Channel partners account for a large portion of revenues. But in our effort to maximize channel sales, we often put a lot of pressure on partners to perform. What new programs are rolling out this year? How are we incentivizing partners to sell more? Which partners are on track to hit goals this quarter?
But often, these programs or initiatives take little into consideration for what partners want or are even capable of. Having a better understanding of the partner’s perspective can help you get the right partners on board.
Too Many People
Turnover is high in the IT industry. Many employees are focused on climbing the corporate ladder and growing professionally. This is by no means a bad thing; however, it is easy to forget the impact this has on a partner.
When partner-facing employees transition into new roles, there is occasionally little to no handoff for their replacement. This can be frustrating for partners who now have to go through the entire discovery process again, explaining what they sell, what their priorities and goals are for the year, and how they plan on growing their (let’s be honest, your) business. Progress is often stalled, or never even made, because partners continuously have to start over with new contacts.
Now this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if there was only one point of contact for the partner. However, partners are being contacted by a slew of representatives, each with their own priorities. Sales, marketing, services, product groups, special programs and more all want a piece of the action.
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Too Many Programs
Speaking of which, there are often far too many programs to keep track of. Sales incentives and spiffs, take-out programs, renewals, training and certifications, marketing enablement, special initiatives – the list goes on. Again, each of these programs associated with a different contact and priorities. Worst of all, it’s surprising that none of them seem to communicate with one another – don’t you all work for the same company!?
And as if that’s not enough, these programs are constantly in flux. Today, partners are eligible for this program and tomorrow, they’re not. The rules are always changing and it’s impossible to keep track of who is responsible for what, and when. Partners are confused and frustrated, but it doesn’t end there.
Too Many Platforms
Now that partners belong to more programs than they can keep track of, there are goals and deadlines to manage for each. But in order to track it all, they are responsible for reporting to each through different platforms. Often, these platforms are not user friendly and create extra work for partners as many already track this information internally for their own insight. This reporting is cumbersome and often does not provide any additional value for partners. The only reason they oblige the request to use these platforms is for fear of losing funds or being kicked out of the program.
It’s Not All About You
As if this is not overwhelming enough, partners often work with multiple manufacturers and distributors. Each with their own priorities, initiatives, programs, platforms and the people who manage them.
It’s easy to prioritize our own goals and objectives. But when working with partners, we often forget that this relationship is indeed a partnership – two organizations, working together to achieve a mutual goal.
Not every partner will be on board to keep up with them all. Align initiatives to partners with similar priorities, don’t assume all partners will want to participate in every program. Meet in the middle and share in the accomplishments you can achieve together.
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So What Can You Do?
If you want to maximize your relationship with partners, don’t just push them into every program or initiative you have running. Get to know them; their initiatives, goals and priorities as an independent organization. Then, strategically align partners to those who would best fit individual programs.
This will improve partner relations and dramatically increase the effectiveness of the programs you develop and implement. Don’t make the mistake of always targeting the partners with the highest revenue contribution. They most likely got there because they were very strategic and specific in their approach to the market.
What screening process do you utilize when on-boarding partners to channel programs? Do you categorize partners based on their strengths and weaknesses?