The Lead is Here! And Now? Lead Opportunity Management in The Lead Process 

Katharina Krus
CEO & Managing Director of leadtributor GmbH. We support companies in managing their multi-level sales in a transparent and targeted manner.

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Lead Opportunity Management - How Marketing and Sales Work Together to Win Customers

"Marketing is the New Sales" was the title of a recent article in Forbes. More than ever, marketing is expected to make a clearly measurable contribution to a company's success. Colorful pictures were yesterday! Today, marketing is expected to deliver measurable results. But what is measurable?

And what is the role of marketing and lead opportunity management when you are not working with a "typical" sales department, but with sales partners - in other words, when you market your goods and services through distribution partners?

How is your customer supported by the sales partner?

Content marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, SEA ... ways and means to generate prospects are becoming faster, smarter and easier. It is becoming increasingly rare for customers to go first to a specialist dealer, installer or car dealership. Far more often, customers research on the Internet and land first on the websites of manufacturers. And then? 

Study of the Gartner Group:

Anyone who forwards leads to sales partners loses a lot of money! Because only a maximum of 30 percent of all inquiries are processed at all! The result: a lack of revenue and a lack of control over the customer journey. But how do you design the optimal customer journey through the sales channels? Digital, automatic, self-learning and intelligent with digital lead opportunity management!

What does lead opportunity management in channel mean?

What do all distributors want? That's right! Customers delivered on a platter, if possible. And without much effort. But even if the manufacturer had such addresses, there is the problem of distribution. Because what in direct sales is the handover to sales colleagues, in indirect sales is the distribution of leads to sales partners.

Once a lead has been developed into a genuine potential buyer (opportunity) according to criteria to be defined in advance, it is often referred to as a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This is usually passed on to sales immediately. If the sales department accepts the lead and begins to process it, we speak of a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL). Implementing these definitions is not a problem in most companies with direct sales, as marketing and sales often work together on a technical platform (CRM).

But how do you organize the processing of leads with sales partners? They are not part of your own organization. And manufacturers and sales partners hardly ever work on a common database. This is the reason why there are rarely well thought-out, coherent and efficient processes for customer care between manufacturers and sales partners. But they are eminently important for positively shaping the customer journey. Why? Because the name or contact person of the sales partner who does not follow up at all, or does so much too late or poorly prepared, is quickly forgotten.

The manufacturer's reputation, however, is damaged if no one or the completely wrong person introduces themselves to the customer. Consider this: If you request a test drive on Mercedes' website and no one answers, whose name will be damaged? That of Mercedes Benz or that of the dealer who should have contacted you?


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Why is Channel Lead Opportunity Management so important?

Lead management is understood as a holistic process. In this context, many experts speak of a 360-degree view of the customer. The customer's behavior is recorded, collected and evaluated in order to optimize communication on this basis. Algorithms (scoring and rating) analyze where the customer stands in the buying process and what steps need to be taken. Until then, companies work hard to provide customers with the right information at the right time via the right channel. Signals that indicate the customer should be handled sales-wise lead to a handoff to sales. And now? When an inquiry is handed over to the sales partner, the transparency gained up to that point usually comes to an end. But transparency is extremely important right now! If you know what the result of the negotiations with the partner is, you can react to it. In the form of follow-up programs (Nurture Flows).

Why is the Cooperation between Manufacturer and Sales Partners often difficult?

No matter how intensive the sales partnership, the interests of the manufacturers, the distributors and the resellers are very different in some respects. Ultimately, the manufacturers want maximum transparency and the resellers want to give out as little information as possible. Why? The reseller is often afraid that he could be "passed over" or "booted out" in the further initiation of business. This is especially often the case when manufacturers operate indirect and direct sales side by side. The same applies to access to resellers at distributors. Accordingly, distributors have little interest in giving manufacturers insight into their sales activities. But how do you still get transparency into your channel activities?

Manufacturers who are thinking about how to organize their lead and opportunity management with channel partners should definitely consider the following 9 principles. All these principles are considered in our product "leadtributor"! Let us explain them step by step!

(1) The "Good Deal" Principle

In general, of course, every reseller only gets involved if it is worthwhile. Effort and benefit must be in a very positive relationship for him. For this reason, the lead and opportunity management process must be designed in such a way that the leads are of the highest possible quality. A well-founded qualification of the leads is therefore usually indispensable. The partner must always have the feeling that dealing with the prospects (leads) is worthwhile for him. It makes no sense to hand over any downloaders of white paper material to the channel unprocessed. Lead management stands or falls on the quality of the leads. A good lead opportunity management tool should therefore ensure that qualification steps (e.g. telemarketing) can precede distribution to the sales partner.

  • TIP 1: Do not give leads to distributors who are not qualified. Clearly define the qualification criteria. What information must necessarily be determined to become an interesting inquiry for the sales partner?

(2) The Principle of Honesty

When acquiring new sales partners, manufacturers often promise the partner that they will regularly receive "hot" leads or will be supported in generating them. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. If anything, trade show contacts, downloaders or sweepstakes entrants are distributed to channel partners. But nothing is more demotivating than following up on cold or uninteresting addresses. Partners do this a few times and then the motivation to follow up on vendor leads plummets to zero. But beware: some partners are even willing to process such addresses. The only condition is that they want to know where the inquiries come from and with what expectations they should approach the leads. That is why it is very important to provide as much information as possible about the lead. Is this a "hot lead", a "trade show visitor" or just a "white paper downloader".

A little tip: As a general guideline, the longer the body text in the comments about the prospect, the more attention the partner will pay. It simply has to do with the fact that the partner has the feeling with long continuous texts that someone has intensively dealt with the lead and that it is not a "collected" business card or a "white paper downloader".

  • TIP 2: Introduce the principle of lead temperature. Always tell your partner honestly whether you think this address is hot, warm or cold. And please be open and honest! If you use motivation systems, you will disproportionately reward the processing of cold leads.

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We will show you how to create a digital lead management cycle with your sales partners, specialist dealers, installers, distributors, sales representatives and field sales force - completely automated.

(3) The Principle of Laziness

In the relationship between manufacturers and sales partners, there are almost always processes that need to be followed. These are often mapped via web portals or other connections. But beware: Some resellers are partners of many manufacturers. In addition to their own systems such as ERP, CRM, etc., a large number of portals and tools from the manufacturers quickly come together. Resellers would have a lot of work to do if they had to constantly feed all these portals. For this reason, lead opportunity management must be designed in such a way that the reseller has de facto no or only minimal additional work. At best, it must even be fun.

Good lead opportunity management tools offer 3 ways to work with the partner on leads

  1. 1
    Webclient– A foolproof and intuitive web client that requires no training, demo or manual.
  2. 2
    App– If possible, also use an app that allows resellers to access your leads from anywhere in the world (from a cell phone or tablet PC) and provide feedback on them.
  3. 3
    E-Mail If the partner does not want to use any tools to retrieve or process leads, he should be able to do this in his e-mail client. He receives html e-mails that are provided with feedback options so that he can easily participate in the opportunity management process.
  • TIP 3: Make it as easy as possible for your sales partner to pick up leads. He doesn't have to attend any training or read a manual to do it.

(4) Principle of Push/Pull Distribution

Leads that are distributed via telephone, fax or e-mail are difficult to manage. Because the question arises: Who took note of the lead and when? Does the sales partner even want to process the inquiry? Is the sales partner on a business trip or on vacation? How do I give the customer feedback on when a partner will get back to him on his inquiry and who will it be?

This is where most lead opportunity management approaches have big gaps. If you offer leads, you have to be 100% sure that a partner will deal with them immediately. The only way to do this is through the so-called push/pull principle. How does this work? No partner gets a lead. He has to pick it up. If he does, you know: he's taken note of it, he wants it, and he's working it. Escalations ensure that no leads sit for long. Of course, the partner can be informed via e-mail when leads are available. He should also be able to define when he wants to be informed, how extensively, how often and for which leads.

  • TIP 4: Do not distribute leads. Let the sales partners pick up the leads!

(5) The Principle of Competition

Manufacturers want to ensure that a lead is processed quickly. Of course, you can't do that if you give the reseller the lead unconditionally. That's why lead opportunity management works best where pressure is built up. How? By offering leads to a number of resellers. The principle is first come, first served. You should make resellers feel that it doesn't matter when they pick up the lead and when they process it. If they're not fast enough, someone else will have it. If they don't process the leads properly, they won't get any new ones!

  • TIP 5: Competition stimulates business. Try offering leads to a group of channel partners. Whoever reserves the lead for themselves first gets all the details about the lead. The lead is then no longer visible to all other resellers. Reward the fast and diligent resellers.

(6) The Principle of the Perfect Processor

In most cases, leads are distributed to sales partners according to criteria that are not very comprehensible (sympathy). Purely objective criteria rarely play a role. Optimally, those partners should have access to the lead who are best suited based on their qualifications. Professional opportunity management CRM systems should have an intelligent matching mechanism that calculates the optimal partners for the request. Expertise, certifications, partner level, sales success (conversion rate) or regional proximity could be relevant criteria. These criteria should be freely definable. Allocating leads according to objective criteria enables a fair equal distribution and increases motivation. Many partner programs offer "exclusively" to the top (premium) partners the passing on of end customer inquiries (leads). This sometimes leads to smaller, for the premium partner less interesting projects, landing with him. Very often these inquiries are poorly followed up or not followed up at all, while smaller partners would be very happy to receive such inquiries. So make sure that your criteria are not too strict and that your customer gets the best reseller for his request.

  • TIP 6: Ensure that an inquiry is handled by the "perfect" sales partner. Distribute leads according to objective and traceable criteria.

(7) The Principle of Carrot and Stick

Of course, every partner wants red-hot leads. The sales partner is less happy to give feedback on the status of lead processing. No sales partner wants to be constantly kept in the loop. So the question is: how can you force feedback, or in other words, how can you prevent channel partners from burning a lot of leads? Moreover, you don't want to punish partners only, but above all you want to motivate them. Accordingly, a perfect system consists of both: carrot and stick! Powerful opportunity management CRM systems prevent leads from being picked but not processed. Intelligent processes (processing queue) force the partner to provide feedback on leads so that he continues to get leads. If he does not do this, he can see new leads in the pick list, but cannot reserve them for himself. Only when certain feedback has been given can he pick new leads again. On the other hand, motivation is a big driver. Motivation systems, with which points can be collected in order to get hold of bonuses or additional budgets, additionally support the Lead and Opportunity Management process in a very positive way. Conceivable options are the "development" of MDF budgets, additional discounts or rewards (Miles & More).

  • TIP 7: Partners who do not provide feedback on lead processing should not be able to reserve new leads for themselves.

(8) The "All in One Boat" Principle

One thing is very clear: lead opportunity management becomes especially complex when you have many participants in the lead process.
* Qualification, advertising, or telemarketing agency.
* Distributor (sales and management),
* Reseller (sales and management),
* Manufacturer (partner account manager, sales management, management)
have partly different motivations and points of view. For this reason it is crucial that all parties involved in this process work together in one system. Good tools for lead opportunity management must be able to map even complex sales systems. For example, each partner account manager can monitor his territory or his sales partners, each distributor his resellers or even each reseller sales manager his sales staff. All data should be regularly synchronized with the manufacturer CRM.

  • TIP 8: Let everyone involved in the lead process work in one system. Ensure maximum transparency of the relevant data!

(9) The Principle of Push/Pull Reporting

One of the most important tasks of a well-designed lead process is to create transparency. "Who does what, when, how," is not only there to measure the partners, but most importantly to optimize the partner's vendor support.
Important KPI's like:

CR = Conversion rate

ADT = Average Deal Time (how long it takes a VP to close the deal)

ADS = Average Deal Size (how long it takes for a VP to close the deal)

etc... are important indicators for analysis in partner sales. Reports that show which partners are hard-working but weak in closing deals provide concrete support for those responsible in partner sales. But beware: Reports should not be complicated and require time-consuming retrieval. Rather, these analyses must be offered at regular intervals (e.g. 1x per week) to all parties involved (with the respective section on its data). The following applies here: You do not have to pick up the reports - they are delivered. If you want to know exactly, there are plenty of in-depth options on the web.

  • TIP 9: Do not pass leads to channel partners who are not qualified. Clearly define the qualification criteria. What information is mandatory to be identified to become an interesting inquiry for the channel partner?

If you follow all these principles, it is of course not guaranteed that all partners will then snatch the leads out of your hands and give immediate feedback.

But two things are certain:

  1. 1
    You get the transparency you need to react quickly and manage lead processing optimally
  2. 2
    You convert significantly more leads to business

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In summary: Digital Lead Management Software is Also Needed in Indirect Sales

When companies market their products through sales partners, they must become part of the company's lead nurturing process. Otherwise, you risk marketing processes going nowhere again and again.

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