For OEMs, increasing brand awareness and encouraging partners to boost market share are vital goals. While increasing communication with loyal customers is a short-term tactic to boost revenue, revitalizing dormant partners is a key pain-point for OEMs and partners alike.
“White space” is defined by TSL Marketing as channel partners/vendors that have little or no track record with an account within a five-year period, according to a recent webinar. As a result, brand and partner recognition are equally non-existent. To better tackle daunting white space, Michael Kelly, Managing Director of TSL Marketing, EMEA and Asia, shared channel sales and marketing best practices during the webinar, titled “Enabling Partners to Win White Space Business Best Practice Worldwide.”
“We know white space is important to tackle, but that gets lost in overall campaign planning,” Kelly said. “When you’re breaking into these accounts for the first time, you have to take a long-term view to develop relationships. Sales teams have to work over time and spend that time to invest in accounts, and build credibility through marketing assets.”
Because white space partners are unaware of channel incentives and product information, sales personnel must be armed and ready to tackle longer sales cycles. Kelly noted that since approximately 41% of partners have insufficient sales and marketing ability, only the most versed teams are sufficient in this niche. Closed-loop reporting also is a vital asset to ensure that leads aren’t forced into a “black hole.” By building marketing resources and a guideline sales approach, channel lead gen teams can ensure that the most qualified leads are being passed to sales. In turn, relationships are built and nurtured more effectively.
“80% of white space leads are long-term,” Kelly explained. “There has to be processes to convert these leads over 6, 12 or 20 months.” Kelly further explained the strategic differences between “account farming” and “account hunting.” While most sales teams are versed in “account farming,” or communicating with existing loyal partners, “account hunting” is more holistic and strategic, leading partners to build credibility and trust over time.
In an effort to keep pace with more complex sales processes, Kelly recommends that OEMs define sales goals and milestones at each stage and ensure partners are matching said goals via reporting in a PRM or CRM system. Furthermore, Kelly reaffirms that partners must be held accountable for the successes — and failures — of initiatives.
“Because there are such long sales/marketing cycles, vendors have to be responsible for delivering on their end,” Kelly said. “If OEMs don’t have consequences for not reporting progress, you have a weak system.” Lack of reporting is a leading cause of channel discrepencies, leading to partner fatigue, campaign failure, and low to no return on investment, according to Kelly.
Top Tactics To Tackle White Space
Kelly cited research from Aberdeen Group, which indicated that 34% of companies believe their sales teams don’t convert enough leads to sales. To alleviate this inefficiency, partners must follow a robust system to effectively nurture and manage leads over time.
Kelly and David English, President, TSL Marketing, provided sales and marketing best practices to optimize white space and partner recruitment, including:
1. Implement a skill discovery workshop: Since not all sales teams have the skills or resources to tackle white space, OEMs must understand partner capabilities. Specific support and training are recommended, making marketing workshops (either end-to-end, one-to-one, or one-to-many) logical resources to encourage success.
2. Determine accountability and police it: Full, closed-loop reporting is vital to track sales and marketing progress. By enforcing accountability and analyzing participation, OEMs can accurately punish and reward partners as needed. This also will allow channel executives to report pipeline value and overall ROI.
3. Develop marketing items and content based on buyers’ journey: OEMs can ensure sales teams are armed and ready with company information by providing content relevant to each stage of the buying cycle. As a result, sales can send prospects information that is targeted to their industry/vertical and business pain points.