Farming new sales opportunities through direct methods can be challenging as a small marketing agency, especially without a dedicated in-house sales team.
One way to develop your business and expand your reach is through fostering collaborative sales opportunities and establishing partnerships with related service and technology providers. Saas based agency partner programs (like HubSpot’s) are very common, and yet, I see these partnerships underinvested in by smaller agencies.
Combining a channel sales strategy with your direct sales method enables you to achieve increased sales reach and distribution and get new marketing clients, while tapping into existing benefits within the partner program.
Why Do You Need Good Channel Partners?
You can’t spend your limited resources constantly hunting sales prospects when your employees’ creative skills should be put to better use. Especially if you have not selected an industry vertical within which to be an expert service provider, you have to find another avenue for creating a consistent stream of sales opportunities.
SaaS companies and other channels give you access to additional avenues by forging strategic relationships with their sales people and business development teams. You can work in tandem to accomplish your separate organizational goals but also mutually boost sales. For example, marketing agencies that primarily build on top of a platform or specific tech stack must strive to sell the value of the services, while the tech stack needs to focus on selling the value of their tech. You already rely on each other for optimal success.
Partnering companies—such as HubSpot, Salesforce, Shopify, Clickup, etc—each have a robust internal salesforce and a complementary product they’re offering. Additionally, they want to be able to leverage your creative agency to reduce their cost of sales via the channel sales model.
They need you, just like you need them.
Use this reality to your advantage by establishing a marketing and sales strategy that keeps the direct sales reps of these channels coming back to you personally when they get new prospects and need the right implementation partner to close the technology subscription side of the deal.
Direct sales reps at SaaS companies often have high sales quotas to hit and an abundance of internal competition. Further, they may not have a ton of resources or as much familiarity with the technology as you and your implementation team do. You can help them help you and establish a symbiotic relationship with benefits traveling both ways. However, it may require you to rethink your relationship with partner direct reps.
How to Build Relationships with Channel Partners
The first step towards building a profitable relationship with channel partners is to craft a marketing and sales strategy around your channel partners’ pain points as direct sales reps. Create an educational campaign for channel partners’ direct sales reps like you would to educate end customers, because DSR’s are a customer, and they can be a great repeat customer at that.
Some of these pain points include having high quotas to fill, fierce internal competition, little training around the services or products they are selling, and few internal support systems. They have a pipeline to fill, as well, and will be more loyal to implementation partners that help them do this more effectively.
Additionally, consider the challenges that reps experience during their sales processes, such as long cycles for closing sales, overcoming prospect objections, and finding the right offering mix to properly solve the customer’s needs.
Once you’ve connected with direct sales reps from SaaS companies that complement your own marketing agency, here are a couple of ways to effectively build relationships with longevity in mind:
Create Educational Materials that Help DSRs Sell More, Better
Create resources, such as webinars and sell sheets they can share with prospects. Consider creating custom web applications or calculation worksheets to streamline your ability to help partner DSRs talk about a winning technology and implementation proposal with prospects. For DSRs that are unfamiliar with how the tech they are selling really works and what it is and isn’t capable of for solving real world problems, create training and educational materials to help them sell more intelligibly. Create resources and supportive tools for your direct sales rep partners that will make their lives easier and keep them referring new business opportunities to you.
Provide direct sales reps with resources that help them fully understand your service and product mix so they can easily identify opportunities for partner implementation, make referrals to your agency, and ensure clients get the right products and services they need.
As part of onboarding, you can even offer your partners a simple training so they better understand your agency’s pricing for services and products; your ideal buyer persona and target audience; your process for developing proposals; and your overarching business goals.
Spearhead Co-Branded Campaigns
Generate valuable ideas for cross-promotion and work with sales reps to implement them. You know your agency better than they do. You may even know the tech better than they do. Leverage this reality to keep your own pipeline full. As a bonus, you can ensure your brand message comes through while eliminating some of the legwork for partner’s direct sales reps.
Check in and be receptive to feedback. Even in the professional world, we want to feel like our partners have our back. Be understanding of your partners’ unique pain points. Use the communication methods they prefer, whether that be texting, emails or phone calls. Ask if they need other information or resources to feel supported and successful.
Share feedback you get from your clients, team members and colleagues about your partners’ products and ask them to do the same if there is data that would be useful to improving your service and product mix or better targeting new customers.
Co-selling partnerships with SaaS companies are most advantageous when you can build meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with direct sales reps. It’s important to cultivate these partnerships and do what you can to help the reps feel supported, informed and empowered to reach their quotas and promote your marketing agency in the process.
Expanding Sales Opportunities for Your Marketing Agency with Strategic Partnerships
As a small marketing or creative agency, you have to continually look for ways to bring in new sales opportunities without overburdening your own team. Consider implementing new channel sales strategies or developing co-selling partnerships as a way of maximizing your resources and growing your agency through increased sales.
Building a successful marketing agency takes grit, a focus on your value, and sometimes a *loving* kick in the pants.
Needing an ally as you achieve your long-term goals?
I’d be happy to help.