staff now taking that approach.
According to a poll of European sales leaders from Showpad, almost half (43%) saw enabling remote selling as their number one priority. That was accompanied by the twin challenge of increasing seller productivity.
In the UK, respondents said motivating and training sales teams was their third most important concern. There has also been a reaction to that, with vendors ramping up the online training and virtual certifications that resellers can put their staff through.
“Many sales professionals have been working hard to optimise how they work, sell and relate to customers,” said Jim Preston, vice-president, EMEA sales at Showpad.
“We’ve seen many sales executives raise their game, connecting with their prospects and excelling at staying relevant during a time when sales cycles may be longer and more stressful than ever. Now is the time for all customer-facing staff to come together and provide the best possible customer experience.”
One of the mantras of the current situation is to concentrate on existing customers – and that has also been a task for sales teams, with many resellers reporting that they are communicating with users more than ever.
That has also posed challenges for channel sales teams that need to be sensitive to the pressures faced by customers.
“All organisations have had to change how they work during this time,” said Preston. “Sales staff have had to consider how they maintain morale and pace, without being insensitive to the needs and concerns of their customers.
“It’s a tough challenge, but also a great opportunity to focus on collaboration, balancing the emotional and intellectual sides of sales, and defining what we mean by the ‘new normal’.”