New Age Trusted Business Advisor


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No one can argue that Social Media has changed the way people communicate. More than 80% of Americans have integrated Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other sites into their daily lives. The speed of this acceptance has been staggering. In fact, it has happened so quickly that manufacturers and their channel partners have been unable to react. As a result, channel partners are beginning to understand that their basic sales models may have to change radically if they want to survive.

Ten years ago, the channels had a specific and accepted role in the sales process. Manufacturers spewed out products and documents that were passed down to their reseller partners. An important responsibility of the reseller was to look at all the information, evaluate the products, and decide what was important and what was industry fluff. Resellers were “Trusted Business Advisors” who could advise their inexperienced and overwhelmed customers on the best products and technologies to purchase. The sales process became structured, orderly, and linear. Customers relied on resellers for product recommendations and implementation assistance.

Now, experienced customers search the internet for information and product recommendations during the discovery phase of their buying process. They collect recommendations and read positive & negative mentions from unknown users before they contact their local reseller. (If you doubt this, Google “Has any got experience with” and see how often customers do this. You will get millions of hits.) Consequently, resellers are being excluded from initial sales conversations and their role as Trusted Business Advisors is eroding quickly.

Since its inception, the Internet has continuously weakened the bond between resellers and their customers by providing buyers with more product sources and unlimited access to information. The new sales conversation is a cacophony of voices, data points, prices, and customer experiences that are currently driven by vendor (not reseller) Social Media initiatives. Consequently, vendor Social Media success is unwittingly “disintermediating” resellers from the online sales conversation. If things don’t change soon, Social Media campaigns that connect vendors and customers will eventually break the bond between solution providers and their customers altogether.

Channel partners that are empowered with Social Media knowledge are in a unique position to participate in online product discussions. They have real-life knowledge about a range of products and are therefore in a great position to contribute online recommendations and positive mentions. A reseller post about product integration or system performance carries a lot of weight because everyone knows that the reseller has a wide range of experience . Manufacturers, on the other hand, post about their products with a bias that is obvious (and sometimes offensive) to customers.

Some channel managers question the value of teaching their partners to use Social Media or even helping their partners with Social Media marketing activities. They complain that Social Media is unproven, takes too much time, and that corporate marketing is leading the Social Media charge. Unfortunately, they are missing the point. Social Media training is not about helping partners with Social Media, it’s about helping resellers maintain their role as trusted business advisors in a fast changing sales environment. The winning strategy is to empower resellers with Social Media – not disenfranchise them.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mike Dubrall
Channels of the Future Community Director, Speaker, Blogger, Trainer, and Consultant. Expert on Channel Social Media Enablement and next generation partnering strategies.


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