Partner Sales Acceleration Blog | Allbound

Increasing Channel Partner Engagement by Creating a Better Partner Program Experience

Written by Scott Salkin | December 18, 2017

In a previous Allbound Podcast, Diane Krakora, Principal at PartnerPath, discussed partner profitability, structuring a channel program, and three things that partners care about. As she claims, many SaaS companies share a similar challenge: 

They're fast-growing, and because of their successful—and obviously attractive—product, many companies have a strong value proposition for why a channel partner should work with them. However, despite this progress, vendors are only getting a couple of dollars on licenses a year. Plus, their services may not be that robust.

So, how do you accelerate a partner ecosystem? By reconsidering how your company looks at types of partners.

First, stop talking about partner labels.

There’s a myriad of partner types these days. However, rather than write them off based on their labels—say, ISB, reseller, VAR, or systems integrator—consider what partners are actually doing: 

  • Are they reselling?
  • Are they referring?
  • Are they bundling?
  • Are they integrating?

This creates a new way of working with different types of partners based upon applicable examples. Understanding different types of partners enables vendors to understand how each partner makes money. And it helps them create specific value propositions for each one. For example, you can provide your partners with specific action items to take within an established time frame so they receive a certain amount of returns. This helps create a specific ROI for your partners.

To support these ideas, Partner Path’s recent report "The Six Pillars of Partner Experience" considered the partner experience from the perspective on the partner and posed the following questions: What most affects their experience with a vendor? And what contributes to a good or a bad experience with a vendor? You may be surprised to learn the results.

The report found that partners ranked people as the most important pillar that impacts the partner experience. This makes complete sense when you think about it. The better the experience that the solution provider has with a vendor, the more engaged they'll be. And the more engaged they are, the more they sell. Thus, it becomes clear that partner engagement is crucial.

To ensure you are engaging your channel sales partners, you have to know what partners care about. Here are three things that they actually care about:

Your product does what is advertised.

It’s important to be honest with your partners. Be specific about what your product does and what it doesn't do. Is your messaging clear? And are your partners able to comprehend that messaging? 

As we’ve mentioned before, transparent communication builds strong relationships with channel partners and improves productivity—which, in turn, drives sales numbers.

Partners have a way to make money with your products.

Vendors don't set prices, nor do they impact how they make money. But they can influence how partners position their products. Create value propositions and illustrate exactly how partners can make money.

Only making a couple of dollars on a license is not going to be all that interesting to partners. However, as Krakora says, you can tell partners, “Here are the services that wrap around our product, and here's the consulting you might need to do as a solution provider.” Or, you can say, "Here are the analytics that you can do in terms of driving and providing data back to your customers." 

It’s important to always be thinking through how your partner can make money with your products, because, ultimately, if they can't make money with your product, they're not going to sell it.

You offer partners an ease of doing business.

This boils down to providing the best possible customer experience. For example, how can you streamline the processes that a partner has to go through to be able to place an order or get a customer up and running on your product? If they can’t easily sell your product—even if they can make money from it—they're simply not going to want to work with you.

So, how do you make your partner program more effective?

Making communication clear, illustrating exactly how partners can make money from a product, and removing any obstructions of doing business with your company are a good start.