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At Allbound, we think it’s important to keep up with industry trends and news. That’s why we think looking to some of the biggest players from time to time is a great way to gain a snapshot of the industry. We’ve already mentioned the Hewlett-Packard and Disney strategic alliance—a partnership in which Disney relied heavily on HP’s development and IT teams. But what about HP’s partner program?

In 2016, HP revitalized its channel partner program into what’s now known as the Partner First Program. The program places a heavy emphasis on some of the sales landscape’s biggest trends, including partner-first programs, social selling, and streamlined, efficient technology. Let’s dive in and take a look.

Here’s How the HP Partner Program Works …

To meet the needs of the modern channel, HP now provides resources, benefits, certifications, and financial incentives based on three program levels: platinum, gold, and silver. Each program level comes with its own requirements and rewards—although partners can advance levels by earning appropriate certifications and by increasing their HP product sales.

Of course, benefits include elements of their older partner programs:

  • Pricing promotions
  • Marketing services such as co-branded advertising and demand generation
  • Marketing development funds (MDF) that operate on a six-month cycle
  • Marketing collateral and event material
  • Request for proposal (RFP) partner insignias
  • Hardware and software licenses for product demonstrations
  • Sales performance incentive funds (SPIFs)

However, the revamped Partner First Program streamlines and simplifies things. Major changes include:

  • Updated membership and compensation models
  • Improved co-marketing capabilities that make it easier for partners to activate campaigns
  • New social media tools that enable partners to demonstrate expertise via social networking

Streamlined, Partner-First Programs

So what does this tell us? It’s essential to constantly analyze whether you’re providing value to your channel partners—and alter your course if you are not. A driving factor behind HP’s changes was to enable partners to provide products and solutions that cater to the modern consumer. The company aims to capitalize on growth opportunities and adapt to market and customer dynamics with its efforts.

HP’s revitalization also displays how programs must place a heavy emphasis on vendor-partner relationships. As the new co-marketing features illustrate, the program is designed to simplify the way that partners interact with HP. This optimizes partners’ selling strengths and expands the solutions they can offer to customers. Ultimately, HP enables distribution partners to interface with contacts who have the knowledge and flexibility to match their own pace.

The Power of Specialization

The Partner First Program makes it easier for partners to advance up program tiers.

Partners can leverage one of three sales tracks:

  • Volume Track: Drives volume in PCs, print, and supplies
  • Solution Track: Emphasizes solution specialization that aligns around mobility and vertical technologies, managed services, and support
  • Integration Track: Targets systems integrators and partners who not only sell product, but also develop solutions and services

This structure empowers partners to increase their sales by choosing which tracks coincide with their expertise and customer needs. Specializations enable partners to get closer to their customers with solutions, rather than products. Specialization tracks enable partners to build competencies around select products, services, and solutions. And they allow partners to gain an expertise in offerings aligned with current market trends.

Aligning Training and Technology

As we’ve pointed out before, suppliers must be the catalyst for change in the industry. Unlike traditional programs, your modern channel program should include robust training, proper technology, and measurement that tracks success. And training should focus on helping partners embrace a niche solution specialization. Solution-based training should demonstrate how a vendor’s product supports the sales process of a partner.

Much like the Partner First model, not only is it important for businesses to provide the right training and resources, it’s essential to equip partners with robust sales enablement tools. Technology must go beyond the education and content that customers can already get their hands on. Solution-based tools speak in terms of benefits—from easy implementation and expanded capabilities, to better management and increased cost savings.

By properly aligning tools and technology with the needs of your channel partner sales, you, too, can drive change. If you want partners to successfully sell your solutions, you need to empower them to sell what customers want to buy.