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S3E8: Do This If You’re Looking to Increase Partner Revenue 25% This Year

Show Synopsis

On this episode of the Partner Channel Podcast our host, Tori Barlow, sits down with the Founder and CEO of Channext, Rick Van Den Bosch. Listen as they discuss how to fill the gap in partner engagement, optimize output from partners across the globe, and utilize engagement to hit revenue targets.


  • How to take partners from onboarded to engaged
  • How to maximize engagement with international partners
  • How to achieve revenue targets with active partners

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The Script

Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the podcast for partnerships. In our episodes, we discuss ways to power your programs and gain actionable insights for all company sizes and partner types. We sit down with industry thought leaders to get the best tips and tricks for you, the listeners, to achieve your channel goals.

Tori: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, The Voice of the Channel. I’m Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound. Excited to be here with Rick Van Den Bosch, Founder and CEO of Channext. Welcome, Rick. Super excited to have you today.


Rick: Thank you, Tori; also very excited to be here. Actually listened to quite some podcast episodes already and love how actionable this podcast is, so let’s go for it today.


Tori:  Before we dive in, we’re talking about a really interesting topic, but I want to focus a little bit on you. Tell us what you did before next, what you’ve been up to in your career, and what led you to this awesome company.


Rick: Yes. Thank you.  Before. Before next, I had my own marketing agency, actually, and I was responsible for our agency for hardware and software vendors to activate and engage partners with their marketing programs. And I think you could kind of say that was where I found out how hard it can be as well because we thought we would focus a lot on the strategy to creative part. But actually, \ 80% of our time and resources was put into talking to the partners, making sure they would participate, report back on the data, etc.. And I think that’s really what sparked the idea for Channext. Channext is a platform that drives partner engagement and end-user demand for hardware and software vendors in a scalable and measurable way. And yeah, it’s been a great journey, and looking forward to today.


Tori: It’s What you’ve come up with in the past couple of years and led to Channext is definitely a game changer in the industry. We’re talking about a very crucial role and Allbound and Channext actually have this in common where partner engagement is such a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to managing partners. And I think a lot of folks and maybe even execs when they say, hey, let’s do a channel program, like let’s get a bunch of partners in, let’s have someone manage all this, let’s generate revenue. Now it’s like there’s a lot of key elements and metrics that go into play to get to that bottom line. And one of the big ones is partner engagement. And there’s this huge gap, I think, in the industry right now. Folks spend a ton of money on channel teams, but there’s really no resources for the actual partner success piece of it. And there’s that misconception that if you recruit partners onboard, then they’re totally good to go. So seeing as though this is your domain, how do you ensure partner success here?


Rick: And I think if I think about partner success, partner success starts with partner engagement. And to get partner engagement, you need to get the attention of your partners. And I think when I look at the channel of attention is actually one of the most scarce resources there is in the channel, because your partners are working with multiple vendors; they have little resources oftentimes. So how do you make sure that you are top of mind and enable your partner in the best way? And I always used to say the best way to get the attention of your partners is by helping them drive revenue. There’s nothing your channel partners will love more than growing their business and driving revenue. So I think that’s really what you should immediately think about from a partner success perspective, like signing the partner agreement is one thing, but then the real work start. And I think what I would like to challenge the listeners a little bit on, let’s try to reiterate on how your partner is onboarded. Usually we first start with partner certification and training and, of course, that needs to be done. But I think parallel you immediately want to start with your partner. Okay, how are we going to do marketing together? What kind of whitespace analysis can we do into each other’s accounts so we can help each other and we can go to an opportunity quickly. And I think if a partner feels that they are stretching there, that’s the best way to get the attention, then the engagement, and eventually the success.


Tori: Yeah, I think a lot of people think. All right. Once you have a signed contract, you’re good to go. And to your point. That’s right. Where everything begins. And when you think of it, partner management is really partner relationships. How are you cultivating that relationship with your partner and ultimately putting them first, you know?


Rick: Yeah, I fully agree there. I think it’s always we always say here internally put the park experience first. I think that’s such a crucial part of getting that attention of the and of helping them in the best way. And that leads to partner engagement; and partner engagement with the right enablement leads to partner success.


Tori:  Let’s take a scenario. I think the listeners could probably relate to this. If you have a partner program, these are fictitious numbers, but let’s say your company and maybe 10% of your revenue comes from indirect or from partners. And the goal for next year you’ve been given over your head is to increase that indirect revenue to 30% of overall company revenue. What are some steps that partner managers can take to enable partners better in order to hit that revenue target?


Rick: I would say to start with looking backwards. So you’ve had this last year, you did 10% of all revenue was partner revenue and then first reverse engineer the revenue number. So look, what was the revenue? But then what was the entire funnel that led to that revenue? So how many partners did we have? How many opportunities were created by those partners? What was the closed won rate of those deals where you can see which led to the number of closed one deals eventually, and then look at all those conversion percentages and from there start working on that model. Last year we did 10% of our revenue. How do we bring it to 30%? So how many more partners would we need? So how should we increase the conversion rate within the pipeline? How can we create more opportunities through, for example, partner marketing or better training and sales enablement of the partners to help them with such a thing? And once you know that, then you know, okay, this is how we should grow or a full partner funnel, and then you can start looking at initiatives to increase those conversion metrics in the funnel. So when I look at channel and partner revenue, when I would make it really simple, there’s only two ways in which a partner can drive revenue.


Rick: Either a partner starts talking about your brand to an end user, or the end user asks about your brand to the partner. And I think that all ties down to partner engagement, so you can make sure more partners start talking about you or partner marketing, where you make sure that more end users ask about you. And I think that’s the two buckets. If you look at initiatives to increase your conversions to get more partners on board as well, what can we do to make sure that we are going to improve those things? And to give you an example on the partner engagement side, what kind of partner training can we launch to maybe help them position your product in a better way, especially in the current times? Of course, with recession, how can we drive it towards more impact, less product benefits and features, etc. Or on the partner marketing? How can we kick start immediately with new partners on board to do a launch campaign where we introduce ourselves together to their end users and we help them to generate new ones? And the combination of both. Then you have the data part, but also the strategic initiatives that can help you drive forward to to your desired growth.


Tori: I love the way you just framed it. It happens in two ways. Either one, the partner starts talking about you or the folks come to the partners and ask about your brand. And I think that hits home so hard of like, yeah, you can’t just expect referrals and deal registrations from your partners constantly. It’s a whole ecosystem that you need to think about, and that includes partner marketing and how you form that relationship. And I want to highlight a piece you just mentioned, which is about the economic conditions right now. What I’ve seen lately in the industry is that companies are starting to turn towards focusing on channel, focusing on partner programs because it’s less expensive from a CaC perspective to bring in a customer. But when they say I want a partner program, they invest in these partner channel teams, but they have no resources for the actual partner success. So how should folks think about this here if they’re kind of being asked from the top down, do all of these things, But there are no resources.

“The thing I really learned in the last eight years of being active here in channel and in partner marketing is that partners in EMEA. So for example, French partners or Spanish partners, German partners, they will only use your enablement content, whether it’s training or whether it’s marketing, whether it’s sales enablement, when you provide it in their local language.”

Rick: I think that’s actually one of the largest waste of resources throughout the channel worldwide. And I called the partner engagement gap, and it’s where we put so many of our resources into it and the channel team and partner development getting new partners onboard. But then we don’t have the resources, whether it’s through automation or with people, to onboard and guide the partners through the process. And if you get into that partner engagement gap, you recruit a lot of partners, then the partners don’t engage, then they don’t start selling and partners will churn out. And in such a way, you get into like a vicious cycle, which you don’t want. I heard that quote from Jay McBain, actually, 80% of partners in the efforts partner program is not generating revenue. And I think what you see there is that so many of the partners that we recruited ones are not driving into revenue generating partners and are not engaging. And we lose them. And I think that’s where we should really rethink and how we align our resources between partner development and partner success. If we put a lot more towards partner success, then we know for sure that the partners that do get into our partner program, get the right guidance, get the right training, get the right marketing enablement, sales enablement, and continuous attention to keep momentum together.


Tori: Yeah, I think that that is what it comes down to. And for folks listening, if you’re asked to bring all these partners in, it’s okay to set expectations with the rest of your company, other departments on, hey, we can bring partners in all day every day. I think everyone can do that. But it’s a matter of making these partners successful. And then that’s where you will see the increase in demand or revenue pipeline, whatever it is you’re trying to measure. So I think that’s crucial for people to walk away with is like it’s not just about understanding what engagement is, it’s leading your partners to the actual North Star that you want to see. And that can be hard. It’s not easy, but it’s something you need to be realistic about and set expectations about.


Rick: Yes, 100%. And I fully agree with what you said at the start of today’s episode where you said that there’s so many leading indicators that you need to track, that you need to monitor, that you need to help your partners with to improve those indicators that lead to your revenue. And the more grip you get on that, the better you will be heading into 2023.


Tori: All right, I like it. Now, let’s take one more scenario. I want to segment the partner managers specifically in EMEA and Netherlands region, because you’re located in the Netherlands, is that right?


Rick: Yes, in the Netherlands.


Tori: Yeah. And there are differences with managing partners in different regions. So obviously, I’m calling in from the US, but I think if you’re a partner manager in a region outside of the US, maybe your company is headquartered in the US, but you manage partners in other regions it’s important to think about those differences. And I’m curious, you’ve had experience here. What should folks think about if they are leading up programs outside of the US?


Rick: Yes, I think there are two main points I would like to give. And the first one is quite obvious, probably, language. That’s the sometimes hard thing here in EMEA. Every country speaks a different language. German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, English. Well, English is quite easy from the US, of course. And the thing I really learned in the last eight years of being active here in channel and in partner marketing is that partners in EMEA. So for example, French partners or Spanish partners, German partners, they will only use your enablement content, whether it’s training or whether it’s marketing, whether it’s sales enablement, when you provide it in their local language. So that’s the thing I really advise if you offer assets to partners in EMEA, if you really want traction there, if you want high participation and engagement. Spend a little extra money on translating it, because I see a huge uptick there in how partners use those languages.


Tori: Yeah, I think that’s so interesting. And, at the end of the day, if you want to see movement, you really have to understand the cultural differences. I was talking to someone named Alexandre LeBeouf and he is Channel Manager for Sodexo and he was telling me about the French market and how different it is than any other market in the region. And it really, to your point, comes down to culture and really understanding what French channel people want and partners, in that matter, want. It really is like what you’re saying earlier, you have to give and really be there for their success versus just waiting for them to bring stuff. And when you’re thinking culturally, you have to adapt to their styles as well.


Rick: Yes, that’s a really good point, because it’s not only the language but also culture. For example, in Germany, they are very strict on business rules, but also like GDPR is a huge thing there, which has always been a difficult thing in channel, of course. So you need to be very expressive, like how do we save data, How do we share it together before they start working with you in such a way? In the Netherlands, for example, people are super direct, also quite transactional. So we want to do business. We want to grow in such a way. Well, for example, in Belgium it’s a lot more about relationships. You go out several times for lunch with a partner and things like that and it’s a lot less online yet as well. So I think there are those are just some examples. And France is indeed a complete market on its own. You need someone to come there that speaks French. It’s just mandatory to be successful in such a region. So there’s definitely some interesting things to think about when going into EMEA.


Tori: Rick, you’re doing so many great things for the industry and I can’t wait to see where Channext goes, especially in 2023. Thank you to our guests, Rick, founder and CEO of Channext. And thank you to you listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you like to listen to podcasts.

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