By Snehashish Bhattacharjee, Global CEO, Denave
Sales is a domain which can easily be passed as one of the most interconnected and inter-dependent industrial field. While the success is benchmarked by the number of customers acquired and percentage revenue rise, every organisation knows that it takes an army of people – from various teams and even from various other companies, to work in tandem and to bring them closer to these milestones. Sales is a domain which can easily be passed as one of the most interconnected and inter-dependent industrial field. While the success is benchmarked by the number of customers acquired and percentage revenue rise, every organisation knows that it takes an army of people – from various teams and even from various other companies, to work in tandem and to bring them closer to these milestones.
One of the most important entity in the whole journey of an idea eventually translating into a sold product or service is the mighty channel partners. You may have a great idea or even a fantastic product and the promise of an unwavering service but if the same isn’t taken to and presented well in front of your target audience – then the real worth of good idea is lost!
Hence, it’s not going be an extrapolated expression to call channel partners as the building blocks for the success of your sales strategy. Your chemistry with your partner network and based on that, their efforts for selling your product or service is directly proportional to the revenue and customer base boost that you’d get. Therefore, how best you are able to put together and then pull off a partner management program is what defines your success.
So, what does it take to have a channel partner program which goes beyond the regular and which transforms your revenue log book (for good, of course!)?
To dig through that question, let’s first look at the series of events – first step is getting through the right partner and this includes not just identifying the new ones but also scrutinizing the existing ones which have become more like non (or very less) performing assets for your business. After this selection and sieving, comes the onboarding part where right planning and a methodical approach will help you sail through. The key here is to treat the partners like your customers instead of thinking of them as just a facilitator. After a successful onboarding comes the longest and most defining part – their management. Succeeding in the first two but failing to have a fool -proof plan for this step can make the whole fort tumble down.
This brings us to the BIG QUESTION!
What are the ingredients which goes into creating a successful channel partner management program? How you can revamp and revive your existing partner community programs and reap better returns?
Appended are some common and some common yet ignored elements which can transform a partner program into the most thriving channel partner program:
• Common Eventual Goals & Realistic KPIs
Just like a happy marriage, this partnership also relies on the persuasion of similar goals. Therefore, first you have to have a clear set of objectives from the partnership and once you’re both onboard with that, chalk out reasonable KPI metrics together which would then be reviewed regularly. Idea is that both you and the partner are on the same page when it comes to precise expectations.
• Clear Communication
A consistent channel of communication is non-negotiable between you and the partner network. Apart from regularly scheduled meetings, leverage technology for a real-time connectivity tool. This will add accountability as well as provide a platform for exchange of innovative ideas or real-time market insights or even any crisis communication.
• Product/ Service Readiness
All else in place, if your product/ service is still undergoing cycles of upgrades or testing or if there is no formal agreement on the messaging, partners won’t be able to sell your product well. Having finalised product literature (marketing collaterals, presentations etc.), properly running demos etc. are few essentials for partners to be able to make a stable and compelling story for you in the market.
• Proper Processes
Partners should know whom to reach out whenever they need some info or additional understanding. Making them run around for figuring out the right input for their frequent one-off queries is equivalent to putting them off for having those queries in the first place itself. And the loss would eventually be yours in case if that happens. Therefore, this ingredient plays a crucial role in making or breaking the success prospects of a partner program.
• Refresher Trainings
Perfecting the partner management program in one go is a feat, however, it is a continuously evolving process owing to the constantly changing market trends, customer demands, and other dynamics. Apart from that, even the regular analysis of performance will give some insights on areas which would need some course correction. And lastly, updates in your own product/ service would happen every now and then. In light of all these, regular trainings and calibration sessions for partner network are somethings you cannot do without.
• Regular and timely Incentives
Who doesn’t need motivation for continuing to work? May be someone who doesn’t have a zeal to do better than what he/ she is presently doing, and your partners are the last people you’d want to fall into this league of people. Based on the specialist or generalist services you are drawing, you can plan an incentive model which will act as a constant morale booster for your partner community. And their success is equal to your success after all. However ensuring a simple method of evaluating performance and timely disbursement post validation of claims is super critical to keep the partner aligned.
• Analytics Advantage
Even the best of program can undergo wilting if it is not re-attuned regularly. Have metrics and analytics dashboards which are accessible to both, to be able to evaluate how each of you have fared on the program parameters in terms of strategy formulation and execution. This is an imperative element for ensuring optimised planning and prioritisation.
Leveraging competence of even the best-in-market channel partner is not an easy job, especially in the realm of the cut-throat competition which is apparent in the market today. Right partner recruitment and mindful management of the same is a job which takes commitment and a keen observational eye. The reason for stating the latter is, alongside working on the partner community, it is also important to be watchful of your competitor. Partners are the nearest outlet to the ground market and your target audience, and hence, an allied tracking of the market and especially competition’s footsteps will also help in re-aligning your program elements or focus areas.
Lastly, in the technology-driven era of today, not leveraging tech for better management of your programs is like intentionally living in 90s when the world is nearing 2020! For example, just like CRM holds its own spot in your business, so can a partner relationship management (PRM) tool. The same can be developed in-house or leveraged externally. This will also strengthen the partner-communication platform and you can feel more like one-team then two separate entities working in silo.
What has helped you in managing your partner network and what all have acted as roadblocks in your journey of managing channel partners? We’d love to hear your thoughts, do share the same in the comment box below.