5 Key Fundamentals to Fortifying Your Channel Foundation
With so many variables that have surfaced in 2020, everyone is talking about what is going to change and how they need to adjust. Whether or not you’ve adapted and pivoted to the new normal, often times the fundamentals that need to remain the same regardless of market conditions are overlooked. Patricia Rush, President of Rush To Channel and Impartner Channel Chief Advisory Board member, joined Impartner CMO, Kerry Desberg, on our latest podcast discussion from the Build a Better Channel series on how to fortify your channel program for any obstacles that may come in the future.
- It All Starts and Ends with Partner Experience
It all starts and ends with partner experience and making sure that you’re really delivering what partners need to be successful. To be able to build and deliver the partner experience that your partners need, you have to know who they are. You need to understand their business, what types of customers they sell to and how they deliver their services. Your partners are solution providers for their customers, and your product is just one of many that fit into that solution. You need to understand how they’re delivering those solutions, what their skill sets are, are they doing their own custom development, and are they selling into specific vertical markets? To deliver the best partner experience, always start with the customer environment and move upward through the partner solution into your technology or product that you’re delivering and understand where your product fits into that partner’s overall business.
- Make the Promise and then be able to Deliver
As you build your partner program, you’re going off of your own experiences, seeing what’s going on in the industry and looking at what you think is the best approach to a program framework. Regardless of how you’ve structured your program, you need to be able to execute and manage the program elements. In addition to following best practices from industry analysts and reports, take into consideration what your own culture is within your organization and what you’re able to execute and manage successfully. You have to be able to make realistic promises to your partners and then be able to deliver them. If you over-promise and under-deliver, you’re constantly trying to catch up. If you structure your program to make it manageable from the beginning, and then you increase and improve, you’ll build a better base and provide a better partner experience as you grow.
- Show Partners Where You Fit in the Solution
Lots of partners is a great goal to have; you always have a baseline and a goal, but you have to look at what you can realistically manage. Getting tons of partners to sign up is not a success factor when looking at your success metrics. If you can’t manage a thousand partners, you’re unable to deliver that quality or deliver the program and experience that you’ve promised. You need to really define what you can manage based on your infrastructure and what resources you have to support your partners. You want partners that you work with to be engaged and your teams to be engaged with those partners, really hold them through the process to deliver that partner experience and get the rewards. Work side-by-side and teach them how to fish by bringing them in to learn about your company. They’re learning how you work, as well as the product that you’re selling. Show partners how to implement, how to deliver the support and how to go out and start fishing to bring in new opportunities.
- Execute Based on Understanding what your Partners Could do Without you
Partners are the trusted advisors; their skills, their relationships with the customers and the services that they’re delivering to those customers help build the strong relationships within your program. The partners that you work with have multiple touchpoints across multiple technologies, vendors and solutions. They are the managed services that are not only delivering the technology, but they’re also keeping it running and they’re there to support when the product doesn’t work or when the business needs them to support the solution. Don’t place stringent requirements and rigid structure around a partner program, remember that you’re courting them probably much more earnestly than they would be when courting you. It’s important to keep in mind where you fit in the scheme of things and how important your product or technology is to their overall business. Know your partners, structure your partner program in a realistic way and just like any relationship in life, put your partners’ needs first.
- Establish, Develop and Deliver a Partner Satisfaction Program
Whether you’re just starting out or have an established partner program, without understanding how partners feel about you and the services that you’re delivering, how do you know where you need to focus and improve? Oftentimes, companies push out what they want to say, what they want the partners to do and the experience they want partners to have. Whether that is pushing their messages, content, events or sales training, they spend a lot of funding on their needs. But is it delivered in a way that is beneficial to your partners? Start by having a baseline of what is important to the partner, what’s important to their business and figure out what do they need from you? Then find out how you’re performing against those needs that are most important and measure it over time. Thinking of your partners’ satisfaction, listening to partners and asking them to help structure and improve the program that you’ve designed for them will help you get a higher level of loyalty, and they will be more involved with you as a business partner.
Now more than ever, it is important to keep up with trends and continue to adjust, adapt and connect. So much of the conversation in the marketplace today is about what’s changing because of the pandemic, however, the foundations that really make a channel organization run well are things that don’t change, shouldn’t change and won’t change. Listen to the full podcast with Patricia Rush, President of Rush To Channel and Impartner Channel Chief Advisory Board member.