How to Win Channel Partner Interest in Today’s Complex and Competitive Environment!
With the demand of solution providers exceeding supply, manufacturers must differentiate their value as a business partner against the competition.
A channel partner recruitment process that is successful and able to convince (prospective) partners to be advocates of your product, includes:
1.) Program process
- All phases of channel partnership are defined, including eligibility requirements for incentive opportunities, how channel conflict is managed, claims submission process, etc.
- Make sure you understand the steps of the onboarding process
- Be aware of how partners are responding
- Always be prepared to make adjustments
- Partner has access to easy-to-use and reliable “back-end” support (i.e., PRM, CRM, ERP, etc.) for exchanging data, marketing resources, registering opportunities, status updates on reimbursement, etc.
- Your PRM should be able to support onboarding activities
- Customize the partner portal/PRM experience
- Manufacturer develops internal/external authentic relationship with channel partner
- Educates and mentors partner
- Helps create product demand and carry out incentive opportunities
- Onboarding must not solely involve automation; physically help partners onboard so that you can automate future processes; this is where relationships are truly developed
How do you approach partner recruitment?
Typically, manufacturers will opt for one of these two strategies:
- Passive Partner Recruitment
- Relies on solution providers to find them
- Cost-effective and easier to manage
- Marginal long-term relationships
- Less control (i.e., business goals)
- Focuses on short-term results for long-term gain
- Minimal ROI
- Proactive Partner Recruitment
- Relies on thorough profile research and strategic analysis
- Difficult to execute
- Focuses on finding the “ideal partner”
- Time-consuming, taxing and expensive
- More control (i.e., business goals)
- Focuses on long-term gain over short-term results
- Greater ROI
Due to less risk and the short-term ROI, a passive channel partner recruitment process is favored amongst most manufacturers. Although “waiting” for solution providers certainly has its benefits, proactive partner recruitment is by far the more profitable, rationale and sustainable strategy to pursue.
What does a proactive channel partner recruitment process entail?
- Understanding what makes a business partner “strategic;” qualities that align with your business
- Target market/customer type
- Competing/complimentary technologies
- Geographic location
- Business model
- Existing customers
– Ex. ISV/in business for 30 years/ Southern California leads available/growth-mode/direct sales/sells to high-risk buyers/etc.
Leveraging Software in the Partner Recruitment Process
A robust Partner Relationship Management (PRM) system allows manufacturers to manage the recruitment process with efficiency.
Using spreadsheets and manual processes to keep track of prospects causes a catalog of unnecessary problems. If multiple people within your company are involved in the recruitment process, a decentralized database of contacts all but ensures inconsistencies in prospect analysis; multiple spreadsheets equates to multiple problems.
Here are 6 of the most important questions PRM systems help channel manager answer:
1.) Where will you record your partner prospects?
2.) Who will manage the recruiting of each partner?
3.) How will you assess partners from “nice to have” vs “need to have?”
4.) Where will data from the recruitment process reside?
5.) How will you report recruitment efforts?
6.) How will you manage the agreement process (once partners are recruited)?
Ultimately, a PRM system that allows you to manage the profiling process “end-to-end” is essential for proactive partner recruitment. It also ensures that internal personnel understands the overall strategy thanks to centralized data that is standardized in real time.
The Fundamentals of Partner Onboarding
Once partners are successfully recruited, your onboarding process requires as much thought and strategic consideration as your initial display during profiling.
Here’s a snapshot of how newly recruited channel partners should be introduced:
1.) A “Warm Welcome”
- Introductions to your team; executive communication
- Access to the “right” people in your organization early so that they don’t get stuck before things even get started
- Quick and easy access to product info, training steps, marketing guidebook, etc.
- Customized partner portal experience; display “ease of doing business” early on
2.) Business Plan
- A simple, constructive plan that lays down “the rules of engagement”
- Go-to-market strategy
- The initial/future expectations of partnership
- How you will (both) measure success
- Help partners launch your solution quickly
- Echo the “value potential” of partnership; convey why your solution is unique to the market; position your solution to their bottom line and value proposition
3.) Partner Enablement
- Training; online and in-person consultation/mentorship
- Get partners up and moving with incentive opportunities
- Help them to create demand
- Provide warm leads/ help them see success early
- How to handle issues in the field
- Involved them in program activity
- Downloadable resources
- Messaging docs.
- Competitive info
- Pricing docs./ configuration tools
Overall, ensuring partners with the right level of detail without overwhelming them at the same time is imperative; a balance of information and motivation is key to short and long-term success.
By continually giving partners content on an ongoing basis and routinely assuring partners that “you are there for them” they will quickly see the strategic value in the partnership.