Partners are third-party businesses that are authorized to resell your products and services. That description is a long way from the ideal partner (reseller) profile. The ideal partner organization is one that is motivated, trained, invested, capable and incented to grow your business. These enabled partners identify themselves as a primary business agent for your brand focused on selling, implementing, and servicing your products and services in their local market. The path to get all of your partners to this ideal level is through effective enablement.
Unfortunately, investment allocation in enablement tools and services is typically not a democratic process. The top 20 percent (Pareto) of most channel partner networks get 80 percent of the enablement investment because they have historically generated 80 percent of the revenue. It is important to continue to enable these top partners, but even greater growth potential exists by enabling other tiers within your partner network. Increasing investment levels in second and third tier partners can generate an even greater return on investment by activating entirely new classes of partners.
Once you have decided to make the investment, enabling in an empathetic and supportive way is the best approach to gain your partner’s trust and commitment to your brand. A great place to start is demonstrating your understanding of their business and their needs. Organize your enablement investment around the things that matter most to your partners.
What Your Channel Partners Really Want:
- Path-to-Profitability Tools: Tools to help figure out exactly how to make money, and how much money they can make with your brand
- Training Tools for Success: Real-time training tools that they can use actively while they are selling, servicing and marketing
- Demand Generation Tools: Enablement tools and support to build and execute ROI-driven marketing campaigns
- Tools for Helping Progress Deals: Tools and support to help close more deals
- Access to MDF with ROI Tools: Access to MDF / Coop funds and ROI tools to help execute more successful and profitable demand generation activities
- Access to Incentives with ROI Tools: Programs that will reward the extra sales efforts and also generate better ROI for the vendor and the partner
Each of these partner needs are matched with specific tools that you can make available to your channel network. This table defines the enabling tool category that aligns with each partner need along with the result and measurable outcomes you can achieve.
- Path-to-Profitability Tools: One of the biggest concerns for your partners is their ability to sell and service your products profitably.
- Problem Definition: Partners have had varied experiences with the different products they sell and service. Some have been more profitable than others to sell and deliver, and they approach every product or service they may invest in with a level of skepticism on how they’ll make a return on their investment.
- Solution Description: They are looking for an ability to “prove it to themselves” that they can actually build a profitable business with your brand. They are looking to build their own custom forecast including modelling pricing, labor costs, labor hours, margin levels, and marketing and other investment levels. They are looking for the ability to create a custom profitability forecast in minutes to convince themselves that your brand is a good investment.
- Enabling Tools (Partner Growth Modelling Tools): This is a web-based tool where partners can create their own custom business plan and P&L in 10 minutes. This includes a growth plan by products, goals and strategies, pricing & margins, staffing levels, and marketing investments – all in 10 minutes. This creates a customized profit & loss statement, monthly for 3 years including detailed goals, strategies and summary. This plan is also updated with actual year-to-date sales at any time to do QBR’s (quarterly business reviews) for effective performance management with the partner. All of this data can be integrated directly into the vendor CRM system.
2. Training Tools for Success:Your partners are looking for real-time training and enablement tools that they can use while they are planning, marketing, selling, and servicing.
- Problem Definition: The old adage applies where 80 percent of the new knowledge from a training class is forgotten the minute the participant steps out of the classroom. Traditional training is very difficult to turn into real-time work habits because it is disconnected from the doing of the work. Traditional training requires that participants use more mental energy to internalize the new facts and make it part of their regular work routine.
- Solution Description: The best solution is to move the training into the doing of the regular work. Instead of training, offer your partners work-flow tools to guide them through business planning, marketing planning, incentive planning, and more effective selling. This will take much less time for partners and without realizing it, they’ll perform like highly trained and effective planners, marketers, sellers, and performance managers.
- Enabling Tools (Work-flow Tools to be Used While Doing the Work): Ten minute web-enabled tools that are designed around the doing of the work will achieve two goals simultaneously. They’ll help your partners build well-defined growth plans, ROI-driven marketing programs, ROI-based proposals, and more profitable incentive programs while also training partner executives on how to do these activities more effectively.
3. Demand Generation Tools: There are many demand generation tools and services available, but few that show the partner how to budget, forecast outcomes and calculate ROI.
- Problem Definition: There are many lead, opportunity and appointment generation tools and services available to partner marketing executives, but very few that help forecast leads, revenue, and ROI outcomes. The key need for partners is the ability to plan a mix of marketing activities, forecast the number and quality of sales leads that will be generated, and the estimated revenue conversion of these opportunities. The partner will then be in a position to evaluate the overall anticipated ROI from this investment in a range of marketing activities.
- Solution Description: The best solution is to provide partners with a planning and ROI calculator independent from the individual marketing services to help calculate the budget and outcomes. These 10 minute tools allow partners to select the tactics they’d like to use, select the level of activity (e.g., list size, # of participants, etc.) and automatically calculate a forecast for the number and quality of leads, opportunities, and potential revenue that could be generated. This provides the partner with a plan for tactics, required marketing investment levels and a revenue forecast to make the business case for investment.
- Enabling Tools (Marketing Budgeting, Forecasting, and ROI Tools): These tools provide the partner marketer a planning and simulation tool that creates an ROI-based plan with business outcomes in 10 minutes. The partner selects tactics, levels and goals and it automatically generates a customized plan complete with a lead, revenue, and ROI forecast. It also allows the partner to instantly simulate different marketing tactic mixes and budget levels to help model the ideal plan for their business.
4. Tools for Helping Progress Deals:The most difficult parts of any business-to-business sales process are the later steps. Partner sales reps need help to push deals with interested and open prospects through to close.
- Problem Definition: Partner sales representatives have many products to sell, and it is very difficult to become and stay expert in each. Partner sales executives need the ability to deliver consultative selling to close more deals. This includes defining the needs of their prospective customers, matching products to these prospect needs, and calculation of the ROI and other impacts for buying. This needs to be done almost instantly in the critical final stages of the prospect buying process.
- Solution Description: The ideal tool guides the partner sales rep through a selling process with the target customer in real time. The tool helps define the prospect’s needs, current products & services deployed, and plans for the future and creates a customized proposal for the prospect. This proposal includes product specifications, costs, business impacts, and an ROI calculated instantly.
- Enabling Tools (Business Case Selling Tools): Tools like this are best if they can be completed by the sales rep in 10 minutes or less with the prospect. This type of tool can turn a relatively junior sales rep with minimal training into a highly competent consultative seller. They help solve one of the toughest challenges in the sales process and are relatively easy to implement and train the sales team.
5. Access to MDF with ROI Tools:Forecasting and measuring the ROI on MDF (Market Development Funds) is one of the most challenging tasks for channel executives because resulting revenue is often delayed 1-3 quarters.
- Problem Definition: MDF is very difficult to measure ROI because most funded programs are designed to generate sales leads or new sales opportunities, but not close new deals immediately. The actual closed deals and revenue most often come one or more quarters after the program has run. Channel executives need to measure the return on MDF investment by the direct impacts generated (e.g., number of sales leads, number of sales opportunities, number of appointments, etc.). The derived / delayed impacts (e.g., closed deals, revenue, & ROI) are more challenging to link back to the MDF spent in previous quarters.
- Solution Description: The ideal solution provides your partners with tools to help them make the business case for investment in demand generation / MDF-funded programs. This should include the ability to set goals, select and budget tactic levels, and calculate a forecast and ROI. Enablement tools can help partners do this in 10 minutes. This will provide partners the expertise and discipline of accurately, consistently, and realistically forecasting the outcomes from their MDF investments.
- Enabling Tools (Forecasting and Budget Calculator Tools): Workflow marketing, budgeting, and forecasting tools guide partners through a scientific and reliable budgeting and forecasting process in as little as 10 minutes. Partners select goals, choose from a set of appropriate tactics, add their list size, and configure the tactics for their campaign. The tool automatically calculates a budget, lead and revenue forecast and ROI from this campaign. This will improve the quality level of all partner-generated marketing campaign impact forecasts. It also makes it easier to track performance-to-plan in the current quarter along with MDF ROI on sales generated 1-4 quarters later.
6. Access to Incentives with ROI Tools: Partners love incentive programs that can motivate their team to hit selective targets, but the ROI is only optimized when partner’s goals align with vendor’s goals.
- Problem Definition: Vendors typically create incentives to help drive certain behaviors or push certain products or services during selected quarters. They work well when the vendor’s goals are closely aligned with partner / resellers goals during that period. But if partner’s goals are different during this period, vendors are either paying for volume they would have received anyway or fail to maximize the return on incentive program investment.
- Solution Description: The ideal situation it to provide incentive opportunities and have partners make the business case for gaining access to these incentive programs. Partners should set specific, time-bound goals for what they’ll achieve with these incentive programs which must be reviewed and approved before they gain access to these programs. Partner team members are then rewarded by both individual performance levels and for achieving the goals they committed to prior to the program started.
- Enabling Tools (Incentive Program Planning, Forecasting, and Performance Management Tools): Partner incentive planning and forecasting tools make it easy for partners to plan how they can use them to motivate their team and estimate the impact they can have on revenues. A workflow process helps partners select the incentive program, configure the incentive levels, set quantifiable goals, and forecast program outcomes and ROI in 10 minutes. This planning and forecasting report serves as a business case justification for investment in a partner’s incentive program. It can also be used to measure performance-to-incentive plans in current and following quarters.
Enablement tools can turn a good partner into a high performance partner by streamlining many manual tasks and improving planning and forecasting steps. Some key success criteria for these enablement tools are as follows:
- Complete in 10 minutes by the partner
- Provide immediate output to the partner
- Are easy to use with minimal or no training
- Are fully integrated with the vendor CRM
- Have the ability to measure performance-to-plan following the activity
Enabling your partners effectively with real-time tools may be one of the highest ROI activities you can invest in to drive more revenue through your partner channel.