5 steps to indirect sales growth

Here are the first 5 in 10 steps to grow sales through indirect sales partners.

Theses steps will help deliver more revenue while taking away a lot of the hassle of managing multiple partners. The list is primarily targeted at Stock Photography sales but will have some applications outside it. To keep things short and sweet the post is presented in 2 parts.

  1. This introduction and the first 5 steps
  2.  The second 5 steps and a novel idea

Selling your products indirectly, through a network of resellers can be challenging. First there is the choice of who to work with, and then there are different working practices, communication challenges, measurement and monitoring, supply problems and a range of other things that can quickly amount to a lot of time.

In my 12 years at Getty Images and Corbis I managed resellers in Northern and Central Europe for Getty Images for 2 years and was involved in the Global 3-5 year indirect sales strategy.  At Corbis I was responsible for the Global indirect sales network through 2007. In these years we tried a number of tactics. Some worked, some didn’t. In the end we learned to apply a mix of tactics that led to growth well into the double digits in a difficult time in the industry.

A large network of representatives and resellers can be confusing. In fact, and especially under the current economic and industry pressure, it has become ever more challenging to find the right balance between short and long term gain. This has led to areas where markets are saturated, differentiation is limited and price is under pressure. These 10 steps can build a channel that is set for revenue growth in the long term while keeping complications to a minimum.

  1. Always think 80/20
    • Whilst this rule is well and truly established it is still worth pointing out the relevance. Especially since, at least in photography indirect sales, it can be even more extreme than this. It is not uncommon to find production companies where the top 5 resellers (of 100’s) represent at least 80% of revenue. Unless you can automate the other 100 or so completely they will take up a lot of resources for little return on your investment. 
    • Focussing on the best partners is important but one of the biggest mistakes is to become too dependent on a small number of companies. Complacency, usually born out of a comfortable situation can be the downfall of a company. Inevitably these big partners will take more margins and could even threaten to terminate the deal if their demands are not met. Spreading the risk in a way that a single company does not represent a maximum of 25% of revenue prevents future stress.
  2. Monitor and communicate, all the time
    • A good team communicates regularly. Large partners should be contacted weekly while smaller companies can be contacted a few times a month. Phone time with partners keeps everyone on their toes and keeps you front of mind. I strongly recommend using Skype and use video calling. This comes close to face to face communication and creates a more informal conversation that helps build a personal relationship (and it’s free). At least one of the monthly calls should be dedicated to a site audit where the search order, marketing and promotions are reviewed. You can keep this all in a Customer Relationship Management program, but don’t let the absence of it keep you from acting; a simple spreadsheet of table will do the same.
    • Listen to partners; they know what sells and who buys what. Perhaps products can be packaged and priced differently, marketing can be improved, and different services can be developed. The right partners are true entrepreneurs that are very capable of making solid commercial decisions.
  3.  An extranet will save time and generate more revenue
    • A simple extranet for your partner network will save time, shorten timelines and drive revenue faster. Rather than pushing new content and information to each individual partner in the network they can now self-serve and pull the information of the site. This will save time on your production side and in the case of DVD’s, shipping cost. The extranet also serves to deliver marketing collateral (logo’s, galleries, and promotions) to all partners at once. Finally it’s an easy communication tool for news, changes, staff profiles and administrative guidelines.
  4. Get Facetime with the biggest partners
    • If at all possible meet your best partners twice a year. These visits can be a combination of events and office visits. Especially visits to single companies are expensive and therefore should be combined with a significant number of customer visits together with the partner. This will give a better understanding of the needs in the market. Alternatively partners can come to the office once a year altogether for a program full of training, motivation, inspiration and entertainment.
  5. Don’t wait for events to do business
    • While the CEPIC and PACA conference are great places to meet face to face, network and build personal relationships there is no need to wait 6 months to sign on partners and grow the business. Lists of companies that sell images are readily available through these organisations. In an online world introductions can be done in industry forums (like the one in this magazine) while all collections are online to be viewed at leisure, surely a better experience than a few postcards and a slideshow.

Picture: Stock Exchange |Bearing | Alexander Rist

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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