The essential first step to partner recruiting is to strengthen your partner business proposition.
You are probably familiar with a value proposition – that is the compelling statement on why a customer should buy your product or service relative to your competitors. Almost every company spends a good amount of time fine-tuning their value proposition.
A partner business proposition is similar. It's why a partner should sell your product or service instead of your competitions. Our experience is that the same companies who fine-tune their value proposition, don’t spend nearly enough time thinking through their partner business proposition. In fact, often this statement isn’t even written down in a formal way that ensures a consistent, deliberate and repeatable message with partners.
A good value business proposition always thinks about telling the story on three levels.
First, how compelling is your market momentum? Second, what type of relationship does that partner have with you? Third, what are the economics of the sale?
You should also understand these questions are hierarchical. If customers reject your product, partners will be reluctant to sell it even if they like you and can make money selling it. Likewise, they may opportunistically sell something they can make good money on, but they won’t build a practice around it if they distrust the vendor.
Let’s spend a little time understanding what goes into each area.
Momentum is built around three components: market share, customer demand, and technology leadership. While you don’t need to have leadership in all three, you do need to think about showing leadership in at least one. If you are the market share leader, you are in a good position. If not, then you need to demonstrate that you have customer buzz and excitement or that you have a more innovative, better technology.
Relationship is also comprised of three components: fit, reputation and experience. You also need to show strength in one of these areas. Fit is how well does your offering fit into their business. Partners don’t like changing their business model. If they need to, then that can be a high barrier. If you have a poor reputation of poaching plum accounts, taking business direct or having unclear rules of engagement that will hurt your business proposition. If a partner’s experience is that you are hard to do business with that will also negatively impact your business proposition.
Lastly is economics. This is made up how much margin can partners make around your product, what are the costs of doing business with you and how do your programmatic benefits compare with the competition.
There are three important takeaways.
First, each of these areas can be quantified and measured against your competition. You can create a competitive roadmap against other vendors that show your specific strengths and weaknesses. This lets you gauge which competitor is the most vulnerable. Sometimes you are better targeting a number 2 or number 3 vendor rather than a top vendor. This type of exercise will tell you that.
Second, you can offset areas of weakness with specific recruiting tactics. If your margin isn't the best, perhaps an incentive program or special pricing can make the difference. If fit is off, offer free training or architectural assistance. If it’s lack of understanding around customer demand for your product, use managed leads to show customers are asking for your product.
Third, document your business proposition in your to-partner marketing. Build it out as part of the marketing and sales collateral that is used by your field reps to tell your story. Don’t relegate it to an afterthought.
The key is to quantify your position, craft your message and consistently bring it to the forefront of any recruiting conversation.
The last best practice relates to your business proposition. Once you know what to say, then you need to identify who to say it to. That is the topic of our next channel blog post.