Credibility is about 2 two things: first - the customer believes that you will provide what you say you will and second - that your advice will be in their best interest. So they need to trust your product and your advice. In most cases, as a channel manager, you control the product but you don’t control how it will be sold. A great product sold to the wrong client for the wrong reasons will quickly destroy your credibility and that of your channel partner. Your end customer must believe that:You provide great products.The reseller will sell them the right product andThey will receive the level of support they believe they will need after the sale.If they do not believe these 3 things, they will not buy. Credibility is not only an issue between the reseller and the end user. Look in the mirror; does your reseller trust you? ...Completely? Can they depend on you to provide what you say you will provide? Have you provided the right information about who should use your product (or service) and why it’s the best solution? When they invest time and effort following your advice, does it pay off?
Without this basic trust, your resellers will hesitate to recommend your products, they will likely sell them to address the wrong problem or desire which will damage your credibility with other potential buyers.
Lack of credibility often shows up in lacklustre sales – which, perversely, is not as bad as it sounds because it means they are only trying to sell into well-understood, low-risk situations and you can work to improve from there. Lack of credibility also shows up in a high number of returns, damaged goods, complaints (both direct and on social media) and a reluctance to expand product lines, invest in demonstrations and floor space and unused market development dollars.
Assuming you are doing your job well, lack of credibility with end-users is almost always caused by having the wrong resellers trying to sell the wrong products to the wrong people. This is followed by resellers making promises that they do not keep. Promises about the product or service. Promises about timing. Promises about support. All of which often lead the reseller (and your product) being well and truly flamed on social media When you lack credibility in the eyes of your reseller, poor information flow is the number one issue. Stale information, inaccurate information, poor response time all create a lack of credibility and trust. This results in products being badly sold which frustrates the sales people and customer alike. Typically, the line sales person has no patience for late or confusing information and will not trust you to help them make the next sale. Line sales people have a choice about which products to sell and if you and yours are dodgy….
As with most sales issues, it starts with market strategy. You need to be sure that you have very accurately defined the market niche at which your product is aimed. And you must make sure that each reseller (and their sales people) know this. Not every reseller can sell to every market. Your resellers must have the right skills and attributes to be able to sell into the niches you have defined.Structure the sales engagement process with a series of ‘promises’ that you and your resellers will keep; “I will call you tomorrow at 10:30”, “The supplier will send you a sample by courier on Friday”. In short, create opportunities to demonstrate that you do what you say you will do.Help your resellers to collect testimonials and references - and use them.Monitor and measure the quality of communication between you and your resellers. Make it part of your corporate dashboard.Your resellers consume time, energy and money. Signing up, and supporting, a reseller is a significant investment and should have executive oversight. You should have at least 2 levels of approval before agreeing to invest in a reseller. And don’t grandfather your resellers – times change, people change, markets change, your products and services change – what worked last year may not this year. A whole bunch of ‘grandfathered’ resellers will sap your energy and kill your brand.Consider conducting a Kingsford Channel Survey to find out how well you are managing your channel and identify growth opportunities.
Resellers that can effectively establish their (and your) credibility will:Generate more word of mouth supportAttract other resellers to your brandRequest fewer discounts and freebiesBe less expensive to supportAnd, quite simply, sell more
Credibility is the third in a series of posts on improving sales channel efficiency and flow. It follows Engagement.