Top Six Mistakes Companies Make When Building Their Channel Partner Program

1. The problem: Not being selective when choosing partners

More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to channel partners. Vetting and narrowing down your candidates is essential to having a healthy channel ecosystem. Having too many partners often means investing time and resources into underperformers.

Understand that your energy and resources are limited, especially if you’re in the earlier stages of building your channel program. Examine your current partner landscape and narrow down the number of participants.  Those who are worthwhile will help you reach your business goals while the excess will only cause clutter.

 

The solution: Create a reliable, repeatable vetting process

Use a central technology hub for your partner vetting and recruiting process. Partner relationship management (PRM) software automates everything from promoting your program to onboarding and auditing participants.

With PRM software, partner application approvals are automated based on the information your lead capture forms gather. This creates a streamlined partner experience and uses fewer resources. By removing barriers to signup, you make it easy to acquire great partners. 

PRM software tracks the following processes, allowing you to create a scalable vetting process:

  • Tracking of all prospective candidates
  • Recruiting and managing each partner
  • Sorting through and analyze criteria to vet partners
  • Gathering and storing data on the recruitment process for future reporting
  • Documenting partner performance for auditing
  • Storing training materials in an easy-to-access hub

 

2. The problem: Inadequate training and support

Partners can only sell at the level of their training. Unfortunately, training can be time-consuming and costly, particularly when it involves traveling to on-site sessions and entertaining partners. What’s more, industries like IT require certifications to be up to date to sell specific services. 

In addition to training, partners need ongoing sales support. They may require subject matter expertise for sales visits or marketing support. Organizations have limited bandwidth to support their entire channel ecosystem adequately, and channel managers don’t have the capacity for frequent resources requests.

 

The solution: Use technology that makes training scalable

PRM helps reduce training costs by making materials readily accessible to partners and facilitating regularly updated education for new products and promotions. 

Training resources in the PRM platform allow your partners to learn at their own pace and on their schedule. You can set set selling permissions only to partners who have completed the required training modules. 

 

3. The problem: Lack of channel support to efficiently build partner programs

Channel managers often operate on their own and must juggle many different responsibilities. For example, partners could request joint marketing materials and, without an automated process in place, the in-house team would have to manually co-brand the content on top of their other work obligations. As a result, it’s the managers themselves that delay or lose sales opportunities. 

Channel managers aim to provide individualized service to their partners, but they usually don’t have the time. Lack of support and resources can result in partners feeling undervalued.

 

The solution: Implement the right people and solutions to support growth

Deploying a PRM lets you accomplish more, even with a leaner team. Most channel management processes are inefficient, with one channel manager handling three to five partners at once. Using a technology platform to automate tasks allows channel managers to service more partners. 

For example, PRM reduces the need for a designated channel marketer by giving partners access to select materials so they can independently co-brand within the platform. You can also set marketing permissions to streamline your brand throughout the channel. 

 

4. The problem: Inconsistent communication and channel structure

Many channel leaders are reactive communicators—not proactive. They reach out to partners for opportunities or to respond to questions. Without structure, many vendors fail to stay top of mind with their channel partners.

Proper structure is also a weakness for many organizations. Companies often don’t take the time to create an intentional training process or a consistent MDF or SPIFF program for partners. Consistent initiatives like these are necessary to boost performance and keep partners engaged. 

 

The solution: Automate as channel management activities as possible

Create an outreach schedule to ensure you communicate with partners consistently. Base the frequency of your outreach efforts on your relationship and your goals. You can choose to hold weekly or bi-weekly check-ins—just be consistent. 

Planning your outreach ahead of time prevents dropping the ball or letting communication lapse. Implement a centralized platform that organizes your channel activities. Infusing automation into your processes allows you to stay consistent while keeping your company and your partners on the same page.

 

5. The problem: Over-reliance on partners for demand generation

Partners are most motivated to work with companies that generate sales leads, populate their calendar with demos, and fill their pipeline with new opportunities. 

Many companies build their channel ecosystem then sit back and expect partners to do all the work. The best chance you have at a strong partnership is to focus on what you can do for your partners versus what they can do for you. 

 

The solution: Initiate joint-marketing activities

Business alignment, common goals, and the ability to generate revenue are the foundation of strong partnerships. Ramp up your lead generation efforts to create more sales opportunities.

Webinars, marketing campaigns, and gated content are all excellent initiatives to double down on to produce leads. Joint marketing efforts will require less time and collaboration with a PRM. 

Your PRM can serve as a content management system capable of storing materials, resources, and brand guidelines. More autonomy prevents unnecessary back and forth on campaigns. Use a PRM to automate the management of Market Development Funds (MDFs) that motivate partners to engage with your brand. 

 

6. The problem: Relying on manual channel management tools

In channel sales, manual processes like spreadsheets, email, and phone calls cut down on productivity. While there’s nothing wrong with these tools, they’re disconnected and leave room for error. Relying on manual processes negatively impacts customer service and partner engagement.

For example, you’re more likely to drop the ball on leads when relying on spreadsheets because they don’t automatically populate with pipeline updates or send reminders for pending action. Fragmented lead distribution causes delayed lead progression and, ultimately, a poor partner experience. Disorganization and inefficiency result in lost opportunities.

Even if you feel like your manual processes work well today, consider whether or not your existing system is scalable. The goal is to steadily build your channel partner program rather than maintain the status quo, and continuing reliance upon spreadsheets and traditional email will only take you so far.

 

The solution: Use one platform to streamline channel management 

While the number of available sales enablement tools has skyrocketed, specific technologies, like PRM, remain foundational. A PRM can consolidate costly, disparate technology tools. 

Automated features allow you to replace disconnected databases, spreadsheets, and content management systems. PRM not only saves money on subscription fees but also saves administrative time and provides a bird’s eye view of all channel activities. 

 

Bottom line about building a channel partner program

To summarize, the biggest mistake you can make when building your channel program is to take your partners and profits for granted. Relationships and partner knowledge needs to be continuously nurtured with fresh incentives and attention. What’s more, investing in a partner portal helps managers spend their time efficiently while cultivating future-proof processes that grow alongside their sales ecosystem.

Ali Spiric