In our previous post, Reasons why tech companies should hire a Partner Experience Manager, we spoke about the growing importance of a PEM’s role in your Channel Management team and briefly highlighted some of the tasks that your PEM should take care of. In this post, we’re going to dig a little deeper and expand on some of the specific steps that your PEM can take in order to build a successful channel partner program.
1. Gather critical, relevant feedback from your existing partner network.
Before your PEM can get to work building a successful channel partner program, they need to pinpoint the main needs and concerns of your current partner network. This feedback can be gathered through surveys, partner forums, informal chats, and analytics. We recommend that your PEM begins by defining different feedback categories and including the following key questions in each category:
· Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform
o Is your current PRM system being used to effectively overcome partner training challenges and sticking points?
o Are you using your PRM platform to distribute branded resources that effectively communicate your business values, strategies, and goals to your channel partners?
o Are the collaborative tools provided by your PRM system being used to their full potential?
o Are your Market Development Fund requests being expeditiously submitted, managed, and granted/denied through your PRM platform?
o Do your partners feel that your knowledge base articles and resources answer relevant questions and provide real assistance?
o Is your content easy to find, navigate, download, and understand?
o Which resources are missing from your knowledge base?
o Which KPIs do you track to garner relevant insights? Are you tracking deal status, number of closed deals, and ‘top seller’ packages?
o What kind of actions are you implementing based on insights gained from the above KPIs?
o Are your partners using your reports? If so, how?
o Which support channels do your partners use? Which channels work best for quickly resolving issues?
o Why do your partners favor particular channels, and how might alternate channels provide more benefit?
o Do you provide a platform that simplifies the communication between partners and end customers? (For example, check out the Morphed Customer Portal.)
2. Implement co-selling best practices.
When your sales team works hand-in-hand with your channel partners’ sales teams to co-sell your solution alongside their services, you’re really setting yourself up to enjoy the sweetest fruits of your partner network tree.
Co-selling in this way is also a great way to scale your operation. According to Accenture, 86% of partners agreed that as the world moves to end-to-end solutions based on a deep knowledge of the customer, partner-to-partner collaboration is more important than ever. Therefore, one of your PEM’s top focuses should be implementing co-selling best practices to make the most of your ecosystem’s combined resources.
In this Crossbeam article, Satta Sarmah Hightower points out that it’s important to carefully select co-selling partners before jumping off the deep end hand-in-hand. Remember, not every single partner in your network is necessarily a good co-selling fit. In the same article, Shawn Ragell lists five important aspects to consider before signing a co-selling agreement:
- primary lines of business
- ideal customer profiles and the overlap with our own
- past or current work with competitors
- experience with our own product
- weight of their influence
Once you’ve chosen a co-selling partner, it’s essential to keep communication lines open, avoid channel conflict, and ensure that you’re not directly competing with your co-selling partner. Vikas Khorana notes the importance of ensuring that both teams understand the minutiae of the terms of sale and permissions structure of each deal or campaign at the outset. In addition, he says that it’s equally important to sit down and map out a long-term relationship. As with every successful channel partner program, full transparency upfront will pay off in the future, so be open about any future plans that may affect the current co-selling relationship.
3. A smooth partner onboarding process is key to building a successful channel partner program.
Any PEM worth their salt will know that having a well-defined, impactful partner onboarding process is absolutely critical to the success of any channel partner relationship. Allbound’s Ali Spiric shares some great suggestions in her impactful onboarding checklist, we believe that every PEM should analyze the following 5 steps during this process.
· Have a clear idea of what your end goal is: Only with a clear end goal in mind can your PEM put together a highly focused and effective onboarding process.
· Automate educational emails: Make sure your partners don’t miss a beat by sending them vital educational information and resources via automated email messages every step of the way.
· Offer one-on-one calls: A little personal attention goes a long way to cementing any new relationship, so set aside time during the first month of every new channel relationship to check-in and troubleshoot via Zoom or Teams.
· Keep the onboarding process short: If your onboarding process drags on or sessions demand too much time, partners are likely to put off engaging with it at all. Cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.
· Help partners close their first deal: Helping a new partner get their first sale is a great opportunity to really understand both their sales process and their services and products. From there, focus on co-creating a tailored sales process that harnesses the resources and skills of both teams.