Recommendations for when Recruiting Channel Partners and Creating Sales and Marketing Programs.
In the past, attracting solution providers, VARs, distributors, resellers, etc., to join your partner program was easy.
Businesses competing in indirect sales didn’t have too many options when it came to incentives; flexibility to participate in a program that was specific to partners’ needs wasn’t a realistic option. Channel partners had to demonstrate to vendors the value they could bring to their bottom line.
Today, however, it’s a different story.
The marketplace is saturated with competition, leaving channel partners plenty of options to find the vendor that best fits their objective.
To remain attractive, vendors must implement (and advertise) sales and marketing programs that benefit partners’ bottom line; by demonstrating how your products, incentives, and resources correlate with partners’ needs and goals, the more interest you will create.
Incentive opportunities serve as an integral component towards driving the performance of products and partners. As such, it’s imperative that partners perceive your program as a strategically designed, thoughtfully articulated, go-to-market strategy.
Harness the “Walk Before You Run” Mentality
A solid incentive-infrastructure starts at the beginning, or in this case, with research. It’s essential you understand these 5 questions before pursuing your next program:
1.) What qualities or characteristics do you want partners to have when they think about you?
2.) What differentiates your services or incentives versus competitors.
3.) What synergy exists between your value proposition and partners’ bottom line?
4.) What are your greatest weaknesses/strengths in terms of executing programs successfully?
5.) What do you need partners to improve on to become more profitable to work with?
Now, you could obtain this information from current/past channel partners, but you run the risk of receiving skewed or bias feedback. The best alternative is to seek out third-party consultation from individuals well-versed in the channel industry.
Partner Onboarding, Done with Caution
It’s easy to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to partner recruitment. After all, more partners mean more business, right?
That’s not always the case. You want to make absolutely certain that each partner possesses the ability to benefit from your program.
Moreover, promoting the number of partners you currently have participating in a program
(to attract appeal) is irrational, and can produce the opposite effect: Low participation.
The more “partners” you have, the more they will be interpreted as competition.
Instead, highlight the programs’ “unique factor.”
It’s essential to empathize the importance for partner and program to match. In other words, demonstrate you’ve put in the work to make sure partners can feasibly benefit from the program. At the same time, spotlight the program’s adaptability, and (if possible) how it can be tweaked in order to meet their specific demands.
Remember, channel partners are people, and people, love to feel special and exclusive—no matter the industry.
Additional questions to ask when recruiting channel partners and creating sales and marketing programs:
- Is the program clear and concise, implemented with objective requirements and parameters?
- Is/should the program be strategically aligned with partners based on location/territory?
- Does the partner have a good “track record” or reputation?
- How long has the partner been in business?
- Do you have the proper onboarding material(s) in place to ensure a smooth recruitment?
- How are they with communication and turnaround time for responses?
- Do partners need to participate in training prior to becoming eligible for the program?
- Do you have a capable, knowledgeable and socially likable channel manager in pace?
- Do they have experience using Partner Relationship Management software?
Be the Vendor Your Partner Always Wanted
As a vendor, there should be a certain level of expectations partners will anticipate. Although this may seem like a backward mentality, competition is simply too high to let partners fight for themselves.
Here a few things you can do to maintain “partner mindshare” and improve partner/product performance:
- Research competitor’s programs: Establishing influence in the channel industry is imperative. If a competitor offers just as lucrative incentives on top of better margins, there’s no reason to stay with you. Understand what makes competitor’s programs appealing so you can differentiate your company, and propel the “unique factor.”
- Help them win early: Getting off to a great start speaks volumes. If your partner is struggling to achieve early success, they will most likely abandon ship. Diffuse this possibility by handing them warm leads, consulting them on pricing and negotiation, providing on-site visits and digital resources to help educate them. Furthermore, stay in touch, connect with them on social media, continuously ask for feedback on how you can become a better vendor.
- Ease of use (PRM): In today’s widespread marketplace, overflow of POS data and transactions, complex program rules, etc., a solid PRM infrastructure is essential. However, a confusing interface combined with neglected content is a surefire way to turn off newly boarded partners. The easier you make your Partner Portal to use, the more confident partners will want to use it, and most importantly, sell your product.