Onboarding is one of the most important steps in establishing channel partner relationships. The old idiom that first impressions are the most lasting is a cliché for a reason. A subpar channel partner onboarding process can jeopardize a relationship before the honeymoon—and even worse, send a partner running for the hills.
That’s why it’s crucial for partner programs to have a strategic, repeatable onboarding in place. No matter how many accounts you manage, it’s important to put in the legwork to make sure that every single channel partner is enabled to sell. A strong onboarding process builds loyalty, establishes communication parameters, and provides your prospects with the right information. In other words, it sets your partners up for success before they even begin selling.
Whether you’re looking to bolster your program or looking to brush up on best-in-class strategies, here’s what a successful partner onboarding process looks like.
- Designate an internal onboarding team. Before you even get started, it’s important to outline a formal, cross-departmental process that includes all necessary channel players—including sales, marketing, and operations—and their responsibilities. By defining process ownership, you’re ensuring you have the necessary allocated resources and establishing accountability.
- Outline the benefits and automate the application process. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Making a positive impression starts with your first interactions before recruitment even begins. To attract partners in the first place, it’s important to be clear about the benefits of working with your company. Make it easy for partners to apply and establish an open line of communication from the get-go.
- Provide a warm welcoming. Once partners are ready to start, it’s wise to reinforce that doing business with your company was the right decision. Have one of your executives call partners to convey their enthusiasm and answer any initial questions. Next, provide a digital (or physical) welcome kit with information, tools, and maybe even some swag that will get them excited to move forward.
- Provide partners with all necessary credentials. If they don’t, politely nudge them with a quick email or phone call. Sometimes, they may need further instruction. And guiding partners through even this mundane first portion of the onboarding process can reinforce a working relationship.
- Establish goals and expectations and communicate value. By now, your partners should know the exact benefits of working together. It’s up to you to build channel processes and create a document that outlines what partners should tackle in the first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. It’s during this step that you should establish expectations and timeframes.
- Keep things simple with consolidated tools and technology. Part of a successful partner onboarding process is knowing that your partners are optimized for success—not inundated with technology. While most partner programs come with an inherent learning curve, a strong PRM tool streamlines the process by incorporating guided selling, deal registration, and gamification into a centralized, accessible platform.
- Empower your partners with co-branded marketing content. In addition to sales acceleration tools, co-branded content and marketing collateral immerses partners in the thick of your product and service offerings. In addition to streamlining the onboarding process, your partners can reference and leverage these pieces of content throughout the duration of their selling experience.
- Prioritize ongoing training. Once your partners are ready to sell, it’s time to start training. In addition to providing your partners with an accessible online knowledge base and partner playbooks, your training environment should mirror job conditions. Immersive training models allow partners to solve real-life sales situations and keep partners engaged. Motivating partners with a culture of continued learning is the only way to foster long-term success.
What are you waiting for? Apply these tips to make your channel partner onboarding process a success.