Guide to Finding Channel Partners that Will Fuel your Business’s Growth.
To a vendor, the partner onboarding question is the bread and butter to a productive and healthy channel network. Vendors strive to create an indirect sale funnel that is tried and tested to produce results, infiltrate diverse marketplaces and contribute to long-term b2b partnerships.
But long before the program is designed and incentives are offered, vendors need to recruit partners with the competence, determination, and resources.
In today’s go-go, white-knuckle business environment, vendors can’t afford to spend countless months trying to build the perfect channel network. The partner onboarding process mandates a combination of efficient development and thorough analysis in order to remain relevant in the modern marketplace. Failure to deploy such a corporate recruitment infrastructure risks stale inventory, unsatisfied end-customers, wasted manpower/resources, and inevitably, program-catastrophe.
Partner recruitment mandates careful scrutiny; an in-depth examination that explores both tangible and intangible qualities. While navigating the ‘channel ecosystem,’ you want to find partners that will fuel your business’s growth, not impede productivity.
Sure, not all channel partners are created equal, and some may require additional sustenance to enable production. The important thing to remember, however, is to ensure the relationship eventually leads to value.
Following are six channel partner onboarding questions to ask when considering potential partners to join your channel program:
1.) How does our product or service help support your value proposition?
In the past, channel partners “worked” on behalf of their vendors’ success. That’s not so much the case today. In such a competitive, unstable market, vendors realize the uncertainty each partnership entails. Occasionally, it’s the partner—not the vendor—that dictates the direction of the rapport.
In order to maintain partner mindshare and further demonstrate your value as a vendor, during the channel partner onboarding you need to identify how your product and services contribute to their bottom line.
2.) What do your lead generation and sales process look like?
Compare your direct go-to-market strategy against how a potential channel partner typically sells a product? This analysis can be mutually beneficial as it can spawn collaborative ideas and suggestions to surface. Find out where your company might be able to add value to the partner’s sales process.
3.) What types of incentives do you deem most important?
Partners have seen a lot of incentives. Therefore, you have to find out if the sales and marketing program you offer will be of value to prospective distributors. A great vehicle for adding value to partners is to learn about their weaknesses. Once you have a better-understanding partner weakness, the more relevant your incentive will be.
4.) What are your thoughts on training?
Most partners will be receptive to your training. However, it’s unusual for vendors and partners to discuss this during channel partner onboarding.
This question provides a unique insight into how committed your partner’s team really is.
Are onsite visits a regular occurrence? Do they frequently participate in webinars or two-way conversations? Do they have certain expectations as to the type of marketing material they receive from vendors? Are they continuously training and have more of a “one-and-done” mentality?
5.) What can we do to make sure our partnership is successful?
By being empathetic to the demands and expectations of channel partners, you begin to foreshadow into the relationship. If you can’t fulfill partners’ requests, the rapport will likely be unsuccessful.
6.) What’s your approach to selling dead inventory?
This question may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a real concern that most distributors face. This question, during the channel partner onboarding stage, gives you a peek inside the partner’s business savviness, creativity, and experience. Do partners have unique marketing and sales tactics, or simply slash prices and deal with the repercussions later?
But, what are the ingredients of a successful partner onboarding program?
Four critical steps in developing profitable & lasting relationships
1.) Segment of Duties
Partner onboarding should never fall solely on the shoulders of one individual or department. Partner onboarding is a collaborative, team effort where multiple minds and hands cohesively interlock and initiate opportunities. However, the organization and assigned ownership are imperative for productive development. For every new lead opportunity, each member of your company should be designated to an exclusive role where objective duties are assigned and executed for efficient recruitment.
2.) Display your Character Right away
We’ve all heard the romantic cliché “It was love at first sight,” enough to make us all sick. But disregarding its pretentious connotation—it’s true; whether you care to accept it, first impressions matter. So, put yourself in the shoes of a potential partner during the partner onboarding stage. Consider the first things a potential partner will be introduced to such as your website, social media profile, and communication between your sales team.
What are some things you can do to strengthen your initial impression?
- Demonstrate how easy and stress-free doing business with you is.
- Train your customer service department on proper b2b etiquette.
- Meet them for lunch or on-campus so they can put a face to your company.
- Automate the application process with objective guidelines and an aesthetically pleasing interface.
- Research company value proposition to tailor message or angle pitch.
3.) Robust Automation
Web-based solutions and PRM software are all the rage in productive partner onboarding. But simply having automation sign-up available and having it seamlessly accessible are two drastically different things. Not only should you design an objective roadmap that explicitly details each step of the process, but it should also be done with sophistication—appeasing both visual and cognitive sensory. Additionally, vendors can deploy gamification and/or milestones to the partner process, which details and thus rewards completion of different phases and acknowledges requirement fulfillment.
4.) Initial Success
In order to sufficiently gauge positive motivation and tangible productivity, vendors should assist in the early stages of the partnership; in other words, helping to contribute to short-term wins, reliable communication, on-site training, joint marketing initiatives, along with reinforcing your bottom line is key to demonstrating your value as a partner—confirming to the partner that doing business with you was the right decision, which leads to future success.