You’ve recruited some partners, now what’s your game plan? Industry leaders have found success in an onboarding plan that includes smooth processes to onboard and train partners all while keeping them interested and engaged.
ActiveCampaign’s Cory Snyder, Director of Global Channel Sales, and Diana Lau, Channel Program Manager, sat down with us to talk about what they’ve learned works best to onboard partners efficiently. Diana brings a wealth of private and public sector experience to her role at ActiveCampaign. Cory has been in the MARTECH SaaS world over the last 12 years. 8 of those years he spent building channel programs & organizations. He currently manages a channel organization and program with over 6000 partners. Here’s what they shared about what works at ActiveCampaign, a Chicago-based email marketing, sales and marketing automation and CRM software platform.
You can’t start without knowing where you’re going. “First and foremost, before you start building a team, before you look at your onboarding process, you have to understand your end goal,” Cory explains. If you don’t set goals, you could find yourself creating a convoluted process that could be much more impactful and compact if you strategize before you start.
When you have 5,700 partners, with around 100 new inbound partner requests a month, you need an automated process. “ActiveCampaign uses a series of automated onboarding emails, which contain necessary paperwork, login information and introduces their PRM platform and the many resources it contains,” Diana explains. That way, they’re able to ensure every single new partner receives a warm welcome and the essential information they need to succeed.
A little one-on-one never hurts a new relationship. “ActiveCampaign has an onboarding manager that gives selected new partners between three and five calls during the first 30 days,” Diana says, “and these calls are essential to education and retainment.” The onboarding manager has set topics to review but they can customize based on industry and the customer’s knowledge. These calls are also a great opportunity to cement understanding of the PRM platform.
Have a new partner that has the potential has the potential and wants to really grow? Prioritize them. Although all of ActiveCampaign’s customers undergo the same automated process that helps them accept agreements and access resources, they give priority partners a little extra attention. “For the partners who really want to engage with us, the partners who are driven to add new customers in the next 30-60 days, we pull them into a white gloved version of our automated process.” Cory says. The “white glove” service still goes through the content provided in the automated process, but it is done with an ActiveCampaign channel team member.
“If the onboarding process takes too long, you have the risk of them saying ‘I’ll do it later’. They disengage,” Cory explains, adding that in his opinion, two weeks is the sweet spot.
The first goal is simple, Cory and Diana explain: we help the partner get their first sale. Although, It’s not for the sake of revenue, it’s important as it sheds light on the partner’s sales process, onboarding processes, services and products they should or are offering and so on. This information allows you to co-create their sales process, their go-to-market products and services, their onboarding process and so on. That is the definition of a partnership in our eyes. From there, we set out what the next 60 to 90 days should look like, they say. Milestones may vary, depending on the industry and the partner’s experience.
Forget the bottom line for a second and focus on connections with your partners. “Real success, in my opinion, comes from the relationships you build. My goal is to help channel team members move away from being 100% transactional and more relational.” Cory says. “That is why we encourage and support the partner in getting their first customer on the platform. It has nothing to do with the revenue from the customer but all we can do during and after the sale.”
You can’t just build an onboarding process and walk away. Know that it’s a living, breathing entity that will require ongoing tweaks. “It’s an evolutionary process in the sense that it will never be completed,” Cory says. “It will always evolve and there are always opportunities for improvement.”