Crutches have remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years. The logic is simple: You use your hands and arms to balance and move. So when the iWalk 2.0 came onto the scene promising hands-free use, the brand expected users would have trouble visualising how it works.
Yet instead of directing the educational effort towards consumers, the company went a different way and focused on resellers. Partners were given comprehensive training on how to fit patients for the device, and how to teach them to walk in it.
The iWalk 2.0 has since won numerous awards and is now being sold in 30 countries, largely through external sales channels. The team itself only consists of five people.
What Is Partner Relationship Management?
There are plenty of businesses like iWalk whose success–or failure–is heavily contingent on the performance of external sales partners. Distributors, resellers, and franchisees become extensions of the brand themselves.
And as they’re practically part of the core business, maintaining a good relationship with these channels is crucial for driving sales and maintaining the strength of your brand across regions. Partner Relationship Management (PRM) as a practice helps brands establish trust, improve performance, keep communications open, and ensure partnerships remain mutually beneficial.
Why Is Partner Relationship Management Important?
It directly affects profitability
As the intermediary between manufacturers and end-users, external sales partners directly impact a brand’s bottom line. Low sell-through on the distributor side translates to fewer sales once the time comes to order again.
Active collaboration improves profitability for both parties. Brands who are willing to share valuable customer insights and coach partners are 63 per cent more likely to exceed revenue goals, according to a study by Accenture.
It minimises complexity
Your average business uses around 19 tools for learning. While that seems excessive at first glance, think about how you access training resources. While some companies are able to integrate everything under one eLearning platform or Learning Management System (LMS), many others source solutions from different vendors. Organisations also have complex intranets that host a deep archive of materials.
External sales partners have their own targets and operations to worry about; they won’t have time to wade through the sprawl. Through partner relationship management software, integrated with learning platforms, companies can grant direct access to the resources vendors need to move, market, and sell products.
It cuts excess costs
Relationships between brands and their external sales partners used to be one-sided. “They had a programme, you had to apply to belong to that programme and meet their standards and qualifications. You had to do what they said in order to be allowed to be in that relationship,” says consultant Ryan Morris of Morris Management Partners.
Today, the scales have swung to a more balanced tilt. Distributors and resellers see no shortage of options and can stand to be pickier about the products they carry. Businesses are spending more to acquire and retain partners. Through effective partner management, brands can reduce time and spend wasted on failed partnerships.
How Can Training Improve These Connections?
Faster onboarding, faster sales
Expediency is a premium when it comes to knowledge sharing between brands and their external sales partners. The sooner distributors and resellers receive the training they need, the sooner they can start selling.
Some businesses aren’t moving fast enough for their partners. “Speed can sometimes make or break a deal with a customer. The sluggish pace of onboarding is a known pain point,” says Sorina Codrea, a manager at the research and consultancy firm Deloitte. Timely training shows partners that brands are dedicated to helping them hit their quotas and maximise sales.
Rallies everyone under the same goals
Disagreements over objectives are a leading cause of failure in business partnerships. Another is a lack of clearly defined success metrics and incentives.
Sharing the company’s goals and vision for the business is a usual part of training. By understanding the driving factors behind a brand’s decisions and metrics, external sales partners can better align their own objectives with their suppliers.
Trust and transparency are integral in any business agreement, perhaps even more so when you’re working with third parties. Suppliers have to trust that their resellers are properly representing their brand. Distributors look for partners who are invested in helping them grow their businesses.
Providing training is a great way to secure loyalty. This is especially true if the product is of a complex nature, such as machinery or equipment. Better inventory management and troubleshooting skills are just some items on the wish list of buyers and distributors of technical products.
Eliminates branding guesswork
External business partners aren’t only salespeople. They’re your marketers and brand champions. When salespeople don’t know how to position your products or how to adapt promotions and materials to the local market, it damages your brand as much as it damages theirs.
Unfortunately, some businesses don’t make it easy to market their product, which causes friction. “The more difficult it is to get assets approved by brands, the less partners want to work with their brands,” says Gary Ritkes, president of marketing automation company, SproutLoud. Training programmes enable creativity whilst working within brand guidelines, and ensure the integrity of your core branding across different regions.
The complexity and competitiveness of today’s business landscape mean brands rely more heavily on external sales partners than ever before. No longer are distributors and resellers only a channel for profit. They’re also your brand ambassadors, customer support, and logistics partners. Good relationships lift the entire supply chain, not just your bottom line.
We’ve spent over 20 years providing training for external sales partners, and have seen firsthand how it can strengthen buyer-supplier relationships. Contact us today if you’re interested in seeing what training programmes can do for your own external sales network.
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