A widespread problem with a partner channel is lower than expected revenue growth or inconsistent returns from your partners. In cases like this, the culprit may be what you are doing or not doing to enable your partners success.
Ultimately, your job as a channel leader is to create an environment where your partners are motivated to work to your strategic goals, and enabled in a way that will make them successful. Putting aside the idea of motivation for a moment, the enablement side of the equation comes down to 3 things:
Strong message throughout your partner enablement collateral
Targeted materials for each part of the sales lifecycle
Consistent structure, both processes and tools for your entire channel
At its core, it is this is no different than a direct sales organization, however unlike a direct sales organization it is much harder to dictate behavior to a channel partner. The result is since it is based on influence, when dealing with partner enablement you must be stronger and more concise with your message, even more targeted with what you provide and clearer with your process. Your partners are running their own business, if it isn’t easy for them, they won’t pay attention.
A strong message for partner enablement collateral typically includes a focus on customer value. By creating messaging that is centered on how it will make the customer’s life better, they are much more likely to maintain interest and actively try to understand how works.
Another key part of a strong message is an emotional appeal, where you allow the potential customer to see themselves with the product and gaining the benefit. For technical solutions, this is where a demo or hands on experience can come in handy.
Lastly, outline a clear next step. The first conversation about a product may be to set up a demo, and the demo may end with a proof of concept to see how it works in their environment. Never assume that the person you are communicating with will automatically know what should come next. By offering a path forward you can improve your win rate with customers and reduce the time it takes to get there.
You need to ensure that you have the right materials at each stage of the sales lifecycle. This doesn’t just mean a pitch deck it can also include things like pricing/ROI estimators, implementation roadmaps and objection handling scripts.
At the beginning of the sales lifecycle you will want more third party validation, things to guide an initial conversation and some on-demand video’s. This makes sense when you consider the buyers journey, it is more about the customer’s awareness and getting a general understanding of the solution.
The further down the path you go, the more technical and detailed the materials get. It shifts to be more about what the actual ROI will be on the purchase, how will I get it up and going in my organization and what does the service look like if something goes wrong over the life of the purchase.
What is critical is that you think deeply about your sales lifecycle, who the buyer is and what they are likely to want at any given point. Doing this effectively means you are less likely to see your partner’s deals stall at a consistent point in the process, improving your deal velocity and freeing your channel up to drive more revenue by moving through deals faster.
Third, is ensuring that you have a consistent structure and set of materials for everyone. While you know that partners will do slight adjustment of whatever you give them, the more complete a set of materials you can give them the better.
The more custom an approach and the materials the partners use, the more inconsistent your various partners’ performance will be. As a channel leader, you should worry about not just a single ship, but the entire fleet. This means that if you have a single set of materials and one recommended approach for partners, you can adjust and refine over time to deliver a stronger result.
The biggest hurdles to this is inconsistent guidance to your partner or channel account managers (PAM or CAM) and inconsistent training across geographies. Programmatic and centralized development of training, along with clear and consistent PAM or CAM guidance can go a long way to improving consistency across your channel.
Lastly, your consistent structure needs to have a feedback loop to get best practices. Whether it is through the PAM’s or CAM’s or through a partner advisory council, you want to make sure that you have a way to find out what is working and what isn’t. That way you have another trigger to improving your overall approach and increasing your channel efficiency.
Enabling your partner is never a transaction, as market’s change and your customers mature what it takes to make your partners more successful will constantly evolve. But putting in the time and effort can be one of the biggest drivers to stronger and more consistent channel success.