“We need to drive the business to the organization regardless of the channel, and if you do this, it’s a win regardless of what channel the sale comes through. We need to let people know that driving business to the company is number one.”
—Vice President, Sales
Channels are the means by which selling organizations reach their marketplace. They are used as a bridge between product and service offerings and segments of customers. Almost all of the organizations we spoke with utilized a multichannel strategy and were in the process of adding even more channels to their mix to present the customer with greater options, while in many cases reducing the cost of sale. It is a tricky equation with considerable investment required in creating the processes and infrastructure to support these channels from a personnel and technological perspective. If developed correctly from the start and managed properly on an ongoing basis, multichannel strategies can bring high returns to an organization. If not well designed and governed, adding channels can reduce sales, cannibalize revenue from other channels, and produce counterproductive conflicts among sales resources.
There are many drivers behind the need to create (or add to) a multichannel strategy. Some are internally focused, such as a need to reduce the cost of sale, while others are in response to external factors, such as a need to meet a customer expectation. The key to creating a structure that meets all of these needs is to first look at the overall sales strategy. A sales strategy will answer the following four questions:
Who are we? An organization’s brand identity and value proposition will help determine how it wants to manage customer relationships.
What do we sell? The product or service being sold will impact the appropriateness of channel (e.g., organizations with highly technical products will require live support through distributors or in-house sales representatives, whereas those who sell less complex product sets may benefit from self-service channels).
Who do we sell to? Channels can be used to meet a variety of customer needs and provide mechanisms to efficiently serve customers of differing potential and preferences. Many will be targeted at specific customers and segments while others will favor a mass-market audience.
How do we sell? The manner in which relationships with customers are created and managed will help determine what kinds of sales resources are required and how narrow or broad their account responsibilities.
When these four questions are answered and communicated across the sales organization, decisions on channels, as well as resource deployment, skill development, and many of the other strategies addressed in this book, can be made with greater confidence.