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We’re all familiar with the Pareto Principle, usually just called the 80/20 rule. Where 80% of the outcomes arrive from 20% of the tasks. Sometimes, it feels like it’s closer to a 90/10 rule. But that’s not ideal, and in fact moving in the wrong direction. We want to have every partner performing at their peak, with a level playing field across the board.
“If I only knew how to get the other 80% of my partners to perform like the top 20% do.”
Have you ever had a thought like this? It seems like you’ve got a strong crop of partners that bring in a lot of business, but then you’ve got a larger pool of partners that are underperforming. It’s probable that we arrived there without planning to. It’s not like we woke up one day and said, “hey, I want to be working in a partner program wasteland where the majority are inactive or unengaged.
There are a handful of reasons that you might find the 80/20 rule is hitting home hard. Here are the three most common root causes:
Over-Recruitment of Partners
Your partners are resources, but if you are too zealous in recruiting them, it can be counterproductive. If you have a large pool of partners, you are in effect taking away your attention from the most important partners, and spreading it to those who are lackluster performers.
Lack of Resources
In or out of the channel, you need to have adequate resources for success. If you are stretching your team or technology too thin, you’re not going to have the same quality as if you had them operating at a more comfortable level.
Are you still running Windows 95 on your workstations? Or are you using a PRM platform from the mid 2000s? Perhaps you don’t even have a dedicated software system for managing your partners.
Ditch the old tech, and upgrade to new technology that allow you to work at the speed you’re capable of. And remove PRM from your vocabulary. That’s old news now. Look for a platform that will engage with you and promote partner sales acceleration. Management is stagnant. Acceleration moves us forward, and keeps us moving faster. The limitation shouldn’t be our technology.
1. Make a Shift towards Quality
Quality over quantity. There are very few situations where that paradigm doesn’t apply. When working with a channel partner program, you should focus on quality to make sure that your effort gets a matching level of results.
Understand your customers
Each customer base is different. If you can make sure that you’re not pushing when your customers expect to be pulled, that can help avoid squandering your resources and efforts.
Keep track of what works for your customers. You may find that you’re dividing the pool into different categories, which is fine. Make sure that you’re not subdividing so viciously that you more or less just define each specific customer. Keep the groups as big as possible, within reason.
Evaluate partners and customer matchups
Some partners will work better than others for a specific customer demographic. Evaluate if you have the right or wrong matchup, and adjust as necessary. Dead-ends will happen, but if you keep track of the process and can backtrack, you’re not going to be banging your head against the wall for very long.
Dedicate resources to these partners
The partners that bring in the largest group of customers deserve the largest share of the resources. That’s something that can be rationalized quite easily. It’s a recursive process, in a way, that more results deserve more resources, which then in turn can provide the means for the partner to produce more results.
Just make sure that when you dedicate more resources to the higher performing customers, you still give everyone at least a fighting chance. Don’t provide an abundance of resources to a partner that is barely providing any results, but at the same time, make sure that there is something available in case a deal does come across the desk.
2. Invoke Simplicity
Less is more. When you’re working in the channel, if you have too much information, it can be just as bad as if you don’t have enough.
Provide open access to content and partner requirements
If a partner wants to know what the requirements are for channel work, it shouldn’t take a scavenger hunt to find it. Likewise, marketing content should be similarly accessible.
Use software to streamline education and onboarding process
We know poor technology can hold us back. So when you have everything up to date, make sure you’re using all of the functionality at your disposal.
Expanding your channel partner program involves of lot of specific events. But when you boil it down, onboarding and education can both be quite streamlined when a software platform is used to keep everything organized.
3. Make Sure Your Technique Fits the Process
A carpenter is only as good as her tools. On the same note, if your technique doesn’t match the process that you’re working with, how good is it?
Have a technique that works for your entire channel partner program. From training and educational components, to an adaptable toolset that works for all of the scenarios that you encounter.
Develop customized training programs
You channel partner program has many distinct members, so it makes sense that the training program be tailored to each member. While you can have standard trainings, there shouldn’t be a blanket process for everyone involved. Some may be quite familiar with the specifics of your product and brand, and others need a lot more background.
4. Use tools and resources that can adapt to the needs and situation for each partner
Just like training programs that need to be tailored to the partner, your tools and resources should adapt as well. Cookie cutter solutions never accomplish things quite the same way as an adaptable tool that can adjust to meet the situation properly.
Don’t fall into the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” trap. While things might be working fine for you now, if you don’t take a look at what outdated tactics you’re still clinging to, you might be operating at a high level of inefficiency.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.