Your partners are the bread and butter of your business, but getting them to choose you in the first place can be a major source of frustration for some companies. More often than not, your partners are snowed under with options from other vendors, which means it’s up to you to stand out and show them why they should go with you over anyone else.
This is where your onboarding process can really make a difference. It’s the perfect time to show new B2B partners the value they can get from you and highlight why they should stick around.
What is Partner Onboarding?
Partner onboarding is the process of signing up new partners with your company. It’s not just getting them to sign a form though, it’s about solidifying early engagement, initiating training, and helping them get the most out of working with you.
It might start with a simple workflow that notifies the channel manager of a new application. From there, it can spider out into sending contracts, providing useful resources, and offering personalized training.
Because it’s the first contact new partners will have with you, it’s one of the most important steps in a channel-partner relationship. This very first phase is all about making a good initial impression – and remember, first impressions are everything in the business world.
If your onboarding process doesn’t live up to partner expectations or partners have a confusing or frustrating time, your relationship will start off on the wrong foot.
Your Strategic Partner Onboarding Process
It’s vital that you put an onboarding process in place before you start building B2B partner relationships – particularly if you’re juggling several different partner accounts. There’s a lot that can go wrong when it’s not all tight and well planned out; for example, you might experience communication issues, lose credibility, and misplace documents in the ether.
This is why you need to be strategic about your process right from the very start.
There are two key elements that you should consider during the onboarding process, both of which require a strategic and streamlined process:
- The business element, and how you’re going to pass around important documents in a timely fashion
- The relationship element, and how you’re going to communicate with your partners in the long-term
To learn more, check out Allbound’s channel partner onboarding checklist.
Streamlining the process means creating a system that can be partly automated and consistently replicated, which is where a PRM (Partner Relationship Management) solution comes into play.
These tools provide a portal where all documents and information can be accessed in one place, and somewhere for you and your partners to communicate quickly and easily. These are just two of the benefits of a PRM solution, though.
Automation is a key part in keeping your onboarding process as quick and as smooth as possible without having to navigate pesky bottlenecks that happen when things are done manually. PRM solutions can automate the contract signing stage by using integrated e-signature apps, or automatically activate users once they’ve signed a contract and agreed to your terms.
From there, you can store important documents in the portal so that partners can access them as and when they need them, as well as information on training and any digital workshops or education.
A Place to Store Your Resources
PRM solutions are intuitive from both the company side and the partner side of things, and keeping all your resources in one safe place can save the inevitable backwards- and forward-ing that comes from sending important documents out via email.
In your PRM portal, you can store partner onboarding resources like:
- Customer references, testimonials, and reviews, so partners have easy access to information from satisfied customers to send to their prospects.
- Customer use cases, so the partner can gain a deeper understanding of how past customers put your solution or product into practice.
- Partner playbooks, to help partners with any questions they might have about your product or solution. This might include information like pricing, links to sales tools, and your value propositions.
- Key pieces of training that help partners put sales and marketing techniques into practice or that help educate them on the things your product or solution can do.
One of the other major things you’ll be looking out for when you’re generating new partnerships is key influencers. These are the people you’ll want to engage the most and give special attention to if you can.
While the onboarding process will be as long as you need it to be to get people signed up and armed with all the information they need, you also want to focus on engaging key influencers or prominent partners from the get-go to avoid stalled relationships or their interest in your product fizzling out.
By now you know that new partnerships are an expensive proposition for both you and your partners. Not only does it require you to invest in key resources, training, and marketing, but it also requires you to create a strategic onboarding process that gives a great first impression. If your partner onboarding process misses the mark, you could end up losing out on great partnerships and seeing your whole partner program flop entirely.
To put it bluntly, the stakes are too high for you to get it wrong.
How to Measure the Success of Your B2B Partner Onboarding Process
Assuming you have the necessary foundation in place for onboarding partners, it’s paramount that you gauge whether or not the actual messaging and activities resonate with participants. The following KPIs can highlight your program’s strengths and weaknesses:
- Partner activation rates: While there is no universally agreed-upon milestone that signifies “activation,” this metric indicates how many new partners will successfully move beyond onboarding. Create your own firm definition for how your program will define partner activation, such as the first registration of a deal, the first completed sale, or achieving a certain amount of revenue. Your partner onboarding process will have a direct impact on this KPI; a low activation rate could mean that your onboarding is proving to be an insurmountable barrier for program newcomers.
- Onboarding partner drop-off or disengagement: If your activation rate is disappointing, this next metric will help uncover potential problems in your B2B partner onboarding process. Dig into the data (with the help of your PRM) to detect the stage at which most participants stop logging into the portal. Perhaps it’s when they encounter a particular piece of content or there’s a natural tapering off by week two. When you pair these portal insights with gathered feedback from departing partners, you may unearth onboarding roadblocks. Was the process too long? Were the materials too confusing? Were there certain operational processes with which they disagreed? Such observations can help finesse your partner onboarding process
- Training interactions and related quiz scores: A PRM solution like Allbound will grant visibility into who engages with the portal and in which ways. Discern program-wide trends about which trainings partners gravitate towards (through repeat clicks and homepage pins). We recommend you set up multi-step training courses capped with quizzes to confirm whether or not newcomers retained the information. A high-pass rate suggests your onboarding materials accomplished its purpose, while high-failure rates suggest the opposite.
- Registered and closed deals. There’s a lot of factors that influence your program’s number of registered deals and close rate, including the quality of your partner onboarding process. If partners fail to find prospects and win them over, it could be a sign that they’re poorly equipped to represent your products and brand. If performance is subpar, we recommend conducting an audit of your B2B partner sales funnel to identify whether your onboarding materials or another program component is the culprit.
Bonus Tips for Improving Your Partner Onboarding Process
- Think of onboarding as part of your recruitment process. As mentioned above, there’s no guarantee that an onboarding partner will eventually activate to generate profit. Infuse your onboarding process with messaging aimed at keeping excitement alive rather than inundating partners with mundane details.
- If you’re asking a lot of your partners during onboarding, make sure your commission structure reflects their hard work. Some products are more complex than others and require additional effort to learn. If this describes your product, it’s natural that your onboarding may take more hours to complete than some other programs. However, it’s paramount that you keep partners hooked by being upfront with the time investment and incentivizing them with the potential of larger payouts.
- Don’t let process automation be an excuse not to communicate. A PRM like Allbound uses behavior-triggered notifications to guide partners from one training to the next, minimizing the need for you to micromanage each individual. This means channel managers can focus their communication on strategic brainstorming, collecting feedback, and general relationship strengthening.
- Customize onboarding based on the partner type and intended audience. As you grow your partner ecosystem strategy, the type of partners and their intended audiences will diversify. Create materials specifically for each sect rather than making everyone go through the same onboarding process.
The Bottom Line About B2B Partner Onboarding
To summarize key takeaways, you cannot think of newly recruited partners as “automatic wins.” You must effectively nurture their understanding and appreciation of your offering. Otherwise, they will sooner or later fail to reach their full potential and leave your program.