Forrester’s Jay McBain keeps his finger firmly on the pulse of the ecosystem industry, and his predictions around the future of partnerships and channel sales are always worth listening to. So, when he recently released new data around partnerships – and the growing importance and recognition of partner assistance in particular – we sat up and listened.
“The channel for 40 years has been synonymous with the flow of money,” says McBain. “What isn’t talked about enough is that about 90% of that number is partner-assisted.” McBain elaborates by explaining that while 90% of Microsoft sales have always flowed through the channel, Microsoft has now switched to quantifying their sales as 96% partner-assisted (note, not ‘partner-sourced’).
Another example offered by McBain to illustrate the growing importance and recognition of partner assistance is Azure. The company has grown by 50% per quarter for the past six quarters. While only 30% of that growth came through channel sales, a massive 96% of it is partner-assisted.
Your partner ecosystem doesn’t just run on traditional channel sales anymore; it runs on partner assistance.
Partner assistance comes in many forms and takes place at myriad different touchpoints throughout the B2B customer journey. Sometimes a customer is directly introduced via a partner. Sometimes they discover your product through reading a blog on a partner’s website. Sometimes a partner swoops in at the end to help close a sluggish deal. However, your partners influence sales, if McBain’s insights are anything to go by, encouraging partner assistance is absolutely essential to building a successful ecosystem going forward.
Here are five ways to boost partner assistance in your ecosystem:
1. Build integrations based on account mapping results.
Account mapping is an essential foundational step of any new partnership. Comparing customer lists allows you to spot common customers and opportunities for collaboration and co-selling. For example, if you find that you and a particular partner already have a large cohort of shared customers, it could indicate that it’s worth building an integration. Building integrations between your product and your customers’ other favorite apps and systems is a great way to increase stickiness and improve customer retention.
2. Create joint solutions that enhance your product and meet customers’ needs.
Creating a new joint solution with a great partner has the advantage of combining the best capabilities of both parties. WorkSpan also points out that co-creating a joint solution with a partner allows you to better meet the specific needs of shared customers. Having a partner who already has an intimate understanding of your customers’ wider needs – and the tech foundation to help you enhance your own solution – allows you to invest in new solutions faster than if you were going alone.
3. Use a partnership ecosystem platform to remove the gaps between your partners and your internal team.
The best partnerships are those that function as one unified team – as far as that’s possible, of course. One powerful way to close the gaps between your team and your partners is to use a partnership ecosystem platform (PEP) to facilitate seamless, real-time data sharing and collaboration. Instead of your Partnership Leader spending their time acting as a middleman between your partners and your internal team, a PEP allows your sales reps to cruise up-to-date partner data from their account dashboards. Sales reps can then proactively engage relevant partners to help accelerate deals, co-sell, or even just advice.
4. Ask partners the right questions to learn more about your customers’ needs and your partners’ abilities.
When recruiting new partners and initiating new tech alliances, one of a Partnership Leader’s mandates is to always be on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate, co-sell, and co-design new products. This means asking new partners the right questions. ‘What kinds of services/products are your customers looking for?’ ‘What do your customers struggle with?’ ‘What would make their lives easier?’ ‘How would you solve this problem?’ ‘How can we help you better serve your customers?’ Really listening to your partners’ insights will not only provide a wealth of valuable customer insight, it will go a long way to building a trustful, effective partnership right off the bat.
5. Use partners as a path to new markets and channels.
As stated by PartnerPath, 68% of consumers make buying decisions after seeing a co-branded campaign. This means that partners who are already well-positioned in a local market can help you land new leads at a fraction of the cost. Co-selling hand-in-hand with an established name in a particular region or industry is an excellent way to get a foot in the door with customers who aren’t yet familiar with your brand or products. However, we believe that with marketplaces generating ⅓ of the economy’s income, there’s still ample room for new solutions.
Our bet? Turn your static partner directory into a commerce-enabled SaaS marketplace where you’re able to sell your products and services alongside those of your partners.