Is Your Partner Program Meeting Its Potential?
Let’s face it: The only real reason for having partners is to drive greater amounts of revenue less expensively that doing it yourself. So why are so many channel partner programs generating mediocre results? You can certainly blame your partners’ inability to execute. But here are the three key issues you really need to address.
First, how do you manage your partners? Second, how do you incent your partners to work with you? Third, how do you weave partners into the fabric of your organization and strategy?
Too many companies “sign-up” partners — which is very different from targeted recruitment — and then take a “hope and pray” approach thinking that partners will miraculously figure out how to sell their products and drive revenue for them.
Trust me – they won’t – and you will end up spending lots of resources with little results. In The Secret to A Successful Partner Program, I described the basic elements that result in strong partner relationships. With partner programs it is equally important to keep it simple and stick to a few basic elements.
- Incorporate partners into your strategy: This is much more than a bullet point on your corporate presentation – it is a way of thinking and performing that permeates throughout the entire organization – and it must resonate from the top. Your partner strategy and program needs to align with the objectives, initiatives, and programs of every group and everyone should be measured in some way on how they execute against this strategy. Fundamentally, if you don’t believe that partners are strategic to your success and growth, partners will see that and they will be more cautious about investing and committing.
- Partners are an extension of your team: Treat and manage them the same way (or better) as you would your own team. Keep them informed so they can plan effectively, work with them so they can help you execute on key initiatives, and train them so they can represent you and support customers as well as you can. They can be an effective part of your sales, support, and services teams but only if they are built into the plan.
- Recruit the right partners: While some good partners will come to you, most you will need to target and seek out yourself. Before doing that you need to clearly understand the win-win scenario – what you hope to gain and what they hope to gain from the relationship – and success for both sides needs to be obvious. Develop an ideal partner profile, measure partner prospects against these criteria, and be brutally honest with partners so that you aren’t wasting yours or their time.
- Actively manage partner relationships: You wouldn’t hire someone and make them figure out what to do on their own. The same is true with your partners. You are essentially “hiring” them to work for you, you are investing in that relationship, and you want a return on that relationship. Someone must actively manage your partners and own the relationship (and this is not a part-time job) to develop a joint plan and set expectations, ensure they are trained and competent, support sales activities and customer issues, and track/measure their progress.
Once those components are in place, you can focus on working together to open up new markets and opportunities and drive new revenue for both companies.
Contributing blogger Scott Dahlgren is an independent consultant helping small and mid-size technology companies extract greater value from their partner and channel relationships. And he also runs marathons through the woods of Connecticut. The VAR Guy is updated multiple times daily. Don’t miss a single post. Subscribe to his newsletter, RSS feed, Twitter feed and Resource Center.