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June 8, 2020

How to Use Partner Enablement to Fuel a Successful Channel

Have you experienced lower-than-expected revenue growth or inconsistent returns in your partner program? The cause could be partner enablement content missing the mark. 

Ultimately, your job as a channel leader is to create an environment that helps and motivates partners to work toward your strategic goals. 

Partner enablement success comes down to 3 key areas:

  • A strong message throughout partner enablement collateral
  • Targeted materials for each stage of the sales lifecycle
  • Consistent structure for both processes and tools in entire channel

At its core, channel sales is incredibly similar to a direct sales organization. However, unlike internal sales, company leadership has little control over the behavior of a channel partner. Managing partner relationships is largely about influence, so your enablement messaging has to be strong and concise, targeted to the right stakeholders, and include clear processes.

Each partner represents a separate business with its own internal priorities and goals. If you don't make it easy, you'll lose their attention. We'll take a closer look at each of key partner enablement elements. 

A strong message

  • Focus on customer value for partner enablement collateral. Focusing on the customer needs will hold the partner's interest longer and encourage engagement. 
  • An emotional appeal allows potential customers to see themselves using the product and gaining the corresponding benefits. For technical solutions, this is where a demo or hands-on experience can come in handy.
  • Outline clear next steps throughout the process for partners. Within the sales cycle, the first conversation about a product may involve a demo, and the demo may end with a proof of concept. Make sure you are clear about the steps that partners should follow within the sales process, which will likely improve your partner's win rate. 

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Targeted materials

Sellers need the right materials at each stage of the sales lifecycle, which could include pitch decks, pricing/ROI estimators, implementation roadmaps, and objection-handling scripts.

  • At the beginning of the sales lifecycle, sellers need more third party validation, resources to guide an initial conversation, and on-demand videos. At this point in the buyer's journey, potential customers are looking for a general understanding of the solution.
  • As prospects move along the journey, the more technical and detailed the materials need to be. Resources will focus on the ROI of the purchase, implementation, and potential risks of the purchase. 

As you develop targeted materials, think critically about the buyer's attributes and needs throughout the process. If you can map out the buyer's journey and provide it to your partners, it reduces the chance of stalled deals, increases sales velocity, and improves partner ROI. 

Consistent structure

Lastly, you'll want a consistent structure and set of materials for everyone. While partners will adjust the materials slightly, the more complete a set of materials you provide, the better.

  • The risk of inconsistent performance among partners increases when they use a customized approach and materials. As a channel leader, you should worry about not just a single ship, but the entire fleet.  With a single set of materials and recommended approach for partners, you can adjust and refine over time to deliver a stronger result.
  • Programmatic and centralized training, along with clear and consistent guidance from partner or channel account managers can improve consistency across your channel.
  • Lastly, any consistent structure needs a feedback loop to reveal best practices. Whether through a partner advisory council or partner/channel account managers, create a way to gather regular feedback. The insights you gain can be used to improve your overall approach and efficiency. 

Start reading: Find out how to structure your partner planning with our free  guide 

Partner enablement never fully ends, as markets and customers change. Still, beginning with a strong foundation will set your partners up for success in the future. Plus, if you're considering or conducting a partner program optimization, enablement is a key area of channel relationships to consider. 

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