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Product availability, Product pricing. Product information. These are the three keys to being a top-of-mind supplier. This is why manufacturers are spending millions on creating dealer or partner portals. 

But a portal can’t be just a dumping ground of data and information. It has to provide timely and relevant information. Getting this right has been hard. But getting it correct is more important than ever. 

From Print to PDFs to Fully Digital

Gone are the days when partners relied on printed and bound product brochures and price books. Distributors do not have the time to waste sorting through volumes of product documents, price lists, and technical specifications. Partners do not want to wait for someone to get back to them in a day. Don’t make your partner wait, otherwise, they may get what they need from your competitors.

Today, partners expect to access the latest product information and pricing through a partner portal. When you make it easy for your partners to sell to and service their customers, you strengthen your relationship and remain a top-of-mind supplier. Here is a blueprint for an effective dealer portal.

Digital Transformation for Manufacturing 

The most effective way to support your distribution partners is to give them the tools and resources they need to configure, price, and quote new sales opportunities or deliver services to products they have already sold.

Your partners expect quick and intuitive access to your product descriptions, sales guides, use cases, service resources, and pricing guidance through a web and mobile accessible partner portal.

A library of PDF versions of your price books, product manuals and collateral will no longer work. Who has time to look for the schematic on page 64? 

An effective portal must deliver an experience that helps partners effectively respond to new sales opportunities and deliver services their customers expect. The portal must reflect the existing relationship with each partner and help them find the information they need to develop new opportunities and close business.

An effective partner portal should do the following:

  • Maintain details about the partner relationship.
  • Identify and authenticate partners through a login.
  • Present relevant information to each partner based on their relationship profile.
  • Provide immediate access to product catalogs, descriptions, pricing, and availability.
  • Offer tools and resources to accelerate the configuration, pricing and quoting process.
  • Deliver service information, e.g., user manuals, technical guides, parts lists, etc.

A portal can provide a one-stop resource to support your partners’ success. Portals are available anytime through any device. Creating an effective partner portal however, requires good content and tools to help partners find and apply what they need when they need it.

Unify All Your Data Sources

Intelligent search can help partners find and discover important information, but this requires access to a repository of up-to-date and relevant data. Ideally, a partner portal will draw from information repositories that exist within the company and organize and aggregate the data in ways that partners can easily consume and apply what they find.

A partner portal can draw upon existing information repositories such as Document Publishing Systems Learning Management Systems, CAD Systems, Price Books, the Support Knowledge base, and other internal content repositories. A partner portal should provide access to:

A partner portal should provide access to:

  • Product Information – This can be unstructured and structured information such as descriptions, parts lists, specifications, schematics, FAQs
  • Pricing & Availability – Pricing often varies by volumes – so you will want to make sure this is determined by entitlements. Also include pricing guidelines, discounting policies, inventory, shipping, and delivery.
  • Sales and Marketing Support – This includes sales guides to position product features and capabilities, and use cases to describe how products can be used.
  • Service Resources – User manuals, Technical guides, Service Knowledge base

videoSee how BRP centralizes its global dealership with Coveo for Salesforce..

Accelerate Partners’ Success With Intelligent Search

A primary challenge to the development of partner portals is that partners do not always know exactly what they need or where to find the right resources.  A well-defined partner portal must make it easy for partners to find what they need with the following intuitive search and discovery capabilities:

  • Search – Provide a prominent search bar on your partner portal to allow partners to enter natural language queries referencing product descriptions, keywords, models number, or product features.
  • Browse – Let partners browse product information by product types, model, and other identifying characteristics.
  • Discover – Present partners with recommended content based on what they search for and what you already know about the context of the relationship.

A powerful search capability will help your partners locate the information they need.  By leveraging an intelligent search capability partners do not need to be “search experts” or know what keywords to use to find what they need.

EbookSee how NA’s largest manufacturer of lighting and control systems rebuilt its search-led website in 5 months – and on budget.

Use Context to Enhance the Dealer Portal Experience

A dealer portal may contain information that answers many distributor questions, but this is meaningless if they cannot find what they need. One of the top reasons for the mismatch between what a partner looks for and what they find is lack of context.

A partner may need information to configure a new quote or to deliver service to an existing customer. A few keywords entered by a partner are not sufficient to describe the full context of their information need. The more information or context the portal can work with, the more likely the right information can be delivered quickly and accurately.

Shot of a young man using a digital tablet while working in a warehouse

An intelligent search tool should expand beyond the terms a partner provides. Context may include a product version or model, existing products owned, the way the customer uses the product, past service issues reported, or any other revealing details. All of this helps establish the context for the information and increases the probability of providing the right information.

Without context, manufacturers cannot maximize the return on their partner portals. Companies may spend millions to develop and nurture distribution partner networks, yet the time may be significantly diminished if a partner cannot find the information they need when they need it.

See how VMWare improved self-service for its 75k partners.
 

Dealer Portals Deliver a Win–Win for Successful Distribution Relationships

A portal can provide a one-stop resource to support your partners’ success.  Portals are available anytime through any device and offer a low-cost solution to effective partner enablement. The ability to provide timely information to your distributors means that they can get this information to their customers to:

  • Respond to a new Request for Proposal
  • Configure a price quote
  • Differentiate your product from the competition
  • Deliver service to existing customers

Partner portals provide a comprehensive self-service information resource to support your partners’ sales and service efforts. Partners get the answers they need quickly, and you can deliver partner support at lower costs by reducing the time your partner support and sales teams need to provide direct assistance.

When you help your partners provide better sales and service you increase the likelihood that they will keep their customers happy.  When you can help them sell and satisfy their customers, they will be more effective partners.

Learn how Coveo Fuel your growth with AI-powered relevance for your sales, distribution, dealer, and service channels.

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About Tom Sweeny

Tom Sweeny is the Founder & CEO of ServiceXRG and authority on technology services. Tom leads ServiceXRG’s research initiatives, publishes extensively, and helps leading companies develop and execute service strategies that strengthen customer relationships and optimize financial performance.

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