Time to Get a Better Class of Sales Management Tools for the Channel

By Michael Vizard  |  Print this article Print

New generation of analytics and business intelligence tools help reduce channel conflict

As organizations move to align the sales process with the management of whole customer experience strategy the way vendors need to manage sales teams both inside and outside the company is rapidly evolving.

Instead of making gut decisions based on spreadsheet data that may be prone to errors, there is a class of new sales management applications that leverage advanced analytics tools to allow managers to not only analyze the effectiveness of the way sales teams are currently organized, but also model the impact any additions or subtractions would have on the amount of profit and revenue actually generated.

While many organizations invested in customer relationship management (CRM) systems in the expectation that they would be able to manage the sales organization better, Dan Schleifer, senior director of corporate marketing for SAVO, a provider of a namesake suite of sales management tools, says the reality of CRM systems is that they are basically applications that just used to record transactions from the perspective of the sales staff. In contrast, the SAVO suite of sales management software allows sales management executives to optimize the performance of the sales staff using analytics and business intelligence tools designed specifically for that task, says Schleifer.

What Schleifer is really getting at is that it’s time there was a lot more transparency into the sales management process, especially as it applies to reducing channel conflict. In addition to concerns about cronyism between certain vendors and their favorite solution provider partners, many solution providers often find themselves competing with other providers for the same business in a given territory over and over again.

That would suggest that to one degree or another there is something wrong with the way that vendor has organized its sales territories or that the vendors simply has too many solution providers in one region chasing a limited number of opportunities. By embracing more sophisticated sales management tools it makes it easier to visually identify where potential problems and opportunities lie, says Schleifer.

Many of the problems that solution providers encounter, says Schleifer, stem from the fact that have poorly aligned their marketing efforts with their actual available sales skills. A recent poll of 100 executives that attended a recent SAVO webinar found that approximately 40 percent of businesses have poorly aligned marketing messaging, sales tools and seller skills, which lead to missed revenue opportunities. That may not come as a surprise to most folks in the channel, but the poll results did offer some cold comfort in terms of confirming this is an issue that goes well beyond the IT channel. The SAVO poll also revealed that 46 percent of respondents believe that sales and marketing messaging was the most difficult aspect of their business to get into alignment, followed by skills training at 29 percent and sales tools at 26 percent. Schleifer says these issues are common among companies that lack a solid sales enablement strategy.

Unfortunately, most sales manager are still relying on a collection of spreadsheet applications that tend to obfuscate what’s really happening in the channel. In addition, many of those spreadsheet applications have been handed down over the years and are usually weighted by algorithms of a dubious nature. Channel managers are being held more accountable these days largely because of regulations intended to shore up investor confidence in the data companies present to financial analyst. But for the most part, these reports are generating more data than ever without providing any additional insight. Channel managers and solution providers are equally frustrated with each other because neither one has a clear sense of what’s actually happening in the channel. A good place to get started solving that problem would be the application of more sophisticated tools to manage the problem.

There are, of course, multiple ways of going about solving this problem. Many companies have opted to customize BI applications that are integrated with their CRM systems. Schleifer says that’s not quite the same thing as a dedicated sales management application that come embedded with key performance indicators to help manage the sales process. Whatever the approach ultimately taken, the one thing that is clear is that the sales management tools currently in use or not providing the level of insight and transparency an efficient channel really needs to thrive.