Contact Sheets. Boring, but Effective

Contact sheets sound boring. Any competent channel manager will always have updated contact sheets ready, and laminated, for handing out at partners. But do you have the two other contact sheets, and how often do you update them?

For those new to channel management who are not sure of what a contact sheet is, lets have a look at what it is and what a good one contains. As you visit your partners and "walk the sales floor" be on the lookout for them by other vendors. Contact sheets, simply, are a list of contacts at your company, for your partners to have as a ready reference. When they need to talk to someone at your company, rather than coming to you to find out who to speak to, they can check the contact sheet and call someone directly.

A good contact sheet will list everyone at your company that a partner may need to contact in the general course of selling your products or services. You should aim for your partners to have it pinned/taped to their cubicle wall so it must be able to be read from a distance of at least a metre (just over 3 feet). Have your company logo displayed - it's advertising right in front of your partner - and it allows them to find your sheet quickly when they need to contact someone.

At the very top of a contact sheet is yourself. Your full details including full name, all phone numbers and your email address. If you have landline and mobile, indicate the preferred one by making it larger/bolder and make sure the other diverts.

Under your name, have your manager. Share the love, so to speak! Don't just say "My manager", but something like "If I am unavailable, for URGENT assistance, contact my Manager" followed by their details. You now need to include all the prime people that your partner may regularly need to contact. This may include customer sales teams, and their manager, accounts, logistics, operations, finance, marketing etc. Put them all in. You want to accomplish two things: 1)Communicate that your company has lots of people dedicated to helping partners, and 2)Make engagement with your company as frictionless and easy as possible.

Once you have the sheet done, print out as many as you will need, laminate them, and on your next round of visits to partners, hand them out like they are confetti. If you know your partners well, and have good rapport with them, carry around blu tack and stick them up for them. Once you have visited all your partners, you can feel assured that you have just made it easier for your partners to contact people in your company. So, you might think that's it? Only update every six months or so? No! Your contact sheets are perfect for key messages and you should update them every month, or at the very least, every two months.

Reserve a space on your contact sheet, maybe 2 inches along the bottom, or a 2 inch column along the side and put in the month, eg "JULY". In this space, place information about upcoming events, product launches, incentive programs or anything else you want a focus on for the month. Remember, you may present at sales meetings, but not all of them may be there. You can send emails out, but they are too easy to be over-looked (or deleted!). This contact sheet is going to be in their working space every day. It is going to be in their peripheral vision every minute they are at their desk. It's going to communicate with them, overtly when they look at it, and subliminally when they are at their desk. This is like your own little billboard at every partner desk in your territory. Think about how you can use that space.

Now comes the second contact sheet. What! I thought one would be enough? You now need to do an Executive contact sheet. The first contact sheet discussed above is your general one for everyone in your partner community. You now need to do one for the executive, or management contacts in your partners. This one should be given out to second line managers, or heads of departments. For example, the CEO, CFO, CMO etc. You'd be surprised how many executives WANT this information. It encourages relationships to be built, makes them feel important, and the key monthly messaging? Yes, you have it on these too. That way they get to ask staff if they are going to an event, attending training etc. It's much easier to have the executives at your partners drive engagement rather than you having to do it on your own. The Executive contact sheet should have all your company's appropriate contacts for executive level engagement. Encourage the partner CEO to be talking to your CEO, CFO to CFO etc. It doesn't matter if they only have to talk once every several months; make it easy for them. Of course, don't forget to have your full details on the Executive sheet also.

Now you have one contact sheet left to do. Channel Management is also about advocacy of your partners back into your company, so you need to both advertise your partners internally, and also make it as easy as possible for teams in your company to interact with your partners. There are two ways to go here. You can provide a basic contact sheet of all your partners, or you can go one step further and be a real hero and publish a partner directory. A Partner Directory is a bit more work, but remember, this is part of what channel management is about. Sometimes you will need to spend as much (if not more sometimes) working on people in your own company as you do working with your partners.

An Internal contact sheet could be as simple as an alphabetical list of all your partners, their address (so they can go there!), website, phone number and any other information that you get asked for regularly internally. If you have more than one channel manager in a territory, get together with fellow channel managers and publish a partner contact sheet internally that lists all your partners alphabetically. Once again, print out copious copies, laminate them and walk around your company distributing them and pinning them up.

If you really want to go to the next step, you can publish a partner directory. This is the ultimate advertisement for your partners internally at your company and is something that needs to be published at least once a quarter to be fresh and useful. A partner directory is a lot of work, so if you are going to produce one, you should view it as one of your primary advocacy tasks and set time aside each quarter to publish it. Partner Directories consist of three parts: 1) A list of partners, 2) A detailed sheet on each partner, and 3) a list of all personnel in the channel arranged alphabetically with contact details, job role, etc and is similar to a traditional telephone directory.

Contact sheets have so many benefits, not only for your partners and people in your company, they also have major benefits for you. Your visibility and brand are increased, you facilitate communication thereby freeing up your time, and you have a great messaging platform that is refreshed each month.

When was the last time you updated and distributed contacts sheets to your partners? 

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