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Shortening the Sales Cycle By Prioritizing Partnerships

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Time is money in the world of business, as any organization is well aware. This is particularly true when you’re trying to close a deal, which is why shortening the sales cycle is a consistent top priority. 

Nothing is for certain until the deal is done. The time it takes to close varies but, on average, 75% of B2B companies take at least four months to win a new customer. 

Shortening that timespan can help increase revenue and grow the company’s customer base faster by giving teams time back in their day to pursue new opportunities. Of course it’s something all organizations want to accomplish! 

Strategically focusing on partnerships can be one of the best ways to speed up the sales process. Leveraging the strengths and resources of partners helps to effectively close deals in a short period of time and generate more business. 

In fact, we’ve seen customers prioritize their partnerships and achieve a 61% shorter channel sales cycle on average with channel partner sales strategies. Here’s how.

Shorten the Sales Cycle: Top 5 Channel Partner Strategies

Partnerships are powerful in a number of ways, from helping you expand your reach to generating leads. Prioritizing partnerships is good for overall business success but, if you’re looking to shorten the sales cycle specifically, consider these strategies first:


Choose & Train the Right Partners

Start by thinking about what types of partners will best help you achieve your goals. The right people in the right roles really is foundational to success. 

Your partner types could include, for example:

For companies first starting out, resellers and referral partners are usually the first ones added. In fact, you may already even have these types of partners out there singing your praises and talking about your solutions long before you formalize your channel sales program. 

 In order to shorten the sales cycle with the help of your partners, it’s critical to make sure that your partners are fully invested in their relationship with you. They should truly believe in your solution and your partnership – that goes a long way in going out and addressing new market opportunities together. 

You also want them to fully understand your solution. A partner will struggle to sell if they don’t really know what it is they’re selling. It simply won’t come across as genuine. This is especially true for technology partners or value-added partners. 

From there, think about how to set your partners up for successful selling. Partner onboarding and training is critical for the long term success of your partnerships. 

In some cases, that may mean a relatively straightforward onboarding process and overview of your product. In other cases, it may involve a more comprehensive technology certification process. 

Either way, a strategic educational program streamlines the process, making it faster for partners to get up to speed and start selling.
We surveyed our customers and found that using a PRM system to manage partnerships meant that:

Partner recruitment is

48% faster

Partner training is

63% faster


Make it Easy for Partners To Do Business

In the world of partnerships, there are often many potential partners to choose from. You are likely not the only organization your prospective partner is considering. But you can be the one who’s easier to work with by using the right tools and setting up streamlined processes. 

The easier it is to sell your product or service, the more likely a partner is to succeed, and the faster that sales cycle will go. You can make it easier for partners to do business with you by leveraging automation to make the sales process a smooth, seamless operation. 

For example, housing all your training and marketing materials in one repository means your partners know where to go when they need something. Take stock of your resources with regular content audits and make sure to offer a robust selection of sales enablement tools. 

Resources for partners that can help accelerate the sales process can include, for example:

  • Templates

  • Case studies

  • Product demos

  • Sales decks 

  • Playbooks 

Another way to facilitate partner selling is giving them visibility into each stage of the deal. Accessing this information gives them the ability to work independently, saving them time and increasing trust in the relationship. A PRM system can automate these reports and communication, improving satisfaction and leading toward increased sales. 

When we asked our customers how they use a PRM system in our recent survey, they told us that it allowed them to:

Register deals

76% faster

Locate and share information about deal stages

58% faster


Streamline Incentives To Encourage Sales

Incentives can be extremely motivating for partners who feel recognized and rewarded for their hard work. As such, the right rewards can be a powerful tool to drive specific behavior in your partner ecosystem which will ultimately drive more business and reduce the sales cycle.

Look for opportunities for growth from partnerships where an incentive program would provide right encouragement and take a strategic approach to streamlining those rewards. 

Some of the most popular types of incentives include:

Tie incentives and rewards to specific achievements you want partners to reach. For example, that might be completing onboarding or training modules, reaching a new partnership tier, or hitting a sales target. 

In addition to rewarding desirable outcomes, incentives can also be a valuable way of helping support your highest performing partners. An active, engaged partner who’s given additional market development funds, for instance, can put the resources towards initiatives that drive leads – a win for both parties.


Foster Alignment With Your Sales Team

Alignment between sales and partnerships helps keep everything running smoothly and shortens sales cycles. But sometimes getting everyone on the same page can be easier said than done. 

Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to approach this. 

 At the leadership level of the sales department, focus on showcasing how the two teams can work together for better results. This is where hard data can really elevate your overall narrative and drive home the quantitative impact of partnerships. 

Metrics like partner engagement and activation are important leading indicators of success and should definitely be something you’re watching. But when it comes to winning over the sales team, put that department’s priorities at the forefront. 

Share metrics like:

  • Active partner pipeline value

  • Partner-driven revenue 

  • Average close time

  • Customer retention and renewal rates

Likewise, identify their pain points to identify tangible ways your partner program can support their initiatives. Is there a team struggling to generate leads? Spending too much time prospecting? Losing clients to competitors? Understanding the challenges the sales department faces goes a long way in pinpointing the specific ways your team can help shorten the sales cycle. 

You can also build alignment on a more one-to-one basis by working with individual sales reps. Figure out what their goals and roadblocks are. Then, work closely with them to help tackle these challenges with the help of partners. It only takes a few advocates to sway overall sentiment. And once sales and partnerships are working hand-in-hand, the entire sales process – both channel sales and direct sales – can run more smoothly.


Streamline the Lead Distribution and Deal Registration Process

Channel conflict can be like molasses, sticking to everything it touches and leaving a mess in its wake. If unsolved, those disagreements and stickpoints become a time suck that slow down sales. 

So, it’s important to keep on top of possible friction points from the get-go. 

Some of the most significant sources of channel conflict are due to ineffective lead and deal management. If two partners are competing for the same deal or pursuing the same lead, for example, it can cause replication efforts and slow down the sales process. (Not to mention the bad feelings that arise!)

One of the best ways to manage this is by using a PRM system with lead distribution and deal registration capabilities. Look for features like:

  • Real time updates about a lead’s progress

  • Integration with your CRM to mirror changes in deal statuses 

  • Trigger-based notifications about deal updates 

  • Customizable deal registration forms

  • Automated communication and processes 

Don’t forget about the relational aspects of building solid partnerships. Prioritizing your partners also means prioritizing clear communication, transparency and fairness. Invest in your partners through training programs, co-marketing initiatives and educational opportunities to both show how much you value them and help them achieve their – and your – goals.

Success Story: Why Incorta Doubled Down on Partners

As an example of what successfully prioritizing partnerships looks like in practice, we spoke with Steve Walden, Executive Vice President Business Development and Strategy at Incorta on our podcast recently

The company’s list of recent accomplishments is long: They made the Gartner Magic Quadrant for B.I. They were recognized as one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces, they raised $120 million in Series D Funding in 2021 and were recognized as a DBTA 100 Companies That Matter Most in Data for 2022. 

In short, they’re killing it. 

Walden pointed to the company transitioning its business model to be more partner focused as a significant factor behind this success.

 joined the company in October of [2021], and that was when we really started to accelerate this transition into our partner channel … partners today represent nearly half of all of our new business,

Steve Walden

Executive Vice President Business Development and Strategy at Incorta

Incorta did have partners who were helping spread the word about the company’s technology prior to Walden joining, but it wasn’t the formalized program it currently is.  

“The real catalyst for creating a program was to create some structure so that everybody was really clear about what it was that we were doing and why,” Walden said.

“As a result, we’ve signed up tons of new partners, which requires us to obviously figure out better ways to scale.”

Incorta took a high level strategy to each partner type and invested in their relationships. They ran a partner bootcamp, launched a partner portal and made an all-in commitment to partnership. 

“[Partnerships] are a way to be able to keep your own organizations as lean as possible and still continue to drive both the behaviors of increased sales and great customer satisfaction,” Walden said.

Hear more about what Incorta did to see success with partnerships 

Great Partnerships Are Built on Great Partner Processes

Strategic partner operations make the world of partnerships spin around. Check out these additional resources on how to build great processes that underpin great partnerships.

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