How to Win Channel Partner Interest in Today’s Complex and Competitive Environment!
In order to win solution providers’ interest during your channel partner recruitment process, you need a thorough indirect sales strategy. Your sales strategy should assure that a partnership with your company makes sense.
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
- Confirm that all phases of channel partnership are defined. This means 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
- Make sure partners have 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
- Develop an internal/external authentic relationship with channel partner
- Make sure to educate and mentors partner
- Help create product demand and carry out incentive opportunities
- Your onboarding should not solely involve automation. The process should 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, businesses will opt for one of these two strategies:
- Passive Partner Recruitment
- Relies on solution providers to find them
- It is cost-effective and easier to manage
- Provides marginal long-term relationships
- Offers less control (i.e., business goals)
- Focuses on short-term results for long-term gain
- Provides minimal ROI
- Proactive Partner Recruitment
- Relies on thorough profile research and strategic analysis
- It is difficult to execute
- Focuses on finding the “ideal partner”
- It is time-consuming, taxing and expensive
- Provides more control (i.e., business goals)
- Focuses on the long-term gain over short-term results
- Results in greater ROI
Due to less risk and the short-term ROI, a passive channel partner recruitment process is favored amongst most businesses. Although “waiting” for solution providers certainly has its benefits, proactive partner recruitment is by far the more profitable and sustainable strategy to pursue.
What does a proactive channel partner recruitment process entail?
You need to recognize what makes a business partner “strategic”. Check to see if the following qualities align with your business:
- Configure their target market
- Discover their customer type
- Find out about their competing/complimentary technologies
- Notice their geographic location
- Determine their business model
- Learn about their existing customers
Leveraging Software in the Partner Recruitment Process
A Partner Relationship Management (PRM) system allows businesses to efficiency manage their recruitment process.
Tracking prospects by using spreadsheets or other manual processes can cause problems. In cases where multiple people are involved in the recruitment process, such practices will cause conflicts in prospect analysis. Multiple spreadsheets equate 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.) Once partners are recruited, how will you manage the agreement process?
Ultimately, a PRM system that allows you to manage the profiling process “end-to-end” is essential for proactive partner recruitment. A PRM system also ensures that internal personnel understands the overall strategy.
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”
- Introduce the new partners to your team.
- Provide access to the “right” people in your organization early so that they don’t get stuck before things even get started.
- Grant them quick and easy access to product info, training steps, marketing guidebook, etc.
- Offer them a customized partner portal experience. Display “ease of doing business” with you early on.
2.) Business Plan
- Create a simple, constructive plan that lays down “the rules of engagement”
- Spell-out your go-to-market strategy
- Clarify the initial and future expectations of partnership
- Explain to them 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
- Provide online and in-person training, consultation, and mentorship
- Get partners up and moving with incentive opportunities
- Help them to create demand
- Provide your partners with warm leads
- Teach them how to handle issues in the field
- Involved them in program activity
- Provide them with downloadable resources
- Competitive info
- Pricing docs./ configuration tools
Overall, ensuring partners with the right level of detail without overwhelming them at the same time is important. A balance of information and motivation is key to short and long-term success.
Therefore, always provide partners with content. Also, routinely assure partners that “you are there for them”. Consequently, they will see the strategic value in the partnership.