Almost every high tech company does an annual partner survey.
But if you are getting only "how happy are you" and "are we a profitable vendor" information, you need to ramp up your game. At The Spur Group, we work with many industry leading vendors. Too often they share annual surveys that just don't yield any actionable findings. Let us avoid that trap.
Step 1: Look at how you choose partners
It’s easy to diagnosis the survey questions as the problem in this process. The solution is then simply changing the questions. The survey is now cured … right? Not exactly. The real, underlying problem with partner satisfaction surveys is not the questions. The culprit here is the partner selection process.
Too often you ask the field or the local partner manager for their list of partners. Nobody wants to get in trouble with senior management. So they cherry-pick the partners.
It's human nature to choose favorites, but it skews your results. So the answer is obvious — randomize the selection.
This also is wrong. Surveying random partners won’t generate the insight you need to solve anything – you’ll just get a general view. Instead, be specific and deliberate in your partner selection to get a specific view.
One way to achieve this is to separate partners into three categories: high, average, and low performers.
Then create a two-by-two measuring both level of engagement and performance. You’d want to match up and select your top highest performing partners and your top lowest preforming partners.
Doing this would allow you to compare the differences in these two groups and get a specific look at what enables the top highest partners to perform at such a rigorous level and what impedes the lowest performers.
Step 2: Know what to benchmark
The other key element to creating a meaningful partner satisfaction survey is creating a successful partner business proposition, which is the value the channel receives from selling your company’s products and solutions. Many companies fail to develop a core competency in this area — and as a result, frustrations within the company arise with the channel and sluggish success in the marketplace.
We’ve compiled the three main elements for creating successful partner business propositions.
Market momentum. partners naturally migrate to products and services that are in high demand by their customers. A company's market momentum is composed of customer demand, market share, and leadership position.
Relationship: partners align to vendors when they see long-term value in the relationship. Partners assess alignment based on vendor fit against their strategic objective; the reputation, either experienced or perceived, of the potential vendor; and judges their satisfaction with engaging the vendor.
Partner economics: the financial return a partner can gain from the vendor relationship. It factors in the profits around the sale, the required investment costs and all benefits received through the relationship.
The trap most companies fall fault to is only focusing on two of those elements, profit and satisfaction, but none of the other seven when mapping out a business proposition.
Besides understanding your company’s strengths and weaknesses, you must also understand your competitor’s business proposition. A truly effective partner business proposition assessment benchmarks a company’s business proposition relative to its key competitors with each targeted partner segment.
Step 3: Use the results to shape your channel management execution
The answers and results these improved surveys will generate can locate where you need to be concerned – and that’s good. This means you’ve found the problem and can now solve for it.
Partner satisfaction surveys need to be done correctly. It’s the only way to get real, honest and focused in information, leading way to actionable insights that help shape your business strategy and be proactive in your channel management efforts.
Richard Flynn is a recognized leader in channels and go-to-market business strategy and execution. A Founding Partner and Chief Marketing Officer for The Spur Group, Richard has over 25 years of go-to-market experience in sales transformation, channel management, and customer marketing.