Picture this: You’re a salesperson. Your sales manager has given you marching orders for 2022 to prepare and submit a forecast of what you’ll sell this coming year. How do you go about accomplishing that?

If your sales manager told you that you’d be held to your forecast – and have to report weekly on how well you were staying on track – how would that impact your process?

Now imagine you’re that sales manager, and the salesperson you’ve just tasked with building that forecast asks, “How am I supposed to do that?” Anyone reading this who has been a sales manager has probably heard this question asked more than once. How did you answer?

Did you answer by asking, “Well, what are each of your customers going to buy from you this year?”

Did that prompt another incredulous question: “How am I supposed to know that?”

If you managed to remain calm and cool in the face of that question, did you reply by asking, “Who would know that?”

Bravo if you weren’t exasperated at this point, but I’d bet you didn’t wait for an answer before adding, “Ask your customers!”

It’s a Great Question!

It’s sometimes amazing how many “salespeople” are downright afraid to ask their customers questions like this. Yet, it’s a great question to begin a conversation that leads to questions like:

  • What are their strategic plans for the coming month, quarter, year?
  • Which processes do they see needing to improve, reinforce, or replace?
  • Where do they see new technology being needed to help them with these and other processes?
  • What do they need from you in the coming year?
  • How can you be a better business advisor?

By now you’re probably thinking of plenty more questions. What salesperson wouldn’t kill to have this kind of insight into their customer’s plans?

There are few things executives like to do more than they like to talk about their plans. This is partly because they have pride in their ability. But part of it is also a deep need to sound out their ideas and seek advice from people they trust. If your salesperson is not someone their customer’s trust, time to get another salesperson!

Mobilize Your Channel Partners

Before the sales managers working for your channel partners get around to giving their salespeople their marching orders for the coming year, get your marching orders out to them.

First, remind them you’re there to help them be more successful. You don’t win if they don’t win. Your marching orders are meant to help, not to burden, them.

One of the things you can accomplish here is to model the kind of behavior you’d like to see them adopt with their management teams. Encourage them to encourage their teams to ask the questions above of all their customers. Then encourage them to enter all that information into your PRM, likely through their CRM. If you can get all your partners to enter all their forecasts into your PRM you have your roadmap for the year ready to go.

You have some questions to ask your channel partners, too. These include:

  • Which of your customers have projects coming up that will require you to sell them our products and services?
  • How can we help you prepare for those sales campaigns to win those projects?
  • How else can we help you get the word out to prospects and customers about your services and what you do with our products and services that will be of value to them?
  • Do you have any new or existing team members who will need training on our products and services?
  • What other tools and resources can we be supplying to you this year to help you market and sell your solutions that include our products and services?
  • Are there any obstacles we can help remove that keep you from doing your best?
  • How else can we go to market together this year?

Remember, your channel partners survive and thrive best by selling their services. They need to constantly be reminded of the value proposition your products and services bring to their questions. The more you can align their services with your offerings, the more they’ll want to drive projects that create demand for you.

Your Marching Orders

Your marching orders for this year are simpler:

  • Clarify how your channel partners can wrap their services around your offerings.
  • Encourage your channel partners to more effectively build their forecasts.
  • Build your forecasts by consolidating all their forecasts in your PRM.
  • Keep pressing your channel managers to keep asking how they can help, and to keep building more and more interest in their partners’ businesses. That’s what grows partnerships best!