Directing Business Via The Indirect Channel

As more software vendors move toward an e-commerce model, resellers may worry about being excluded from their partners' distribution channels-with good reason.he indirect channel.

As more software vendors move toward an e-commerce model, resellers may worry about being excluded from their partners distribution channels—with good reason. In an effort to reduce costs and increase profits, some vendors are using the Net for direct-sales and marketing initiatives, eliminating the indirect channel from the value chain.

While that approach may work for some vendors, many others realize the importance of the indirect channel as a means to reach target markets and provide a total solution to end-user customers. Those vendors see the Internet as an opportunity to enhance both the channel and end-user relationship. Here are some "channel-friendly" strategies to look for:

Your vendors model should meet end-user demands and provide product data and demos, enable online purchasing and offer direct links to your Web site.

Another common, but often overlooked feature, is a partner-specific Web section. Here you can review and download custom product and pricing information, joint-marketing plans, and other selling tools. Having online access to that provides mobility and portability, which are key benefits for any sales team.

An ideal strategy also will automate lead generation and the sales-order process. Requests by end-users can be submitted through a Web site and automatically sent to your desktop for fulfillment. By expediting those, you can achieve greater efficiencies and respond to potential clients quicker, decreasing the sales cycle and increasing sales volume.

The Internet is only one tool that vendors can employ to leverage an existing channel strategy. Seek vendors that support all stages of the sales cycle and include partners in their entire marketing mix. Effective use of the Internet can improve communication, knowledge sharing, lead generation and end-user service. That translates into a winning situation for everyone.

Ed Cartier is the division manager for the Intellectual Property Business of Lucent Technologies. Comments on this column can be sent to [email protected]