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Best Lead Distribution Practice: Enforcing the Closed Loop

The most important channel practices in lead distribution are...

Relayware Partner Relationship Management

Best Lead Distribution Practice: Enforcing the Closed Loop

By Ellen Muraskin

Writing about best channel practices in lead distribution for Relayware, I reached out Victoria Zona, my former colleague and today a senior channel sales manager at the audio conferencing vendor Revolabs. Her early-stage company only uses CRM (no partner relationship management solution, like Relayware), but she knows best practice and her insight matches Relayware's core value propositions, chapter and verse.

The most important channel practices in lead distribution, Zona said, are:

a) Making sure your partners are qualified to sell the products attached to a specific lead and

b) Tracking down the outcome of every lead. 

You must do (b) to make sure every lead is pursued, pursued effectively and while still warm. More holistically, you do this also to determine which marketing efforts yield the best results.

Your best shot at following every lead through its partner path? A "closed-loop system," Zona said -- an online system that loops back to you with the resolution you've gotten your partner to document.

 Whether that system is a dedicated PRM tool, CRM module or a home-grown, web-based system, vendors must require partners to use it, she said. "Otherwise you don't know what marketing things to do going forward."

"It's on the vendors' side" to provide the follow-up tracking tools

"The easier you make it for them to follow up, the more likely they are to comply," she added. "If you don't have a good system -- if you're sharing leads by spreadsheet, things get lost. It's on your side not to just send them leads and expect them to answer. It's key to force that closed-loop system to happen." 

In deciding how to apportion leads, consider the technical competencies required for a particular sale in addition to geography, Zona recommends. If the product under consideration requires less technical expertise, you can distribute it more widely across different types of partners, whether it be VARs or direct-market resellers like CDW or Insight. By the same token, a product sale may call for less technical acumen but more "calling power," i.e., partners with telemarketers on staff to handle a larger volume of leads.

If the product requires more engineering chops, be sure to reserve it for those who have the matching certifications. For leads on more technical products with longer sales cycles, a good match is a partner who can not only sell and install the product but provide other services afterwards.

Reward diligent partners with quality leads, and be willing to drop those who don't follow up.

"It's one thing to give your partners leads, because partnership goes both ways, but you have to be willing to hold them accountable," said Zona. "Warn them several times, but if they don't follow up within a set number of days, say 'I'm sorry, I can't give you any more leads.'" After due warning, she would even reassign them.

Leads are harder to come by in the age of Google, Zona adds, quoting a Gartner study that says 65 to 70 percent of a B2B prospect's research is done before they ever contact a vendor. Buyers don't have to download those whitepapers. "Companies put videos on Youtube; there's a ton of information available without filling out a form."

All the more reason to make sure each lead goes to the right partner, and that all efforts to work that lead are tracked.