Onboarding is one of the most important – but often overlooked – aspect of a partner program. Setting up the right process and tools according to partner onboarding best practices can help you quickly get new partners up to speed and start driving results.
What is partner onboarding?
Partner onboarding involves providing the necessary support and information to new partners so they can integrate smoothly into your partner program. The partner onboarding process can include setting up portal access, giving comprehensive product training, guiding partners through available resources, and more. But beyond allowing them to explore the program, this onboarding phase is also a key opportunity to initiate a relationship with your partner, guiding them towards enablement and profitability.
This is important because it not only allows you to set expectations for how you plan to work together, but also creates a better environment for attracting more partners, as well as retaining existing ones. Thus, taking advantage of this opportunity to engage with partners at the very start of the relationship can help increase channel marketing revenue at a faster rate.
If great partner onboarding can deliver benefits, the adverse is true as well. Having a poor – or no – partner onboarding process can be damaging to your business.
Side effects of a poor partner onboarding process
Depending on your business, signing on a new partner may require significant time and effort. Imagine spending all that resources and then having them stay inactive because there was no onboarding process in place.
What is worse is that this might create a bad first impression, or even lead to misunderstandings down the road, that might result in partners labelling your company as “difficult to work with.” If not managed, your business could come away with a less than stellar reputation among partners, and even potential partners.
All this leads to loss in sales opportunities and potential revenue, which means less growth through your channel. If you are unsure about whether your current partner onboarding is working, here are some best practices that you can use as a guide.
Best practices for onboarding new channel partners
There are a few things to consider when you are developing and implementing your partner onboarding process:
- Tailor the process to your partners’ needs. Not all partners are created equal, and they won’t all require the same level of onboarding. Customize the process to ensure that each partner receives the information and support they need to be successful.
- Keep it simple. Avoid overwhelming your partners with too much information at once. Keep the process streamlined and easy-to-follow, so they can get up to speed as quickly as possible.
- Provide support throughout the process. The onboarding process shouldn’t end when partners are successfully onboarded. Continue to provide support throughout the partnership in order to keep them up to speed, maintain engagement, and achieve success together.
Use these general guidelines to formulate your next steps in setting up your onboarding program. Although the process will be customized, there are three main areas that you can start with and build on accordingly:
1. Welcome package and setting expectations so each partner is clear on their role.
First, you’ll need to put together an onboarding package for your new partners. This should include everything they need to get started, from login information to the company’s Partner Policy Agreement.
It might be helpful at this stage to have partner personas. You can create these based on your specifications – geography, company size, vertical, etc. Ultimately, what you want to do is create an onboarding package that is simple to understand, meets their specific needs, and gets them ready to go as quickly as possible.
2. Provide training on and support for relevant tools and resources.
Next, you will need to set up a training program for your new partners. Again, this should be tailored to their needs and easily accessible so they can learn as they go. This is where having a learning platform – which you can easily update – can help smoothen the process.
Ideally, the first training you provide teaches your partners how to use your partner system to register deals, find the right assets, access co-branded marketing, request market development funds, and so on. Further trainings offered can cover product knowledge, ideal customer targeting, and other topics that will increase enablement.
Besides training, it is also vital that your partners have a support system they can rely on. This could be anything from a help desk to a 24/7 chatbot. The key thing here is to make sure your partners know who to contact when they need help and how to reach them.
3. Identify KPIs and share information on incentives so each partner knows how they will be rewarded when they hit sales goals.
Finally, it is important to communicate the benchmarks and incentives relevant to each partner. You may also want to customize these goals based on partner, so that more of your partners can meet targets and stay engaged within the program.
Delivering a superior partner experience is essential for a successful channel program. So, it is important that you have the ability to control the journey, but also adjust quickly when needed.
A good onboarding process allows you to get new partners up to speed quickly and effectively so they can start selling your products or services and contributing to your bottom line. It is a time-consuming process, but a necessary one.
It sets the tone for the entire partner journey and is a vital component in any channel partner ecosystem. The good news is that with the right partner relationship management (PRM) software, you can automate much of the process.