For many technology marketers, lead generation campaigns meant to drive revenue through the channel frequently end with disappointing results. In most campaigns, marketers are quite adept at passing large quantities of leads (both MQLs and SQLs) to channel partners—only to see those partners fail to convert them into closed deals.
In this post, we discuss the top three reasons why channel partners struggle with lead conversion and how to address the issue to maximize your channel partner sales and boost revenue.
Reason #1: Most partners have limited resources
Channel partners vary greatly from one another in their ability to receive, process, and pursue leads. Some have sophisticated marketing and sales infrastructure in place, while others (particularly niche players) have very little. In fact, we have found that smaller partners rarely close deals around MQLs (marketing qualified leads) and only do well with SQLs (sales qualified leads). Their lack of scaled infrastructure and staff limit their time to pursue anything less than the mostly highly-qualified leads.
Note: when partners apply and sign up with your company as a reseller, they often stretch the truth regarding their resources and ability to generate sales volume. The reality is that while those resources may exist, they are already occupied with pursuing existing opportunities and performing all their ‘normal’ daily routines.
What you can do about it: For newer and unproven partners, provide only a small quantity of MQLs and SQLs, making sure they are of the highest quality. Then, measure how each partner does with both types of leads. If a partner cannot convert high-quality SQLs, you should likely steer future leads to higher performing partners. Some partners may surprise you and convert both MQLs and SQLs—those are your ‘diamonds in the rough’ and should receive your maximum levels of support moving forward.
Reason #2: Partners want you to prove yourself first
Your channel partners split their sales efforts among multiple vendors, and each of your partner’s sales teams has their own proven favorites who have helped them meet quota and put food on the table for years. This leaves only a small slice of time to dedicate to your MQLs/SQLs, assuming you are not yet one of their favorites.
What you can do about it: Send these partners only a small number of high-quality SQLs and provide them with maximum support for closing the first few deals and/or significant deals. Once these deals close, you will find that such a partner will quickly dedicate more time and resources to your future leads. At that point, you can begin to test how they do with a combination of SQLs and MQLs.
Reason #3: The definition of a ‘Qualified Lead’ varies
Not all channel partners define a ‘qualified lead’ in the same way. As a result, you may be checking off the box for a lead as a ‘Hot SQL’ while your reseller scoffs at it as being barely warm. This is the most frequent disconnect we see between vendor marketing teams and partner sales personnel. Remember, you are likely asking them to pursue new accounts with your leads and, according to the book Marketing Metrics, existing customers have a likelihood-to-close of 60-70 percent, versus just 5-20 percent for new prospects.
What you can do about it: Limit the number of leads you send to partners who have yet to formally agree upon lead scoring. Once again, send these partners a limited number of your highest-quality SQLs and see how they perform. If they fail to convert an acceptable number of those leads, they may not be a partner worthy of attention. If they do well, then you should proceed to gaining formal acceptance around lead definitions for future programs.
Conclusion: a focus on lead quality over quantity wins over channel partners
As you have read throughout this post, providing high-quality leads to your channel partners is critical to their success—and yours. As partner sales teams have little time to pursue leads that lack a strong probability of closure, you will want to reserve your MQLs and cooler SQLs for only the most proven partners. Unproven and new partners are best served your high-quality SQLs until they, in turn, prove themselves to you.
At Xactlyit, over 50 percent of our B2B lead generation campaigns target the channel. Technology vendors look to us every day to provide both high-volume MQLs and highly-qualified SQLs. We recognize the uniqueness of enabling channel partners and would welcome the opportunity to help you discern the best strategy for arming your partners with high-quality leads that convert. Give us a call today, and we can explore what’s possible together.