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You can’t have a great channel program without recruiting great partners. But all too often, recruitment is done haphazardly. You should have an organized, proactive, and consistent plan in place. With the right recruitment strategies, you can effectively communicate with potential partners that align with your brand and channel goals, improving overall enrollment rate. With time, prospects may come to you rather than vice versa.
Here’s where to start:
Define your perfect channel partner before you start recruiting
Channel partners represent your company, so be selective when choosing who should act as your stand-in. To guide your selection process and better connect with prospects, create an ideal partner profile (IPP). Examine your most successful (and least successful) partners, as well as your target audiences’ buying behaviors. Use these learnings to create criteria for:
• Preferred geographic reach
• Industry verticals involvement
• Ideal customer base
• Company size
• Point of contact
• Technology utilization
• Marketing and outreach practices
A well-formed IPP leads to partner recruitment strategies that are focused rather than ineffectively broad. What’s more, it prevents you from wasting time nurturing relationships with prospects that will ultimately underdeliver.
Strategically get the word out and track results
Partners are way more likely to be interested in hopping on board (and may even come to you themselves) if they already know about your company. Get your name out as much as possible: on social media, at industry events, through networking etc. When your company has good news, share it. Don’t be shy about letting people know you’re seeking to recruit channel partners.
To further improve your channel partner recruitment practices, reflect on the following:
• Where do potential partners seek information and business connections? Partners won’t always be receptive to your self-promotion, so identify the forum in which your IPP may be most open-minded.
Conduct research using your current partners and “wish-list” partners as examples. Dive into their social media behavior, identify preferred content themes, and document which events they mention attending. Let’s say you notice a trend in which prospects use certain social channels to talk about their personal lives and don’t follow industry leaders’ accounts. This should be a clear indicator that trying to reach them on this channel would yield lesser results.
• Remember, conversing is better than shouting. Your prospects’ inboxes probably overflow with unsolicited messages we kindly call “junk.” Download our eBook! We design websites! Schedule a demo! Blasting un-personalized, automated messages like these are no better than shouting through a bullhorn at the prospect.
When recruiting channel partners, think of the long-game. Say hello, praise their latest work, and start a conversation. “Ms. Rose, I just got done listening to your latest podcast. I loved your points about shortening sales cycles and was curious if you would recommend any related readings.” Building rapport takes time, but may bear sweeter fruit than aggressive email blasts.
• What partner recruitment practices yielded results in the past? Chances are, you track your marketing campaign performance and A/B test site messaging. So why should you not do the same for channel partner recruitment efforts? When a new prospect comes along, take note of your past interactions with them, digital or otherwise. Document which channel partner recruitment approaches generated the most responses, as well as how many of those responses further developed.
Don’t forget to “show” rather than merely “tell”
Promote co-marketing materials and existing partners’ achievements across your social media and while at networking events. This demonstrates your commitment to program participants and their resulting wins. It also feeds into companies’ competitive nature and their fear of missing out.
For additional guidance and ideas, read The Quick Guide to Co-Marketing with Your Channel Partners.
You have prospects’ attention, now deliver the right message
Chances are that your recruited prospects will consider other partner programs in addition to yours. Make sure that your offering wins out by illuminating the following:
• Why your offering is the best in the market. Partners don’t want to hitch their wagon to mediocre products; not only will it be harder to promote, but their reputation with their customer base is on the line.
• A thorough plan on what they should anticipate from you and the program. Show a schedule that details onboarding and other milestones. This conveys your preparedness and transparency, as well as sets clear expectations about what you expect from program participants.
• The sophisticated capabilities of your PRM platform, as well as its usability. The best PRM tool should impress recruited channel partners without coming across as intimidating. Present it as a solution to eliminate communication and process delays. Show them features like prospect pages, co-branding software, and MDF submission to demonstrate how your PRM will boost their effectiveness and profitability.
• Other ways in which you will support and empower them. Would you help finance their marketing efforts? Perhaps you hold SPIFFs to motivate sales or promote your partners’ successes on your own social media channel.
New channel partner recruits’ main priority is how easy it will be to sell your products and generate profits. Focus your conversation on how you have established solutions in place to remove roadblocks and maximize their time investment.
Learn to say no
Be selective. When potential partners come onto your radar screen, analyze how they fit against your IPP. You may have to do some digging or ask some questions to figure out just how well they fit. Only accept partners into your program that are a match.
Treat partners right for strong retention and word-of-mouth
The word on the street has a direct impact on the perception of potential partners. Focus on being positive, open, and prepared during the channel recruitment and onboarding process.
Take a good look at your partner program and make sure it’s worth a partner’s time and effort. If you require partners to undergo extensive training or your product’s sales cycle is longer than usual, ensure that you appropriately compensate partners.
Additionally, use technology to minimize friction or confusion. Real-time deal registration will lessen channel conflict. Targeted content and behavior-trigger notifications work hand-in-hand to guide recruited partners to the right materials.
Professional experience and the right PRM software can lessen partner complaints, but never assume they’re gone entirely. Regularly ask for feedback on how you improve the partner program and related materials. Such insights can strengthen partner relationships, as well as make them feel heard and respected.
Remember, word travels as colleagues grab drinks, people change jobs, and workers network. Use word-of-mouth to your advantage by prioritizing your partners’ experiences. Otherwise, professional chatter may work against you to hurt your overall reputation.
To learn how to start the relationship off on the right foot, read Five Steps to Successfully Onboarding Partners.
Key Takeaways on How to Recruit Channel Partners:
• Don’t cast a wide net when recruiting partners; focus on candidates that fit well-defined criteria
• Be purposeful with how you initiate contact
• Don’t forget to “show” rather than just “tell”
• When you have prospects on the hook, speak to what they care about most
• It’s okay to say “no”
• Your existing partners can be your greatest channel recruitment asset, so treat them right
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