Partner Program Stuck in the Dark Ages?

4 Channel Program dynamics you need to nail in 2017

Working in IT is never boring. In fact, the pace of change, innovation and disruption makes my head spin.

So it amazes me that despite this constant evolution, one area has hardly changed during my 30 years in the business: the way that vendors engage with their channel partners.

IT vendors, and their partners, provide solutions to customers that will digitize their processes and personalise their customer engagements. So why is it that digital transformation hasn’t happened when it comes to how vendors engage with their partner eco-system? Why are vendors still relying on archaic approaches that treat the ‘channel’ as an amorphous mass, rather than a rich and varied group of individual business partners?

There are four Channel sales dynamics that I believe vendors need to address in 2017 to drive efficient sales growth by introducing digital mass personalisation into their partner engagement strategies:

1. Connect people with killer content – FAST!

Partner portals are overly complicated and have terrible search functionality which are then stuffed full of content (sorry to my portal vendor colleagues!). Most of the time partners cannot find what they need quickly and quite often can’t find content all. The research I’ve done doesn’t paint a pretty picture. On average it takes partners between 18 and 31 mins to find what they’re looking for on vendor portals. This isn’t just frustrating. It’s business-limiting. Let’s say you have 2,000 partners. If each of them has 10 sales reps looking for content twice a month, then a gigantic 2,500 days of sales time is lost whilst they’re searching for content each month. That’s criminal!

The Opportunity: Organise content aligned to the sales motion or stage of the sales cycle. Help the salesperson know immediately why a customer can benefit from your solution, guide them through the sales process and present content that’s relevant to each step. And weed out any junk that doesn’t support that!


2. Create Dialogue

The best communication happens when you create dialogue. I’m writing this on LinkedIn because I’m interested in sharing insights and engaging in dialogue with my network. If I wanted a monologue, I’d just send you an email! It’s the same with your partners. As much as you might like to think they’re on the edge of their seats waiting for the next email blast to drop into their inbox, unfortunately they’re not. On average, partners receive so many un-targeted email blasts from vendors every day, a lot just unsubscribe and its left to your PAM / CAM as the delivery agent for news. Don’t get me wrong, email has a place in the mix, let’s try and make it relevant & personal.

The Opportunity: Vendors need to invest time in understanding their partners as individuals. Who are they? What are they interested in? What are their challenges? Vendors sales people who take time to segment their partners and then communicate one to one with them in a personalised and targeted way sell more.


3. Put an End to ‘Death by Partner Program’

Every day we dream up new & exciting programs to try to get the unsuspecting partner to sell the latest widget, or to revive the fortunes of widgets they’ve been flogging for a while. The complexity of the incentives, T&Cs and details of all these programs is baffling and time-consuming to navigate. In some cases, parallel partner programs start cannibalising themselves causing ‘Death by Partner Program’! A lot of partners just employ people to sweep up these programs after the fact begging the question, are we driving new revenue or rewarding revenue that was going to happen? In some examples I’ve seen, partner participation reached only 10% of the target. Given the amount of time and money that goes into formulating, marketing and administering these programs, that’s an enormous waste. Review, Retarget or Reduce in 2017

The Opportunity: The data and insights you have about your partners and their customers are your secret weapon. Use it to create partner programs that will really deliver. Why communicate 30 different programs to a partner if only five are relevant to their business? Data and insights will help you declutter the programs you present, and personalise them by individual partner to increase participation rates.


4. Content is King

I’m going to whisper this: for many years IT vendors have been so in love with the speeds and feeds of their latest products that they’ve forgotten how to create content that describes the business value the technology brings to customers and partners. Sorry, but most partner sales people simply don’t care the way you do! They want content that speaks to their pains, their market opportunity and their customers’ needs. That’s all!

The Opportunity: Partners tell me that they need better quality content that helps them take action using compelling value propositions targeted by customer type. They want conversation-starters by role and sales motion. Free yourself from the chains of the standardised TDM/BDM PowerPoint deck and DIY e-learning module; it’s time to personalise, segment and reinvent your content!

All four of these dynamics point to the need to personalise the partner experience. Partners have more vendor choices to make than ever, so taking a personalised approach is critical is being “easy to do business with” and delivering value into the relationship.

In the battle for mindshare, paying attention to these four dynamics will help you innovate, personalise and boost your partners’ sales opportunity in 2017. Let’s take action now!