Customer Experience

Why CEX Thinking Stimulates Indirect Sales

As much as we may wax on about engaging, enchanting and delighting our customers, most of them are not expecting such an experience. In most cases, their purchase is prelude to something else pleasurable (in the case of B2C) or profitable (in the case of B2B). They want to get what they need and go.

If there’s some service they’re purchasing in addition to a product, then experience becomes very important. In many cases, though, what they really want is a frictionless buying process — one that requires very little effort on their part and, ideally, little on the part of the vendor.

In order for any of that to happen, the vendor must lay a lot of groundwork. Making a purchasing process seem simple is a complex task. It’s even more complex — but far greater in importance — when you’re selling through an indirect channel.

Easy Does It

Making a direct sale frictionless requires a vendor to make ordering easy, fulfillment quick and well-organized, payment straightforward, and delivery speedy and free of complications. All of that points in one direction: from the seller to the buyer.

The indirect channel has all those concerns and then some. Resellers need — and in almost all cases, are required — to engage in training. They may request and are certainly urged to use marketing tools made available by the vendor. They have their own schedules for delivery that must mesh with that of the vendor.

These and many other issues specific to the indirect channel mean that the direction of activities goes two ways — and the vendor no longer has sole control of making transactions frictionless.

In the channel, the most frictionless vendor often is the winner. Resellers have very little time to deal with vendor issues that complicate their lives — every second spent hassling with a vendor is a second not spent selling or servicing. Many resellers work with multiple competing vendors, so the vendor that gets the biggest wallet share is usually the one that makes life easiest for its resellers.

See Yourself Through Their Eyes

If you’re a vendor, how do you make yourself frictionless? It’s likely that your company already is examining how to do this in direct sales. Someone in the organization likely has been tasked with viewing the customer lifetime through the customers’ eyes, examining how each process either makes the experience better or worse.

Sadly, this is rarely transferred to the indirect sales world; channel programs often exist as an almost vestigial part of marketing or sales, and they are treated as though they have nothing in common with customer experience as it relates to direct sales. So stop doing that — make sure that your customer experience efforts include the channel.

Making indirect sales frictionless is not just your customer experience manager’s job. Make sure that your channel managers are doing what your customer experience professionals do regularly: Examine what it’s like to do business with your company from a reseller’s point of view.

The Right Stuff

At the very least, visit your own portal and experience what it looks like to a reseller partner. If your channel is of any size, your portal should be helping smooth your reseller partners’ experiences by automating the delivery of most of the information they need to sell and support your products.

There should be one-stop, automated tools for delivering marketing materials, training, sales support and news, offered in an easy-to-navigate way. Most portals aren’t that good. The result is friction and frustration for your reseller partners — and a lot of phone calls to your channel managers, and a miserable experience for both your partners and your personnel.

In a direct sales environment, a good customer experience keeps customers loyal. In an indirect sales environment, a good customer experience encourages your reseller partners to introduce you to more end customers and, ultimately, to put more money in your pocket. If you’re not applying customer experience ideas to your indirect channel program, you’re losing potential customers, partners, cash, and the competition against your rivals.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is director of content marketing at Relayware. Bucholtz is also a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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