Effective Product Awareness is equivalent to Effective Channel Engagement
The pain point of the hardware products and peripherals is the management of tier-2 and tier-3 channel partners to reach across the entire geography. As the market is growing, everybody wants to reach each and every corner of the country through the channel partners, but in this process of their expansion, they face a lot of difficulties in handling the tier-2 partners. The difficulties could be in terms of logistics, service support, awareness, etc. Those who have handled this critical mass carefully, they perhaps have grabbed the market share. Let us know from some of the vendors as to how they are keeping their markets in tight leash.
The display vendor ViewSonic, which is believed to be the leader in 21” LCD monitors, deals with the market through a 3-tier channel strategy. From distributors to ViewSonic Authorized Master Dealers and eventually to Resellers and System Integrators, the products move swiftly. Gautam Ghosh, Country Manager, India ViewSonic Technologies, says, “Tier -2 channel partners are aggressive in promoting both the mid- end and high-end technology products in their respective markets. Our fashionable and performance packed VX62 series LCD monitors, targeted towards the high net worth individuals, has already been very well received in all the tier-2 markets of India and it is because of the contribution of the tier-2 channel partners.”
Ghosh believes that channel forms an integral part of the entire sales process. Realizing this fact, early in their business strategy, they have introduced FINCH CLUB in India to offer an interactive platform to their partners to
share their experience and to address their concerns. He adds, “Through this Club, we regularly offer various exciting sell through schemes and incentive programmes to our partners. We also equip our partners by organizing multi-city dealer training meets to help them understand the global trends and ViewSonic advantage. Rewarding in any form“– be it incentive or mega vacation trips or combo buy offers – can be effective only as long as it is true to its objective.
FINCH Club is one such interactive platform developed by ViewSonic, which helps them to keep the partners updated with all the recent happenings. Through monthly newsletters, the company ensures its partners to be updated on both technology and product front. To help generate lead for the partners, the company is in the process of setting up a Tele-Sales organization soon.
At Xerox, the entire Office product range is sold through the tier- 2 channel partners. Priced between Rs.4,500 and Rs.15 lakh, the office product range includes A3 multifunction devices, the A3 colour multifunction and the Wide Format products. It means tier-2 channel partners are very important for Xerox. In terms of empowerment of the partners, Shailendra Sarup, Associate Director, Volume Business, Office Business Group, Xerox India Ltd., says, “We have ongoing product training programmes for the channel partners where we tell them the product USPs and key features and also give them an opportunity to try the machine hands-on. They are also told about the target audience for that particular product segment.”
There is a team of 100 employees who are dedicated for supporting the partners on the field for end-customer engagement. Besides, the company has two call centres. The inbound call centre is known as “Ask Xerox”. This call centre handles queries from partners and customers on all matters related to product pricing, supplies, warranty, and support issues. This call centre offers a single phone number to be accessed across India and operates on a 24x7 basis. The other call centre – Xerox Information Centre – is an outbound call centre which is in constant touch with the partners informing them about the ongoing schemes and promotions.
In order to support the partners’ sales force, Xerox has various partner programmes through which the company supports the partner sales force. They run various product training modules so that they are up to date on technological changes. Xerox also runs channel management courses with them and also a “selling for success” course to strengthen their sales abilities. These are all comprehensive courses which take 2–3 days. After the completion of the course, the trainer gives a written feedback on each sales executive, which is passed on to the Channel Partners.
Vipin Tuteja, Executive Director of Production Systems Group at Xerox India, says, “At Xerox Production Systems Group, we don’t just sell equipment, we sell solutions and applications. We have high-end digital equipments which are sold through an integrated effort of the direct sales force and channel partners based in tier-2 cities as well.”
This business group within Xerox India has a host of products, which are normally high-end in nature. These products include DocuPrint for enterprise printing, Nuvera and DocuTech for digital on-demand printing, and DocuColor for digital full-color printing.
This division at Xerox emphasizes on a lot of trainings to its channel partners on product knowledge, positioning and price at locations and also on-the-job training on customer calls. Besides, a channel compensation and rewards policy is well in place. Tuteja says, “Very soon, we will launch a channel loyalty programme which will help our partners upgrade and gain exposure through global trainings and seminars.”
Regionally, this division has deployed the regional heads, PSMs and analysts who regularly communicate with the partners. At the HO level, the company has a dedicated Channel Manager to take care of each and every channel related activity and issues. Also, product managers keep updating the partners with technology and pricing information.
The PSG division believes in personalized relationship and periodic one-to-one sessions with each partner. Therefore, they do not have any call centre or contact centre for this purpose. Tuteja adds, “The regional PSMs and the HO marketing team are in regular touch with the channel partners to keep them updated or to resolve issues.”
Manisha Sood, Country Manager, SanDisk, says, “Our channel partners are very important for us and we are committed to them. We offer quarterly channel schemes and target-based incentives to drive business. Recently, we introduced ‘Go to Istanbul’ scheme for partners that was valid from November 1 2007 to January 31 2008.”
SanDisk has also lined up interesting incentive plans for the dealers. The Gold coin offer is one such incentive. SanDisk also conducts training programmes across 500 outlets in cities, especially metros. The sales staffs are given training on the various products from the SanDisk stable like technical specifications, advantages and features. Training programmes are also conducted for the dealers and retailers focussing on mobile products, Compact Flash cards and USB drives.
SanDisk has call centres and support services across India to inform its partners about the programmes. Sood adds, “However, we also believe in reaching out to them personally through our sales people and channel marketing executives.” As the partner’s sales force is important to the sales of the partners, the company supports them through in-depth training on technical specifications, advantages and features of the products. Even the company tries to educate them through various forms of communication material like product brochures, pamphlets, etc. To execute these activities, SanDisk has tied up with Solutions.
SanDisk has recently launched SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition Compact Flash and the SanDisk Extreme Ducati Edition SD Plus. Both have the quickest read/write time of the SanDisk portfolio and represent the company’s ultimate performance products for digital photographers Leonard Yap, Marketing Manager, Creative Labs Asia, says, “We are actively looking out for good tier-2 channel partners to sell our mid-to-high range products. In order to enable them, the company has recently published a very comprehensive dealer guide which covers a full range of our products, and will be holding dealer seminars to keep our channel partners abreast of our new offerings.””“To support the channel partners, Creative is planning to appoint a channel relationship manager to service its tier-2 partners.”
At Nanopoint, Tagan is its high-end product whereas SuperRock, which is due to come this month, is its middle-range product. In order to enable the channel partners, Ivan Tsai, Product Head of Tagan at Nanopoint for India market, says, “We will review the product competition in the Indian market. Then, we will find solutions to compete with them even adding some channel programmes to educate and help to find good products.”
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