Chris Daffy came to see me the other day. He's been running a business that is doing very well and I wanted to know more about it. Chris owns a sales channel development company. He will take your product and match up the correct people/companies to sell it for you. He will then ensure that all the parties are talking and supporting each other. He is responsible for the whole process. I asked him how this business came about and he explained thus:
A few years ago my career took a sudden turn and I was at a loose end. Almost everyone I knew suddenly saw me as a resource to sell everything from meat to gambling tables. And as hard as I did or didn't try nothing ever came of it. I started to think about how can this process be properly managed to produce the desired results. And it really came down to a simple matter of training, support and communication.
Chris explained that there needs to be a proper commitment shown from both parties in order for this to succeed. All too often the company that has the product views this "channel" as a cheap way of getting their product/service (grandmother) to the market and they pay little or no attention to the person selling the product. The chances of this succeeding under these circumstances are round about zero (perhaps lower).
He's right – I have been courted by three different software vendors in the last three weeks, and all of them have wonderful products. They see me as a useful conduit to get their products out to the market. But they have no idea as to how to do this. What they do know is that hiring a sales team is an expensive operation. And so I have been sent 80 page reseller contracts that I have not read beyond the third page and have frankly forgotten what it is they are selling. They could of course make use of Chris Daffy (if he has the time for them right now) but if they don't then they might want to look at the following pointers (which are specifically BEE-related)
BEE is a GRUDGE purchase
If a client negotiates every cent they spend with me then why would they want to spend 10-20 times more than that on a software package? The answer is that they won't. And no amount of BEE sexiness is going to justify that expense. Which brings me onto the next point
These products are being used by corporates in South Africa – so there is a market
Help me sell this product by producing a proper value proposition. What are the cost benefits to the client? For example if your software package can save the company from hiring 4 other people then spell it out. Back it up with the necessary documentation.
Don't stop there. Create a proper support structure
I am a consultant who tries to SAVE my clients money in their BEE programme. If I am going to sell this programme/product I will need proper collateral, preferably with something that I might attach my brand to. The collateral must be up-to-date and must be written in a way that I am able to understand it and sell it. Yes I come from an IT background but that was a long time ago, I don't want to have to explain whether the SQL orange will frequent often with the VB Glaswegian warehousing (you get what I mean). On top of this make sure that there is someone who can come out with me to meet the clients to discuss the finer details – don't leave me floundering in the mire.
The sexiness of the product is not enough to get me to sell it
The chances are that as excited as I am when I leave your demo this excitement will fade very quickly as I get on with my core business. Don't send me a pdf'd presentation and reseller contract and think that I'll do anything with either. I won't. In fact all that shows is that you don't know what you are doing and that you view me as a cheap conduit to get your product to market.
What you need to do is invest some time in getting me up to speed. This will require training, on-site visits and anything else that might keep my interest piqued.
Understand why I may want to sell it
I consult, in other words, I sell time. There is a limit to what I can earn. I'm also a specialist in certain things that might not be attractive to other types of companies. I'm interested in broadening the types of companies or government departments that I can consult to. A sexy product might get me into those companies. On top of this it opens up a different type of revenue stream that might work for me for a few years. It also moves my profile out of the "elevator capital" sphere and into a business that someone might want to buy in the future.
I once met some idiot who thought that I could sell his company's products but part of the deal was that I followed his consulting methodology. Our relationship didn't last much longer than the first meeting. He didn't get me at all and just pissed me off.
You are going to have to do some marketing
Think about those products that use very effective channels, like insurance companies. They spend a fortune on branding and marketing so that when that painful broker calls you up he doesn't need to sell the Liberty brand – he just needs to sell himself. I am not going to expend time and effort getting your brand and name out to my clients unless you are willing to throw an equal amount or more in promoting your own brand.
Years ago I worked for a software company that sold Microsoft products. They would present products at Microsoft sponsored events for a variety of corporates. Why not arrange a nice breakfast where I get to talk about BEE related stuff and your product. We all win – it's just that you have to pay a little money to organise this thing.
The chances are we are going to compete in the marketplace
That's fair enough, a little ridiculous but fair enough. If this is the case then I want some advantage over you, like a preferential rate that allows me to discount or something. I also want some method of letting you know that I am talking to a certain company so that you don't go in there and destroy my chances.
Make it financially worth my while
I cost a fraction of a full time sales person. I will foot many of the costs that you would subsidise your permanent staff, things like travel, printing, telephone etc. The commission structures must be very attractive and clear. I don't want myself selling something and discovering that actually you don't pay commission on this or that. Also make it clear when and how you pay commission and what is expected from me to earn commission on renewals.
Have a lead programme
Because you are doing the marketing it's likely that companies will phone in and want to know more. An equitable lead referral system would help all of us. If I find out that you are taking all the leads then I believe our relationship will come to a rapid end.
Why not set up a mutual referral system
I'll be talking to my clients about you, so why don't you tell your clients about me. If you pay me a commission to sell your stuff then I'll pay you a commission to sell mine.
I believe that these are the most basic requirements for a channel programme. If you have this in place I believe we can talk, if you don't then call Chris – or I'll help you set it up for a fee.