Leveraging channel partners is an effective way to scale your organization, drive pipeline growth, and improve retention. But unfortunately, working with channel partners isn’t as easy as simply setting up a partner program.
As more organizations realize the value of working with channel partners and court your program participants, there are growing expectations you need to meet in order to strengthen your working relationships. If you’re new to channel partner relationships or just looking for timely tips on working with channel partners, this article will help you revamp your strategies.
Setting the Scene: Channel Partner Relationships in 2023
Organizations and investors alike have gotten very vocal about their love for partnerships. But, now that companies are valued on the size of their ecosystems, how do you stand out in an increasingly competitive market?
Technology & automation are table stakes
To grow in 2023, you need to implement a partner platform that can help you scale your efforts. Without a PRM, expanding your team is the only way to scale revenue through partners. Unfortunately, organizations that haven’t yet adopted a partner technology have fallen behind those whole have.
Utilizing designated partner platform technology is increasingly essential to all stages of the channel partner relationships, from recruitment to retention, for reasons including:
• Prospective partners now expect a professional partner portal – Spreadsheets and manual processes are amateurish, and no one knows this better than an experienced partner. Being able to show off the many user-friendly features of your portal assures them that you’ve put considerable thought and investment into a smooth working relationship with partners.
• Partners don’t have time for delays – Your most proactive channel account manager won’t be able to compete with the instant results of automated portal features. In-platform capabilities like targeted content recommendations and co-branding eliminate the lag that comes with the back-and-forth nature of email correspondence, especially if sent from different time zones. What’s more, your account managers are freed to focus on the more meaningful part of working with channel partners.
• Partner portal integrations can greatly reduce channel conflict – Nothing sours a working relationship with your partners quite like a conflict over who deserves credit for a deal. Your PRM keeps track of deal registrations across the entire partner ecosystem (and can integrate with your CRM for an even fuller understanding of the pipeline). When a partner tries to enter a duplicative opportunity, the system will immediately stop the interaction and inform the user as to why, clarifying who is (and is not) the rightful owner of the deal.
Remote working is the standard
Working in the office has become an exception. Most partners you’ll meet with work from home, and you must prepare accordingly. Additionally, many partners are becoming more accepting of digitized human interactions, like digital happy hours.
With this enormous shift, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when working with channel partners, including security, location, and communication.
In remote work environments, hundreds, if not thousands of employees at a single company are working in different locations, on different networks, with various security risks. Before, you had to know that an organization was secure, but now you have to ensure that their systems at home are secure as well. Ensure you prepare your team and systems for potential threats.
Just because a company is headquartered out of NYC doesn’t mean their entire team is located there. Learn about your partners and find out where each team member is situated (especially in regards to their time zone and preferred working hours). Learning about your partners in this way will help improve scheduling efforts and make you aware of potential cultural differences to consider.
You can’t mail a box of goodies to their office, stop by when you’re in town to say hello, or have a direct phone number to call (as most of them were office-based). So in 2023, your communication with partners should revolve around tools like email and partner portals.
Sales ecosystems are going global
With remote work on the rise, expanding globally has become even easier. Whether you’re a US team expanding into Europe or a European team expanding West, ensure you and your colleagues are prepared to engage with global teams and their respective audiences. While translating materials is a solid first step, consider further localizing messaging and processes to fit various cultures’ preferences.
However, note that with the potential of recession, travel may be an area where different companies cut back. So, expect to continue connecting virtually with your international partners for the time being.
Channel is here to stay
Top organizations have established the value of ecosystems and channel selling. As a result, many leaders are fully onboard — and even investors have decided to make investment decisions based on the strength of an ecosystem.
In challenging times like the recent economic downturn, partnerships are a low-cost approach for driving revenue and increasing client retention. Especially when you leverage your PRM, you can scale partner efforts with minimal ongoing investment and gather key data to prove your worth.
Maximize The Fruit of Your Partner Communications
Understand and Support Your Partners’ Needs
While you may have full buy-in for channel selling, your partners may not. So it’s essential to communicate with your partner to understand their individual goals and hurdles. Is their boss onboard? How many layers of leadership will you collaborate with? What are their corporate values or initiatives that your product may reinforce?
Work one-on-one with channel partners to explore how you can help communicate your value to their leadership team. Going the extra step at the beginning will lay a solid foundation for a lasting working relationship with your partners.
Set Expectations and Understand Theirs
Set clear expectations, share your goals, and inquire about theirs. Offering such transparency early on can clue both parties into whether or not they’re compatible with one another. Such exercises will ultimately prevent you from investing in partner relationships with no future.
Proactively Collect Feedback
Not every unhappy partner will go out of their way to express their frustrations. Rather, they may disengage, leaving you clueless as to why. Encourage feedback from partners by doing the following:
• Sending out anonymous surveys – Consider grouping answers by different partner types, allowing you to make direct comparisons. Do bottom-tier partners feel that reaching the next level is frustratingly impossible? Do your German partners find their materials ineffective while Japanese program participants think the opposite? Gathering insights lets you know where to focus your efforts and with whom.
• Train channel account managers to ask questions with substance – When working with channel partners, account managers shouldn’t rely upon basic “how are things going” to collect valuable input. They should ask for the participants’ opinions about specific elements of the programs (materials, trainings, the portal, etc.). Additionally, ask partners to compare multiple options (do you like to learn through training videos or written manuals?) or open-ended questions about their general preferences (tell me, how do you think you learn best?).
Adapt to Flexible Work Scenarios
With more teams working remotely and from home than ever, it’s essential to be flexible with your partners. This doesn’t mean cutting regular calls but being more flexible about when and how your calls take place. For example, you can offer on-demand resources in addition to online training.
Just as teams have shifted to working remotely, organizations are now operating on an international scale. Therefore, when working with teams all across the globe, it’s essential to understand how cultural differences may impact your collaboration.
When working with international channel partner teams, be prepared to operate across time zones, languages, and cultures. Consider hiring regional team members to strengthen relationships with international partners. Provide training and resources that your partner can access anytime via your PRM or another online resource portal.
Plan for the Future
Partnerships should not be transactional relationships. Now that the tech industry has accepted channel as one of the top sales avenues, ensure you prioritize your ecosystem accordingly.
Demonstrate your future commitment to your partners by understanding their long-term business goals and how you can fit into them. Think about it this way: you plan to keep your customers for a lifetime, so you better plan to keep your partners for a lifetime as well. Work together to build 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year plans. Then collaborate to ensure you reach those goals.
Scale Your Channel Partner Efforts
Building and maintaining strong working relationships with your partners will scale your potential impact and create opportunities for introductions to new partners. In addition, channel partners who love working with you are more likely to help you reach your goals and recommend that others in their network work with you.
Allbound’s PRM makes it easy to scale your partner efforts with a powerful PRM enabling enhanced automation. Streamline your repetitive partner engagement tasks to optimize your time spent on manual partner work.
Additional Reading to Help You Work Better With Partners
The best working relationships with partners pull upon EQ-driven communications and data-driven practices, all amplified by your PRM. To further refine your game plan for partner collaborations, check out:
- How to Effectively Measure Partnership Success – 20 Metrics to Keep in Mind – Is your current approach to working with partners semi-successful? More importantly, do you have concrete data to back up your gut-based answer? Leverage these 20 metrics to measure the success of your partnerships and modify strategies as needed.
- Why It’s Important to Score Partners – Once you measure the effectiveness of your partnerships, how do you put such insights into action? By scoring partners! Scoring prospects against set criteria can help you weed out ill-fitting candidates, while scoring existing program participants can help CAMs objectively communicate to partners their current standing and work with them to improve.
- Partner-Preferred Incentives: Top Rewards to Offer & Best Practices – Rewards are a valuable tool that, when appropriately timed, can increase your partner activation rates and deal registrations. Find different incentive ideas and tips for maximizing their effectiveness.
- How to Optimally Segment Partners – Partner segments are essential to working with partners, as it lets you tailor communication and asset distribution to their individual needs while implementing strategies at scale. However, you will only reap the benefits if you implement segments correctly.
- What a Fair Lead Distribution Process Looks Like – The easiest way to wreck a good working relationship with a partner is to make them feel cheated. Avoid such a misstep by finalizing deal distribution procedures, backed with the right technology.
- Hootsuite’s Blueprint: How to Formalize Your Partner Program - November 28, 2023
- Economic adjustment toolkit – The key to building a resilient partnership strategy - November 26, 2023
- How to select the right partners for your program - November 8, 2023
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