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It is often said that nothing happens until someone sells something. When it comes to indirect sales and channel partners it could also be said that nothing happens until partners engage. Partner engagement is the foundation of the channel sales success. After all, how can you ever accomplish those lofty channel sales goals without partners that are engaged? Partners cannot successfully sell, service, or support your products and solutions without proper engagement with you as a vendor. Here are a few things to consider as you look to increase partner engagement, enablement, and drive collaboration.
Provide a place for engagement
Partners need access to information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without exception. Channel acceleration technology is needed to efficiently deliver partners the things they need when they need it. Do your partners know where to go to get the information they need or do they simply pick up the phone or send an email? Make sure your partners have a centralized place to get the tools they need for success.
With partners accessing your program offering online, you can start to measure your current partner engagement. Analytics and reporting will provide you insight on how your partners are interacting with various aspects of your program offering. This valuable insight will provide you what you need to be able to understand what programs are performing, which assets your partners are leveraging and the overall usage of other program areas. This detail will provide channel marketing crucial information, allowing them the ability to spend time creating content and programs that are effective and used by partners.
If you do not have access to the type of reporting described, get it. What you don’t know will hurt your program. Today’s channel acceleration solutions provide great analytics and allow partners the ability to rank content, subscribe to content updates, and even configure their own view of your assets, plus more. These tools arm channel leaders with the information needed to make educated channel decisions and provide partners a centralized place for enablement and collaboration.
Collaborate on more than leads
With the right tools in place you can provide partners the opportunity to collaborate with you and even each other. Today’s partners expect more from vendors than ever before and they are getting it. Collaboration is happening around support tickets, opportunities, solution design, SPIFFs, rebates, content, and marketing programs. Partners now have the ability to interact directly with internal vendor platforms without really knowing they are doing it. The key to success is centralizing partners access to easily update and maintain an opportunity, check payment on a rebate, get the status of a support ticket, or acceptance of a marketing program, thus providing a higher level of program transparency. Transparency increases collaboration and drives partner loyalty. This level of transparency is manageable and easy to accomplish with the right tools. If you are not transparent with your partners today, work towards it, other vendors are already there.
Partners are free agents, they represent your offering and a growing number of others. Loyal partners lead with your products and solutions, bringing more revenue to your door. This level of loyalty doesn’t usually exist at the partner organization level. Now more than ever decisions are being decided by the individual partner rep. This fact begs the question. What can you do to capture mindshare at the rep level?
Traditional incentive offerings have typically rewarded at the company level, providing little if any benefit to the rep. With partner reps driving the solution conversation, incentives need to shift to the true influencers, the rep.
Incentivizing partner sales reps can be tricky. In sales, what gets measured, gets done, so it is key to align your incentive programs with the results you want to obtain. Things to consider are: rep training, lead/opp registration and closure, joint marketing efforts, and rep engagement. Consider gamifying these pieces and any others that may be crucial for your program success. Successful gamification will make it rewarding and transparent for the rep and manageable for you.
With channel programs morphing it is time to take a look at where your program is at and make the changes to set the table for success in 2016 and beyond. If you do the same things, you will yield the same results. If you want better results with your program: evaluate your current partner engagement, automate collaboration, increase transparency, and look for opportunity to expand rep loyalty. It never hurts to start by putting yourself in your partner’s shoes.
Raegan Wilson is the Founder of Channel Squared Consulting. She has spent the past 16 years working for and with channel companies and understands the intricacies of indirect sales. Raegan’s specialties include Channel Infrastructure Analysis and Implementation; Channel Program Automation and Design; Partner Enablement Analysis; and Channel Program Optimization.