Implementing and maintaining a partner program requires a bit more effort than blind luck. In today’s channel sales environment, attracting qualified prospects—and putting in the work to retain them—isn’t as simple as it once was. With a myriad of options available, partners now have more power than ever to select vendors that appeal to their needs. In this regard, channel partner programs require specific strategies and processes, well-defined benefits and requirements, and effective management techniques, to maintain. Managers must offer purpose-driven channel solutions to manage complex, multi-tiered programs that appeal to a wide variety of resellers.
To help build a successful program, here are four channel management best practices.
1. Provide Partners with Great Tools and Culture
As Harvard Business Review points out, positive work cultures are more productive than those dominated by stress, pressure, and fear. Managers must work hard to create a supportive environment that treats indirect sales reps as an extension of their internal teams.
The first step in creating a partner program is implementing a culture based on collaboration and communication. For starters, this means that your partners should know exactly where, how, and when to communicate and what tools are available to them. This will not happen by simply creating a great website, or partner portal. Partners still respond best to “personal” onboarding. This can take place with a combination of people and technology. Sales enablement technology can monitor your engagement, outreach, and activity efforts. From CRM integration to sales automation, these tools help provide targeted, meaningful communication efforts that drive ROI.
Finally, because your reps are located across the globe, it’s important to make an effort to keep them in the loop. Positive social connections are paramount to the success of your channel. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential, but it’s important not to act overly managerial and step on their toes.
2. Provide the Right Messages at the Right Time
As we just mentioned, regular communication with channel partners is crucial for engagement and accountability. However, too much irrelevant chatter can also overwhelm or, even worse, annoy them. Instead, partner programs should be designed so that partners are easily able to access and consume personalized content. From onboarding and training material to news updates and product launches, everything should be designed to provide some sort of value.
In addition to providing the right content at the right time, channel management best practices involve the ability to measure the utilization of content. This data should be presented in terms of consumption and revenue. For example, if downloads and performance are both high, then you’re most likely delivering the right materials to your reps. Ultimately, you should be able to provide partners with purposeful content based on their needs, your company’s buyer personas, and the stages of the buyer’s journey.
3. Reward and Incentivize Your Partners
Eighty-one percent of sales reps agree that incentives strengthen ongoing relationships, and 70 percent of best-in-class performers have implemented incentive programs. As we’ve mentioned before, incentive programs are extremely popular and, as these numbers suggest, are even expected from successful teams. With this in mind, you can bet that your partners will be scrutinizing your incentive programs.
Incentive programs should, above all, focus on the individual and keep communication clear and concise. Implementing a successful incentive program takes time. In addition to training courses, the best teams should consider certificates and gamification to track success and reward partners. No matter what techniques you implement, you should be able to measure partner relationships with quantifiable progress and action items.
4. Provide Ongoing Performance Management
As a channel manager, only half of the struggle of maintaining a successful channel is contingent on the recruiting and onboarding process. The other half rests in the ability to provide ongoing partner performance management. Whether you have a channel of 50 or 500, it’s important to remember that not all partners are created equal. And treating them as such will result in wasted efforts.
Sixty percent of channel vendors evaluate relationships either biannually or quarterly. Doing so allows your team to leverage profile data to make strategic decisions based on performance. Being able to track your partners to identify where and how your team can focus your efforts is important. Multi-tiered, channel management best practices such as these enable your partners to grow based on strategic value, revenue, and potential.