The Guide to Motivating Partners During Tough Times
This year has fundamentally changed how we do business, especially channel relationships. With the increase of remote work, the ways of forming and managing partnerships have been disrupted. As always, partners are more than likely balancing multiple relationships. But how do channel account managers hold their attention and motivate their partners in meaningful ways? How do organizations reimagine and invest in the channel today? In this eBook, we’ll dive into tangible ways you can motivate and engage your partner ecosystem effectively and scalably.
Gauging partner motivation
Before you jump into creating a strategy to motivate partners, take a step back to evaluate where you are right now. Getting a sense of where you stand with partners will impact which strategies you deploy and how to implement them.
To gauge where you are with partners, examine:
1. Sales numbers: Revenue numbers help you prioritize which partners deserve your investment as it’s a direct reflection of their efforts. This clarity will come in handy when creating motivation strategies for partners.
2. Commitment level: Although this information will mostly be anecdotal, you can gauge your partners’ commitment. Begin with analyzing how your interactions with partners have been. Are they cooperative? Have they taken the initiative? How have they handled opportunities and deals? Determine whether a partner is active (regularly pursues new business opportunities) or reactive (passively accepts leads you generate for them) as this is critical to categorizing your partnerships.
3. Activity levels: Using Channel Insights, you can analyze the activity levels of your partners. Gather data on opportunities, sales calls, and pipeline. If you don’t currently utilize a PRM, note how many emails and other interactions you’ve had with your partners recently.
4. ROI: You should track each investment you make in your partners to measure ROI. Track activities like market development funds (MDFs), training completed, and SPIFFs to determine whether partner performance matches the efforts you’re investing.
Partner motivation methods
Once you’ve determined the partners to invest in your ecosystem, it’s time to double down your efforts to engage them. You should meet your partners halfway to build an impactful partnership.
Prioritize the following strategies to boost your partners’ motivation:
1. Generate leads
Business alignment, common goals, and the ability to generate revenue are the foundation of strong partnerships. Handing off sales leads and closing deals together serves as the ultimate testament of your collaboration. Once you establish this aspect of the relationship, all the other motivation tactics will become more effective.
No (smart) partner can dislike a company that hands-off sales leads, fills their calendar with demos, and adds new opportunities to their pipeline. Salespeople thrive off of these activities. Regardless of whether you have a direct sales team or not, ramp up your lead generation efforts. Webinars, marketing campaigns, and gated content are all excellent initiatives to pursue to produce leads.
2. Invest time to the relationship
Just like any relationship, channel partnerships require time and effort to thrive. The most successful sales reps understand how important it is to co-sell with partners and involve them in deals and opportunities.
Spending time together can range from going out on sales calls together, social activities like dinners and outings, or virtual team bonding events. Make your partners understand that you are dedicated to their success. You can only achieve this by investing your time into them.
Time investment also involves staying in close contact and keeping the lines of communication open. Create a friendly dynamic in which you call your partner regularly and make them comfortable enough to call you when they have questions or concerns.
You won’t always have active deals or opportunities to collaborate on, so don’t limit your communication to these subjects. Call your partners and ask what issues they’re running into, what pitches they’ve had success with, or what feedback they’re getting. The goal is to know what your partner is experiencing to improve or manage issues preemptively.
When you’re managing several partner relationships, it can be hard to communicate with each of them—in fact, it can feel like a full-time job. Appointing a channel sales manager can boost your relationships’ quality by making each partner feel prioritized and valued. Using PRM software will free up your channel manager’s time on administrative tasks, allowing them to focus on relationship-building activities.
3. Incentivize partner behavior
Channel partner incentive programs, or SPIFFs, are contests that accelerate sales performance. Although SPIFFs are short-term incentives, they ultimately help achieve long term revenue goals and business growth. However, SPIFFs are an investment, so you should thoughtfully plan and execute them to achieve maximum ROI.
A SPIFF is a time-sensitive incentive program geared toward channel partners to boost sales activities. The main reasons for creating SPIFF programs are to improve performance, push a specific set of products, and engage salespeople.
Identify how you will compensate participating partners. SPIFFs are rewards-based, so your prize choice is critical in creating an effective program. If your participants aren’t excited by your offer, they may not be as motivated to succeed. Cash tends to be a popular SPIFF choice because there aren’t many people that aren’t excited about extra income.
Popular SPIFF rewards options:
1. Prepaid cards: This could be gift cards for popular businesses like Amazon or prepaid credit cards. Like Epson, some companies create branded prepaid credit cards equipped with an online account that continually disperses money to it as the sales reps close deals.
2. Travel: Some companies offer all-expenses-paid trips. Travel rewards are similar to Presidents Club, but for your partners. (Staycations have risen in popularity in 2020.)
3. Merchandise: When it comes to offering products, choose something that most people would appreciate. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones are something from which everyone can benefit.
4. Create Joint Marketing Strategies
Involving one another in your respective marketing strategies can forge strong bonds between partner companies. Joint marketing campaigns allow both teams to become familiar with each others’ product offerings.
In a virtual world, a great way to utilize joint marketing strategies is with MDFs and SPIFFs. When it comes to appointing market development funds (MDFs) and SPIFFs, make sure you engage your partners early on for optimal results. Preparing them for your upcoming promotions is a way to engage them further and set them up for success.
Many organizations make the mistake of launching their channel incentive program and then marketing it as an afterthought. Partners should be informed of a SPIFF program ASAP to prepare for it and have enough time to put in the work. You can use similar marketing tactics you use to promote your products to customers.
1. Tactics for promoting joint marketing opportunities and SPIFFs include:
2. Teasers and hints about your upcoming SPIFF launch
3. Email announcement campaigns
4. Virtual kick-off event or special announcements
5. Mailers and postcard
5. Provide a frictionless business experience
One aspect partners consciously or unconsciously judge is how easy it is to get business done. Making your partner’s jump through hoops to get deals registered or demo a product is a sure way to demotivate them. Partners want to do business with companies that are straightforward and even pleasurable to work with. The following are ways to make it as easy as possible to do business with you:
1. Technology and automation tools: While most companies use customer relationship management (CRM) software, some still haven’t implemented a partner relationship management (PRM) platform. PRM streamlines processes, making you more desirable for them to partner with. The ease of selling your product will help you gain mindshare and lead to repeat business. Automated deal registration and instant access to support materials make the sales process a breeze.
2. Partner recruitment and onboarding: From start to finish, PRM makes doing business with your company easier. Partner portals capture prospective partner’s attention, increasing your programs’ visibility. By proving that you’re up to date on technology, partners won’t dread spreadsheets, email chains, and loads of manual tasks. You’ll have leverage over competitors who may still be using outdated processes. Once committed to your partner program, your PRM will assist you by providing a robust, automated, and consistent onboarding experience for all relevant roles in your partner ecosystem. Onboarding is usually time and resource-intensive. PRM can automate processes like learning track creation, marketing material distribution, and deal registration. This favorable first impression offers a flattering window into how the business partnership will be.
3. Partner enablement solutions: PRM technology is the building block for your go-to-market partner sales strategy. An automated portal allows your registration and onboarding process to feel personal while remaining scalable. Upon registering, your partners will immediately gain access to a customized view of onboarding, training, and sales collateral, making them feel prioritized. PRM solutions make the startup process easy for partners, which sets the tone that you’ll be easy to work with on future deals. The quicker your partners get comfortable, the faster they’re able to produce.
6. Continual training
Like onboarding and enablement, training your partners will be a continuous process. The disadvantage of selling through the channel is that the sales team isn’t in-house. Without being part of your organization, partners don’t receive constant reinforcement. A reliable training process will ensure that your partners are ready to go to market with your product.
Since partners are another “face” of your company, properly training them is vital to your reputation. Develop a stable training process that all incoming partners can use. In the beginning, in-person or live video training is best. Face-to-face interaction builds rapport. Remote training enabled by a PRM is cost-efficient and scalable for long-term partnerships.
PRM increases partner engagement in your training program. Training materials are laid out in an intuitive, easy-to-access format within the portal. You’ll also keep partners up to date with continuous, refreshed training material. You’ll also be able to track their performance. Staying on top of partner performance allows you to reward and further engage them. Partners that are thoroughly trained and knowledgeable have more powerful customer interactions, which results in shorter lead times.
7. Establish a communication cadence
Create a schedule to connect with partners regularly. Base how often you contact them on the relationship and your goals. You can choose to hold weekly or bi-weekly check-ins—remember that consistency is key. The goal of planning your outreach ahead of time is to prevent dropping the ball or creating lapses in communication.
Another approach is to remove the barriers to partner communication with instant messaging options. Slack is a valuable tool that allows for immediate interaction. Most companies already utilize Slack or similar messaging solutions. Consider creating a separate Slack channel that allows channel reps to message with CAMs. This instant access will open the lines of communication with your partners and form stronger connections.
The best ways to motivate partners are generating leads, spending quality time with them, and working on joint marketing campaigns. Any opportunity to spend quality time with partners will boost morale and generate more enthusiasm. Joint marketing campaigns can keep partners top of mind with one another while drumming up additional sales opportunities. Incentivize partner behavior by creating and promoting SPIFF programs and making it as easy as possible to do business with you. Lastly, ongoing training and communication are critical to staying top of mind with partners.
There’s a Smarter Way to Manage Your Partners
Allbound’s partner relationship management (PRM) tool allows you to automate partner training, manage MDFs, co-brand, and gain visibility into what’s working all while integrating with your favorite tools.
When your business relies on partners, it’s vital to empower them to sell better and more efficiently. Allbound is a flexible SaaS platform that helps any size business recruit, onboard, measure, and accelerate growth through sales and marketing partnerships.
Make every engagement between you and your partners – and between your partners and their prospects – simpler, productive, rewarding and engaging.
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