One of the aspects of partner recruitment which is often missed, but is crucial in understanding whether a partner is a good fit for your partner program is competency analysis. Competency analysis is an exercise that you complete before officially signing partners on to your programs that assess whether your potential partners have the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise necessary to contribute positively to your partnership.
In this blog post the teams at Allbound and Findr pulled together some tips and best practices on how to nail competency analysis as part of your partner recruitment efforts that will help you truly understand which partners are the best fit for your partner program.
What is competency analysis?
Before diving into the strategic aspects of this blog post, which showcases the methodology for assessing the competencies of potential partners and the advantages it can offer to your collaboration, it is essential to define the term “competency analysis” in the context of recruiting new partners.
Competency analysis refers to the systematic assessment of prospective partners for your partnership program by examining their fundamental skills, knowledge, and abilities to determine if they meet the necessary criteria to contribute to the success of your partner program.
Why is competency analysis crucial?
Now you understand what it is, it is also helpful to explain why competency analysis is used in many partner programs, and the reasons it is so important.
Ensuring a good fit
A partner competency analysis offers a systematic approach to determine if a potential partner will be a valuable addition to your partner ecosystem. Many partnership teams face limited resources, resulting in restricted time available for managing each partner. Incorporating a competency analysis early in your recruitment process enables you to identify and evaluate the most suitable partners for your program, ensuring the inclusion of only those with a high likelihood of success.
By creating a process by which every potential partner is vetted early on, you are a lot less likely to end up with a large number of partners that fail to contribute significant revenue to your partners program.
Optimizing resource allocation
Partner programs often operate with limited resources, as previously mentioned. Recruiting new partners requires a significant investment of resources, including the time and effort required for outreach activities such as cold emailing and LinkedIn messaging, which can take valuable time away from partner managers. However, outreach is only one small part of the process and can become costly if not paired with a thorough evaluation of a partner’s competencies.
Once a partner is signed, partner managers must manage them, while also dedicating marketing resources to drive revenue with these partners. Failure to evaluate partner competencies can place a significant strain on your partner program’s resources, a lesson that is often learned too late. By assessing partner competencies early on, you can avoid these resource drains and ensure that your program is built with the right partners who can contribute positively to your ecosystem.
Partner programs do not come without risk.
Risks can present themselves in a number of ways, which can ultimately result in a significant drain on resources, such as misaligned goals, or unexpected implementation challenges. Identifying pain points, or problem areas before the partner has signed on is crucial for mitigating risk. Once a partnership agreement is in place, the resources involved in dismantling it far outweigh the time and effort put in to understand whether or not the partnership is viable in the first place.
An underlying factor for undertaking a partner competency analysis is to understand the risks involved, helping to make an informed decision on how to move forward with any potential partnership.
Facilitating go-to-market strategy
Undertaking a partner competency analysis will unearth many valuable insights into the partner, and the market they operate in. These insights will enable you to understand your capacity for facilitating a go-to-market strategy with theirs.
You’ll inevitably start to understand more and more about your partners, including: who their ideal customers are, the markets they operate in, the various distribution channels and methods they use, and detail on the products/services they offer as well as what makes them unique. As a result, when it comes to developing a go-to-market strategy, you’ll be in a great position to better align your resources, such as sales and marketing teams, with theirs. Completing a competency analysis will enable you to efficiently develop a go-to-market strategy that hits the ground running.
5 things to evaluate partners on
We will now shift gears to the tactical. Namely, the five main components that make up an effective competency analysis.
Knowing the products’ end-users forwards and backward is essential to creating a comprehensive marketing strategy. Do your due diligence to apply this same line of thinking to your channel partner program as well.
Business Expertise and Capability
A fundamental aspect of a thriving partnership involves working closely together to achieve common objectives. Consequently, a critical element in your partner competency analysis should encompass an examination of your partners’ business structures.
During the evaluation process, it is essential to consider aspects such as:
- The composition of their marketing team and the resources they can allocate to the partnership.
- The experience of their sales team in collaborating with partners.
- Their familiarity and track record with partnerships in general.
Exploring these factors will provide insight into the level of effort required to fully activate the partnership. For instance, a potential partner with limited experience in partnerships and minimal marketing resources to contribute may necessitate more guidance and increased resource commitment from your end.
A trick to use here, if your contact is unable to give you all the information necessary, is to head to LinkedIn and do some investigation.
You can first navigate to your partners company page, that looks very similar to this:
By running this surface level investigation you should be able to tell the maturity level of their partnership program. Taking the time to understand and assess these factors will allow for you to weigh up the capital/ time commitment of the partnerships with the expected benefit of partnering.
Partnerships require a resource commitment. It is something we have called out several times already in this blog post. When you partner, you commit both monetary and time resources to the relationship to ensure that it is successful. It is therefore a risk to not adequately vet your partner’s financial stability before committing to partner. As part of your competency analysis you should be exploring the high level financials of your prospective partner.
Questions to include at this stage include:
- What does your annual recurring revenue look like?
- How many customers do you have?
- Have you received any funding recently?
These questions should give you ballpark estimates on the financial health of the company you are talking to. Additionally there are other ways to find out financial information about a company such as heading to Crunchbase.
By typing in the potential partners name into Crunchbase you are able to see an overview of their total funding amount.
The most effective partners are those who cater to similar customer segments as your business. A partner that targets a different vertical or customer demographic may not contribute significantly to your partnership program’s revenue. As part of your competency analysis, it is crucial to examine the customer profiles that your partner typically serves.Some questions to explore with your partner include:
- Which verticals do you predominantly cater to?
- What is the average size of your customers?
- In which geographical regions do you conduct most of your business?
By analyzing your partner’s responses, you can gauge the go-to-market compatibility of the partnership.
An additional aspect to consider is the current customer base of your potential partner. Understanding the size of their customer base is vital, as it helps you estimate the total addressable market (TAM) that could be accessed through this partnership. While smaller companies may still make excellent partners, they might be assigned a lower priority if their customer base is limited, affecting the partnership’s potential impact on your business.
Track record and reputation
Even when a potential partner seems like the perfect match on paper, being a large company with a partner program and targeting the same ICP as you, there’s more to consider. Assessing the company’s market reputation is another crucial aspect.
A company known for poor customer service and numerous negative reviews could be a red flag.
Obtaining this information from your partner directly might be challenging, requiring some investigation by your partner managers. To determine a partner’s overall market reputation, there are a few sources to consult:
01. Request customer references from your partner to get first-hand insights before making a partnership decision. Conversing with current customers can provide valuable understanding about the partner’s business practices and customer satisfaction levels.
02. Explore review sites such as Capterra and G2. These platforms host review pages where verified customers share feedback on the products or services they use. By perusing these reviews, you can generally gauge the partner’s reputation and the quality of their offerings.
Reciprocation of efforts is a crucial part of a successful partnership, so when it comes to crunch time, how can you be sure you can trust your partner? Rob Hyland, Head of Commercial at OPPO adds context to this by saying “You need to show the value you can provide, if you’re unreliable you’ll never be able to build trust from that”
It is therefore essential to evaluate the cultural compatibility of your partner. When there is compatibility, both sides are more likely to trust and understand each other.Here are a few questions to consider when determining your cultural compatibility:
- What do their customers say about them?
- How do they provide support?
- How do they respond and engage with you?
- How do they hold themselves accountable – can you rely on them?
Evaluating responses to these questions will help you gain valuable insights into the partner’s cultural fit and help you understand their true potential as partners.
You need to show the value you can provide, if you’re unreliable you’ll never be able to build trust from that
Head of Commercial, OPPO
What comes next?
So by reading the above, you now know the types of information you should be gathering and evaluating potential partners on. But how do you pull this information into a replicable process that your partner managers can run easily?
The easiest way to make this a standardized process is to create a checklist template that partner managers can use on every call. Have each of the 5 bullets above, pulled into sections, and corresponding questions underneath.
Here is a simple template that you can give to your partner managers:
Once this checklist has been completed you are now ready to move to phase two….
02. Further information gathering
The preliminary competency checklist is primarily completed through interviews with potential partners. However, it is essential for partner managers to validate the information they have gathered. To accomplish this, partner managers should employ a mix of internet searches (including visiting the partners’ websites and other sources like G2) and examining publicly accessible data to gain an accurate understanding of the partner’s overall competency level.
While it’s natural to want to trust every company you engage with, it’s crucial to conduct an additional verification step to ensure the information you’ve received is accurate. This validation process enables you to make well-informed decisions about the suitability of partners for your program.
03. Analyze results and make a decision
From the questions in your checklist, and the verification steps previously mentioned, you know what the parameters are for your partnership to be successful. Once your competency analysis has been completed, the next step is to organize a follow-up call with your partner to tell them your decision. If your parameters have been met you simply move ahead with the partnership, agree on a plan of action, next steps, and provide some actionable deadlines.
However, how do you approach a partner who isn’t compatible?
Share the assessment you’ve undertaken in your partner competency analysis, explain your methodology and how you’ve ranked and scored each element. Focus your commentary on the specific areas of concern or gaps, allowing time for questions and feedback.
In conclusion, establishing a successful partner program hinges on the quality of partners you bring into your ecosystem. A thorough partner competency analysis is essential to ensure that the potential partners possess the necessary skills, knowledge, and expertise to contribute positively to your partnership.
In this blog post we have walked through the key elements of an effective competency analysis including evaluating business expertise and capability, financial stability, market knowledge and presence, track record and reputation, and cultural compatibility. By creating a standardized checklist for your partner managers to run through with potential partners, you will be able to ensure that every partner undergoes robust analysis before joining your partner program.
If you are struggling to book that initial call with prospective partners in order to complete the initial competency analysis, then Findr can help you. With Findr, simply plug in your ideal partner profile, and the platform will serve up potential partners for you to contact. Request a meeting with these partners, and book calls with vetted decision makers to drive your potential partnership forward.
If you have enjoyed this article and want to learn more about partnerships best practices, check out the Allbound blog, in addition to tuning into our “Partner Channel” podcast.
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