Should Channel Partners Be Responsible for Your Customers’ Success?

Posted on May 4, 2017

By Elliot Hullverson

Tags: ,

channel partners

In the past, channel partners often focused on transactional activity. In fact, up to 85–90 percent of channel relationships were transactional a decade ago. These relationships did very little to inspire channel-vendor loyalty, very little to boost vendors’ products and brands, and very little to foster the customer experience.

That’s not to say that many service providers didn’t recognize the importance of customer success. Instead, they often ignored how channel partners fit into the equation. As a result, partners often lacked the ability to provide customized customer experiences.

Changing Customer Needs and Vendor-Partner Relationships

However, a major paradigm shift has taken place in both customer needs and vendor-partner relationships.

In the past couple of years, increasingly complex customer needs have created an increase in partner types—such as traditional resellers, consulting firms, and integrators—that both sell products and use them as the basis for their own offerings and services.

Additionally, the vendor-partner relationship is evolving. Vendors are now including channel partners alongside internal teams as primary drivers behind customer success. In doing so, they’ve created a shared responsibility for generating positive customer outcomes.

Moving forward, solutions will be ecosystem-delivered, supported, and incorporate these diverse partner types. To reimagine vendor-partner relationships that truly benefit customer success, it’s vital to align all ecosystem forces. And as customer success matures and grows, both vendors and their partners must be accountable for results.

However, it isn’t entirely up to your channel partners to drive customer success. It’s up to you to align your channel programs to address this paradigm shift.

As an outcome-focused business model takes hold, vendors must respond by working hard to manage partner success and their journey map. They must implement frictionless partner enablement programs. This is all about alignment—and more specifically, alignment across customers’ intended outcomes, touchpoints, and incentives.

Benefits of Alignment

When alignment occurs, everybody wins:

  • Customers benefit from increased time-to-value that meshes with journey maps.
  • Partners increase margins, retention rates, and competitiveness by identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
  • Vendors profit from better margins due to lower adoption costs.

Alignment creates a synergy that has been absent across partner programs for too long. In the past, partners had neither the time nor the tools to maintain personal relationships and provide full customer life-cycle enablement. It’s up to modern enablement programs to empower them to do both.

As more and more vendors expect partners to contribute to customer success, there’s an increase in the importance of fostering collaboration with your partners. Sure, your partners have direct, face-to-face contact with users; nevertheless, it’s your responsibility to ensure a full circle of knowledge transfer occurs.

In traditional partner programs, knowledge transfer challenges tended to be a short-sighted. They addressed the needs of delivering the right information about your products to your partners. And that’s about it. To encourage a full circle of knowledge transfer, organizations must be able to garner feedback and consumption information from customers via your partners—and transfer that insight into meaningful strategy.

Sales Acceleration Tools Makes Alignment and Collaboration Possible

Technology can help create an aligned approach in a complex ecosystem wherein multiple components are actually providing value.

Sales acceleration tools helps organization understand partner relationships because data isn’t restricted to a single partner. By leveraging data to determine effective strategies and materials, you can share this valuable knowledge with anyone in your channel program who can best make use of it.

More specifically, sales enablement tools encourage the continual collaboration between vendors and partners that will drive future success. From onboarding and training to certifications, technology creates ongoing relationships that empower your partners with the tools they need to succeed. This results in a full-scale knowledge transfer that in turn enables partners to provide a superior customer experience.

Finally, sales enablement tools provide organizations insight into which marketing assets are being used and which partners are using them most effectively. This keeps partners informed about and aligned on your products, go-to-market plans, and customer success methodologies—which in turn makes them more effective extensions of your team.

Elliot Hullverson

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