Indirect Sales vs. Direct Sales Channels – An Overview

We’ve covered a lot of ground in the past few weeks: the challenges and benefits of indirect sales partnerships, how a great coverage model works, how to equip your indirect channel manager, and more. Let’s summarize what we’ve learned.

Many companies have decided to implement a blended selling approach using both direct and indirect sales forces. Indirect selling can be more effective and cheaper than a direct sales model if appropriate coverage mapping is well thought out and training is provided to the channel managers and the channel partners’ sales force.

And speaking of training, it should include teaching indirect sales “agents” to more effectively present how your offering can help the end users achieve their goals, solve their problems, or satisfy their needs is the first step. Product training is no longer efficient.

But how exactly do you train them? Effective selling skills are similar whether applied to a direct selling model or an indirect channel partner model, the latter of which should be viewed as an extension of your own. Training effective channel partner managers utilizes similar rules and behaviors to training direct sales people. In quick review, your channel partner managers should know how to:

  • Learn more about the company through research
  • Identify target titles to contact
  • Develop conversational prompters and guides by title and by goal
  • Diagnose conversations and learn as much as possible before any prescription, i.e. product or service, is offered
  • Learn what has and has not worked for the channel partner in the past, and adjust the offering to this particular situation


Which benefits can you expect to see from training your channel managers along these guidelines? If executed correctly:


  • Your offering will be easier to sell because it will be clear how it will solve problems for end users.
  • Your messages and offerings will be consistently positioned across all channels (direct and indirect), which will allow more effective influence on the end users’ experience.
  • Product usage training will complement product training, enabling all to benefit from guided conversational tools developed around your unique capabilities.
  • Pipeline and opportunity management will be consistent across all channels, resulting in more effective sales resource allocations, more accurate and reliable pipeline assessments, and more coaching of sales activities at the opportunity level.
  • Channel conflict, grey market activities, and account/opportunity ownership will make management easier.
  • Differentiation from other manufacturers in the channel partner’s portfolio will become easier, which will allow you to gain incremental mindshare resulting in incremental revenue and increased loyalty.
  • (If the training is extended to both audiences) it will shorten the ramp up of new channel partner managers and channel partner sales representatives. They will also have more effective sales calls and conversations with their prospects.

And finally, aligning compensation with company objectives and expected results from each of the sales channels is also critical. If you expect certain behaviors and results from your different selling entities, be sure to inspect what you are keeping these entities accountable for.

I hope you have learned some helpful advice on working with an indirect sales force. I’d love to hear what piece of advice you found most valuable, or what your experience has been working with indirect sales. And remember, if you are looking for more in-depth sales training in areas like this, you may be interested in KeyRoad’s solutions-based workshops.  



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