By Wayne Monk, ASG Technologies Group
Extended sales teams are critical assets for vendors operating in a joint-selling model, bringing fresh talent and ideas to the organization’s sales operations. However, whether through partnerships or mergers, it’s critical that vendors equip those coming on board with proper knowledge of the solution and tools to sell effectively. One key tool in enabling external sales teams? In-house mentors.
Feeling confident as a new employee takes time and nurturing. To help partners achieve this confidence, vendors should provide their extended teams with in-house mentors. Supported by experienced guidance, tips on solution messaging and internal sales tools, external teams will be on the fast track to selling on their own and bringing in new business. Once that knowledge is passed on, however, the in-house experts must be willing to “take the training wheels off,” and help the partner feel prepared to sell on their own.
Harvard Business Review once reported that top salespeople are conscientious and achievement-driven, meaning they have a strong sense of responsibility and are fixated on achieving results. These personality traits shouldn’t come as a shock but should be taken into cautious consideration when nurturing new sales team members. Perfectionist-driven tendencies in the vendor-to-partner relationship can often lead to internal sales employees “mentoring” their partner teammates for far too long.
When sales teams fail to equip their external teammates to sell on their own, the investment in the partner program falls flat, and the sales team’s efficiency runs dry. Having two employees—both at the vendor and at the partner—working together for too long ultimately costs both companies more money, instead of bringing costs down. Productivity will be limited and, as a result, the channel program will fail to provide the business with an ROI, reducing future investments from the executive team.
To avoid over-training new employees, prep internal sales team members to be effective mentors and equip partner employees to sell efficiently, channel sales managers should consider the following tips.
Before onboarding an extended sales team, an end date to the formal mentor program should be determined. Throughout the mentorship, the sales manager, mentor and mentee should establish informal check-ins to ensure the mentor is preparing the mentee to venture out on their own by the end of the program. By enforcing a strict time frame on the formal mentorship, the new seller can set goals that help them feel less reliant on the internal salesperson’s knowledge, while the mentor can prepare to let go.
All vendor sales teams – internal and external – should be equipped with a reference sheet to help them feel confident during the selling process. This reference sheet, or battle card, should be a one-pager of information, outlining everything the team should know to present and sell the solution with confidence. It should outline what to say, where to go for more information and how to quickly find sales tools. An effective battle card provides insight into the business challenges customers and prospects face, the personas of the people that experience that pain, the solution being proposed to solve these problems, why that solution is best and the business outcomes they can expect to achieve – each supported by customer proof points. Additionally, the battle card should provide discovery questions to expose the pain, suggestions for handling objections and positioning against alternative or competitive solutions.
The vendor’s salespeople will have likely studied this sheet right-to-left and back-to-front by the time they become mentors. However, it’s critical to ensure the extended members of the team have access to the same level of detail. For partners, learning unique tips on how mentors have successfully tweaked product messaging can provide that slight, additional level of detail needed to sell confidently on their own.
Great salespeople are great storytellers. They understand how to hold a conversation and capture attention. The difference between the internal teams and those being brought on through the channel is that in-house experts understand the solution’s story, and have it perfected for a sales pitch. Beyond sharing tips and tricks from the battle card, sales teams should share their own storyline for the solution and help partners create a story of their own for the selling process. Painting the picture of the why behind the tool is critical for helping prospects understand how it fits into their business. Customer case studies that showcase business outcomes are great a way to help them craft a compelling story.
Not every deal turns into a sale, but salespeople will do everything in their power to ensure it does. As such, putting a deal into the hands of a newcomer to manage can be a hard task, due to the fear that it will increase the chances of losing the deal. Holding on too long can be costly and inefficient. It’s important to reiterate this to internal sales teams, to help them understand that while they might see their partner teams fail, it’s OK and that they failed once, too. Vendor salespeople do not close 100 percent of their opportunities either. While the deal may sometimes fall through, it allows the partner to learn what doesn’t work for their selling process and how to improve their own pitch in the future.
Being assigned the role of “mentor” in any instance should not be taken lightly. Being a mentor is both an opportunity for employees in any industry to empower others to excel, as well as prove their ability to be effective leaders. Vendor salespeople, specifically, have the unique opportunity to showcase their monetary value by influencing an external resource to sell effectively. They also can use the mentorship to showcase their ability to lead others toward success, without taking on the extensive responsibilities that accompany a managerial position.
Without an efficient vendor-to-partner sales program in place, vendors and partners risk a loss of productivity, and thus, putting their relationship on the line. Equipped with each of these key tips, internal salespeople can become true mentors, rather than helicopters. They can take off the training wheels and trust them to sell successfully.
About The Author
Wayne Monk is Senior Vice President, Global Alliances and Channel Sales at ASG Technologies and is responsible for establishing strategic partnerships, indirect channels and other key routes to market. Wayne has 30 years of enterprise solution sales, marketing and channel management experience with high growth technology companies. Wayne has held many sales and channel management positions with Seamless Technologies (acquired by Avnet), HP Software, Mercury Interactive, CA, MainControl (acquired by MRO and then IBM), and NCR Corporation.