Nearly all B2B executives say channel partners are critical to their sales strategy but less than a quarter of them feel they have control over how the process works, according to a research study from Accenture.
The consulting firm’s report, ‘B2B Customer Experience 2017,’ includes global responses from more than 1,300 people who showed just how difficult it’s becoming to reach and satisfy prospects and customers.
While using value-added resellers (VARs) and consulting firms has been a common practice for years, the rise of digital options to purchase and use many products and services is making the management of B2B sales channels more complex, the report suggests.
For example, 61 per cent of all B2B transactions now begin online, according to Accenture, while 90 per cent of survey respondents said they never respond to “cold” outreach through e-mail, phone or other channels from someone they don’t know. That means relying on third parties, the report concludes, but only if you can truly orchestrate them effectively,
“Distracted by building extensive partner networks to increase selling opportunities, they’ve missed the critical balance of picking and managing partners who can leverage customer insight and use it to deliver better experiences,” Accenture said.
Jason Angelos, managing director of Advanced Customer Strategy at Accenture Strategy, told B2B News Network channel partners are eager for the same level of customer insight, sales support and coaching that B2B brands endeavor to bring to their direct account-based marketing and selling.
“The key to this pivot is a selective approach,” he said. “(It’s a matter of) recognizing which existing partners will help fulfill the volume game of legacy business, and which have the capability and ambition to help extend customer experiences and drive next generation growth.”
Most B2B organizations use some form of customer relationship management (CRM) software to mange their own sales staff, and partner relationship management (PRM) for channel partners. Analytics can connect, enrich, and correlate customer insights and extend sales and service recommendations to select partners, he added, potentially via visualization-layer extensions of CRM/PRM, said Angelos. However he also said they may need to consider investing in channel data management (CDM) tools to better organize the way they work with VARs and other extensions of their own teams.
“CDM can help re-establish the trust quotient between channel partners and providers,” he said.
In terms of metrics, the Accenture report says B2B firms should work with channel partners to deliver faster response times and 24/7 availability, given that 71 per cent of survey respondents said they want a more B2C-like experience. That also means fostering better collaboration between sales and marketing, Angelos added, given that marketing teams guide key investments like market development funds.
“The path to connected growth includes a segmented approach to partners, a portfolio view of market development, promotion, and incentive investments, and a pivot away from traditional channel management,” he said.
The time to act is now: 49 per cent of those surveyed by Accenture admit they are failing to deliver on the experiences their customers want.