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Five trends impacting your 2020 channel sales strategy

Written by: Marie Hilliard, DVP of Automotive Group, BI WORLDWIDE
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Here are five trends that are changing the way your channel partners should be representing you to their customers.


As we begin the New Year, when, where and how consumers will be interacting with your products and services will have a big impact on your channel strategy. Here are five trends that are changing the way your channel partners should be representing you to their customers.

  1. Consumers like speed & convenience more than human interaction. A recent SOTI survey revealed that nearly three quarters (73%) of U.S. shoppers preferred self-service technologies to improve the retail shopping experience and reduce staff interactions. Those of us relying on channel staff for the customer experience need to adapt. Identify the touchpoints where human interaction is the most critical and eliminate or automate the rest.
  1. Consumers know more about your products than some of your channel reps. By the time someone reaches out to your channel partner, they’ve already done their research. Chances are they’ve read reviews, compared you to your competition, and already have a good idea on what they’re willing to pay for your product or service. Make sure your channel reps have the right tools and training to show why your products outshine the competition in the ways most important to your customers.
  1. Everyone is working nine-to-five-to-nine. The 24/7 availability of on-line shopping has trained consumers to get what they want when they want it. Same or next-day shipping just compounds the issue. If your channel partners take a nine-to-five approach to their day, customers will go elsewhere. Help your partners extend their availability by offering robust online information, chat support and appointment scheduling.
  1. Channel reps can (and do) sometimes point customers in the wrong direction. You have a product/service mix for a reason but your independent channel partners have other ideas. The model that you’ve invested millions to develop may not earn as high a commission for your partner’s sales reps so they walk customers past it to show them something else. Inspire them to showcase your full portfolio of products and services by rewarding them with hedonic non-cash rewards when they do. Studies show sales reps respond when rewarded with an indulgence they may not justify spending their commission check on. 
  1. When deciding what product to recommend to a customer, here’s what’s important to channel reps:
  • Customer Needs
  • Comfort with or knowledge of the product
  • Product features
  • Price
  • Promotions
  • Relationships with the manufacturer’s rep
  • Brand

These were the priorities (in rank order) identified in a recent study of 615 Channel reps who work for dealers, distributors, retail stores and resellers from a variety of industries. Channel reps sell what they know. While they agree that overall they receive enough product training, there was a lack of product training when they were new in the job. Onboard channel reps by equipping them with enough product knowledge to be comfortable.


Marie Hilliard

Marie Hilliard

Division Vice President Automotive Group

As Division Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Automotive Group, Marie Hilliard’s primary focus is to develop engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of automotive employees, consumers and the dealer network to drive positive business results. An expert in applying behavioral economics to program design, Marie coaches professionals throughout North America on how to best engage people to drive desired results.

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