66% of Channel Executives Plan to Buy One-Click QBR Tools in 2022

Our market research was conducted among registrants for last month’s webinar entitled “Transform your Channel with One-Click QBRs.” Below are the summary findings from this report. Click here to download the full research report:

Channel Research Conclusions on Roles, Goals, Tools & Intent in 2022:

Channel Sales:

  • Goals: Partner Commitments, Capabilities, and Partner-Led Revenue
  • Tools: One-Click QBR Systems
  • Intent: 66% of channel sales executives intend-to-buy in 2022

Channel Operations:

  • Goals: Efficient and “Friction-Free” partnership experience
  • Tools: PRM / CDM/LMS
  • Intent: 46% of operations executives intend-to-buy in 2022

Channel Marketing:

  • Goals:  Effective lead generation and MDF ROI
  • Tools: TPMA
  • Intent: 26% channel marketing executives intend-to-buy in 2022

Channel Finance:

  • Compliance & ROI on MDF, Incentives and Rebates
  • Tools: MDF, CIM, Rebate mgmt.
  • Intent: 21% of channel finance executives intend-to-buy in 2022

There is a growing consensus on channel investment priorities. Improving QBRs to build more committed, capable, and revenue-producing partnerships is bubbling to the top because of its direct impact on revenue and ROI.

What is Successful Channels?

Successful Channels is the world leader in QBR systems specializing in partner sales management tools.  Successful Channels launched its one-click QBR (Quarterly Business Review) system that consolidates all key partner performance dimensions in a one-click export-builder tool.  Channel team members can now produce a consolidated report with the latest performance, capabilities, & task completion status for a partnership and export to a portrait PDF file that is ready to deliver to partners.

This latest version is customized following the brand guidelines. The actual data is pulled from CRM, PRM, LMS and other systems and compared with the partner’s plan. It is also available rolled-up to the territory level and at all regional levels in the same one click-export format. Global organizations are also provided with QBRs in any language. 


It is Time to Transform the Channel Industry – Committed Partnerships Through One-Click QBRs

The way we do business and go about our daily lives has changed forever. How we conduct business, how we work and how we build business relationships. Why not take this opportunity to transform how we do business with our channel partners? Partnerships represent an opportunity for business growth because of the reach, expertise, and market coverage that they offer a brand. But in 2022 they continue to be poorly managed, nurtured, and measured. Today, most brands only scratch the surface of the potential for their channel.

But there is an innovative approach just available to completely transform the way channel partnerships are managed. All the historical barriers of setting program goals, tracking performance, and conducting quarterly business reviews (QBRs) have been lifted.

Channel partnerships will never be the same – Introducing the One-Click Quarterly Business Review Report Builder:
Managing channel partnerships just got infinitely easier for channel executives. One of the biggest struggles for Channel Managers is the efficient development of partner commitments (plans), development of partner capabilities (scorecards) and building partner-led revenue (QBRs). These problems have now been solved. Imagine a one-click report builder that provides an up-to-the-minute performance report on your partnerships.

Now doing a partnership program performance review is as easy a one-click action. You can now generate a pre-defined partner MBR / QBR report that pulls in performance data from sales, pipeline, tasks, business action, marketing plans and partner profile data in one instant report. You can now design how and what your global team of channel executives manage and motivate your partnerships. This integrated system brings all the data, reporting, charts, tasks, and updates together instantly in one partner-friendly report.

The Components of a Best Practice Quarterly Business Review Enabled by this QBR Builder

  1. Build Partner Commitments: Provide an instant update on how the partnership is achieving all key program metrics
    • Partner Performance Dashboard
  2. Build Partner Capabilities: Provide an update on how partners are developing their brand capabilities
    • Capabilities Scorecard & Action Plan
  3. Build Partner-Led Revenue: Provide an update on how partners are building business on their own
    • Business Action Plans
    • Marketing Action Plans
  4. Help Partner’s Execute Their Business Mission: Provide an update on how partners are improving on their life-stage journey
    • Task Manager
  5. Build Strong Partnerships Relationships: Provide a consistent update, action plan and review work-session with your partners
    • Quarterly Business Review Builder

All these elements are ready to snap into your custom-built QBR system for delivering a highly partner-valued consultative business review.

Channel partner management is an impossible job. There is simply too much to do, with too many partners and not enough time. Partnerships are being underserved and they are not working as well as they can. Channel partnerships are like any other relationship. They need consistency, understanding, and communication. The instant, one-click, QBR system allows channel executives to deliver all of this in minutes.

Build your Own Perfect QBR For Each Partner Type

Imagine how effective your channel team will be if they are equipped with a professional and instant performance, status, and action planning reporting system. Each partner type, level, or region has its own customized report available on-demand.

Excerpts from your custom QBR Report:

Each of these elements are selected and built into a purpose-built template based on your specifications. Channel team members will no longer have to manage a highly inefficient partner business review process.

Channel partnerships will never be the same at your organization. Every month you will be having thoughtful and earnest conversations with your partners about building a stronger growth strategy. Your channel team will be able to focus on how to address any plan shortfalls or new enablement activities rather than the historically inefficient process of building reports and pulling data manually.

Channel executives will be able to spend more time serving as a business consultant to their partners by assisting with growth, capabilities development, and end-user account planning. A key component of your partnership value proposition is how you manage joint business planning, scorecards, marketing plans, and QBRs. Your partnerships are looking to invest and build their businesses with brands that enable them to be successful. Your partner business plans, scorecards and QBRs will become the centerpiece of your business relationship.

The time to change the way you manage your channel partnerships is now. The growth and competitive advantage you will be able to gain will exceed the expectations of both your partners and field channel team.


Is it Worth Doing Business Plans and QBRs with your Partners?

“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”  Even back in 1599, William Shakespeare has Hamlet point out the struggle of not taking up partner business planning.  Your partners are fighting the battle of success and how to compete and need help to organize their arrows and to manage the troubles of the marketplace.

This is an obvious humorous metaphor to channel partner management to help make the point that the answer to the question of whether-or-not to plan should be obvious to all of us.  The answer is absolutely, yes, if we are serious about building deep and committed partnerships for our brand.  With the cost of direct sales continuing to grow and scale becoming more and more difficult to achieve, companies after companies are putting more focus and investment on building their channel network.  Channel partnerships offer businesses the opportunity to generate step-function growth without having to organically staff an expensive professional direct sales organization.  Partnerships offer the ability to exponentially expand sales, services, and market coverage for your brand at an affordable cost per sale. 

How to you Build More Successful Partnerships with Planning?

Although the modern channel is over 150 years old architected by the visionary Joseph Singer, only in the past 20 years have partners had as many choices as they have today to build collaborative business relationships.  In most industries today, business partners of all types are in the driver’s seat for choosing which vendor to invest in.  Most seasoned channel executives would agree that there are four key characteristics of the most successful partnerships that are built into a collaborative business planning process

  • Committed Partners (Metrics Dashboard): Partnership commitment is generally defined the achievement of selected “program” metrics for a brand.  Partners that are actively achieving their program targets are expressing their commitment to building this brand’s business.  Typical commitment metrics include the following
    1. Revenue / Bookings Performance-to-Plan
    2. Pipeline Performance-to-Plan
    3. Deals by type
    4. Sales Rep Performance (which reps registering / closing deals)
    5. Sales Velocity (e.g., Win Rate, Cycle Time)
  • Capable Partners (Capabilities Scorecard): Goal is to have partners generate a high score on the following capabilities metrics
    1. Partner fully onboarded
    2. Partner Sales Capabilities
    3. Partner Marketing Capabilities
    4. Partner Technical Support Capabilities
    5. Partner Services Capabilities
  • Collaborative Partners (Creation of Joint Goals & Action Plans): The goal is to collaborate on each of the following processes with your partners efficiently and effectively
    1. Account Planning: Partners that collaborate on existing and new account opportunities
    2. Sales Planning: Partners that jointly pursue sales opportunities with your channel team
    3. Marketing Planning: Partners that collaborative plan demand generation campaigns
    4. Performance Measurement: Partners that share in measuring outcomes
  • More Partner-Led Revenue (MBRs & QBRs): MBRs and QBRs help solidify a partner’s journey to invest and develop more revenue
    1. Develop new sales leads
    2. Convert them into meaningful sales opportunities
    3. Close deals on their own
    4. Manage growth independent to your team

Why is Doing Partner Business Planning & QBRs Well So Important?

Because business partners are in the driver’s seat for selecting their favored brands, they can be very selective in which brands they invest in.  A critical part of your brand’s partner value proposition is how you help your partners become more successful.  The most tangible expression of this is the joint business plan you build with your partners. But a poorly executed and managed business planning process can do more harm than good.

Joint Partner Business Planning Don’ts:  Learn from hundreds of channel organizations mistakes from poorly designed planning processes

  • Don’t create plans on Excel spreadsheets that are too difficult to update
  • Don’t have blank fields that say “enter goals here”
  • Don’t expect your CAMs or partners to know what actions support which goals
  • Don’t create plans without a process / method for tracking task completion
  • Don’t create a plan without a process for doing QBRs

Joint Partner Business Planning Dos:  Joint partner business planning it difficult to do well.  Nothing will frustrate your partners more than forcing them to participate in a poorly designed exercise that will never be measured and tracked.  Make certain that your joint partner business planning processes does all of the following

  • Guided: Provide a step-by-step progress bar-driven planning process that guides both CAMs and partners through a satisfactory and professional set of steps to completion
  • Recommended: Provide recommended goals, supporting strategies and tactics that are thoughtful that they can pick and choose from to build their custom plan.  We have found that 9 out of 10 times partners will pick from thoughtful pre-defined goals and actions Vs. create-their-own
  • Work-Flow Driven: CAMs and partners are not planning experts.  Guide them from start to finish
  • Automatic Plan Export Builder: Once a plan is completed, build an instant plan report to be exported to PDF or PPT for tracking purposes.  The partner should have the option to export their plan to landscape (more slides) or portrait (fewer pages)
  • Instant QBRs: Create an instantly updated QBR report to be exported. This will automatically feed performance-to-plan, capabilities improvement tracking, account updates and task management into the QBR builder to simplify this process.  One-click QBR exports allows for more frequent and more effective partner performance management

How Can you Tell if You Need Better Partner Business Planning in your Organization?

The best place to start is to ask yourself the following questions to define your need for a new partner business planning and QBR process.

  1. CAMs: Do you have channel managers in your organization?
  2. Bus Plan: Do you conduct partner business planning and QBRs today (or want to)?
  3. Create: How do you do that today? (Spreadsheets? PowerPoint? Web application?)
  4. Effective: How are your business plans and QBRs working today? (Efficient? Effective, simple-to-manage?, integrated with other channel systems?)
  5. Measure: How do you measure partner program performance? (Dashboards, reports?)
  6. Track: How do you keep track of all partner actions and tasks to become a more effective partnership?

How Do You Figure Out What Type of Partner Business Planning Would be Valuable for your Channel?

Partner business planning means something different for virtually every channel executive.  In some cases it is a set of goals, strategies & tactics, in others it is a set of performance-to-plan metrics and QBR reports, and others include account planning, enablement, capabilities development, and action plan tracking and reporting.  The questions below can help you determine what “flavor” of joint partner business planning is best for your organization.

  1. Recruiting: Are you actively recruiting new partners and / or attempting to reactivate latent partners?
  2. Metrics: What are the key performance metrics you use to measure partner performance? (Revenue Perf-to-Plan, Pipeline Perf-to-Plan, Sales Diagnostics (Who is closing, who is registering, win rate, cycle time) certifications?)
  3. Goals: What are your top 3 goals for your channel program in the next 12-18 months?
  4. Capabilities: What are your goals for creating more capable partners in the marketplace (e.g., Building sales skills, marketing skills, technical skills, support skills, Improvements to website supporting your brand?)
  5. Tasks: Do you create action plans for your partners and track task completion?
  6. QBRs: What is included in your partner MBRs & QBRs? (e.g., Sales, pipeline, certifications, tasks, account planning and progress on key initiatives?)
  7. Value:  What are the elements of your partner value proposition? (e.g., Unique product, profit potential, easy to sell, how you support partner success, MDF, incentives, other?)

What are the Characteristics of a Highly Effective Partner Business Planning & QBR Process?

If you are attempting to design the requirements of a partner business planning process that will work best for your organization, below is a set of qualities that may be useful for your system design.  Each of these characteristics should be supported by a well-designed method or tool to help achieve scalability for your channel team.

  • Efficient System: Tools to allow your channel managers to manage more partners in significantly less time
  • Effective: Tools to allow your channel managers to be much more effective in advising partners and building their business
  • CAM Productivity: Tools to prepare all of the planning administrative work so that your CAMs can focus on the “fun stuff” which is building committed partner relationships with less work
  • Partner Commitments: Partner Performance Dashboard tools to consolidate all metrics and performance measures in once place to monitor partner program achievement
  • Partner Capabilities: Capabilities scorecard and action planning tools to help partners become better brand representatives in the marketplace
  • Partner-Led Revenue: Allow partners to plan and invest in plans that will help them generate more sales wins and revenue than they otherwise would generate
  • Business Case: Create a business case for your partner business planning process. Well designed, guided and integrated planning platforms will include business plans, scorecards and QBRs generate 10-35%+ revenue growth Vs. PY
  • Marketing ROI: Guided marketing planning and MDF management process tools help partners build higher ROI plans and generate a greater rate of channel marketing-influenced revenue
  • Seamless Integration: Partner planning platforms that seamlessly snap into your other channel system via SSO, UI and data integration, make implementation highly efficient and effective
  • Channel Sales Focused: Channel Sales almost always leads the partner business planning process because they are focused on managing, motivating, and measuring partnership relationships
  • Plan is your Strategy: A well-defined partner business planning and QBR process is a direct expression of how a channel organization puts their channel strategy into action

Partner business plans are absolutely worth doing, as long as they are done well.  A well-designed and executed planning, scorecard and QBR process is highly valued by partners because it helps them succeed.  It is an expression of a vendor’s partner program and will build committed, capable, and effective-in-delivering revenue partnerships.

Advance Blog

Your 2021 Channel Program built for More Successful Partnerships

Designing an indirect channel program that will motivate your partners to invest in your brand is difficult.  Many well-intended channel programs fail to build strong relationships because they fail to address the things that your partner’s value most. They simply do not align with the business priorities for your partners.

Why Channel Programs Fail to Motivate Partners:

  1. Do not Build Earnest Partner Commitments: Do not provide a partner business planning / goal setting and action planning process for building joint commitments to success
  2. Do not Help Build More Capable Partners: Do not provide an assessment and custom improvement blueprint to become highly capable brand representatives in the market
  3. Do not Help Develop Partner-Led Revenue: Do not enable collaboration on partner business expansion with existing and new customers
  4. Do not Help Partner’s Review Progress & Take Corrective Action: Do not conduct MBR’s / QBRs for reviewing performance-to-plan or task management tools to track action plan completion

It is likely that your current program does some of this well for some of your partners. The trick with partner program design is to define metrics, plans, and a QBR processes that gives everyone what they are looking for. Vendors are looking for a program to motivate partners, build capabilities, and accelerate delivery of partner-led revenue. Partners are looking to invest in building a vendor’s business where they can differentiate themselves, where they can grow their services business, and where they can rely on a vendor to support their success. These factors are often expressed in the types of performance metrics that are defined in their partner program.

A Balanced Set of Partner-Motivating Partner Program Metrics:

Partner Program 2.0

As you reflect on your channel program, consider if you have the right components to build committed, motivated and revenue-producing partnerships.  One of the biggest challenges for channel executives is to gather the data necessary to implement the triumvirate of optimal program metrics. They are often tracked in different DB applications including, analytics applications, ERP systems and LMS systems that are not integrated.  The latest tools from Successful Channels allow channel executives to bring this data together simply and effectively. The example below illustrates how different metrics can be served to different partner types. This can be by tier if that is how your channel is constructed or by any other segmentation used in your partner program.

Configure Program Dashboard

A balanced channel program selects metrics from all three categories to help build more complete partnerships. One of the nice features of this new 2021 partner program dashboard is the ability to mix and match metrics by partner level, partner type, geography, or virtually any program attribute. You can literally build a partner program by individual partner based on the mutually agreed upon priorities in each partner’s business plan.

Once this program is designed, you will have the ability to serve unique partner program performance dashboards by individual partner. This example below illustrates three different partner program dashboards served by level. This is a simple configuration of a unified partner program dashboard system designed to align partner priorities with the program that best suits them.

Config PPD

With this new capability, channel program design is not limited to what you can track and report with current systems with limited capabilities. This new purpose-built partner performance dashboard system allows channel executives to dream about the ideal metrics and enablement tools to build the strongest partnerships for their organization. A series of pre-built partner program metrics utilizing existing data sources are available to pick and choose from to design your own custom program. Below is a set of both performance and diagnostic metrics that can be selected by partner type to build the most customizable program possible.

Build Your Partner Program

Your 2021 program can be free from historical system and data constraints and design the optimal program for your channel ecosystem. You will be able to combine traditional measured performance metrics, capabilities metrics and end-user account planning metrics in one unified program. Plus, you will be able to instantly track performance-to-plan, task completion, and action plan status for your partners on a regular MBR / QBR PowerPoint presentation.

2021 can / will be the year that you can motivate more partners to become more committed and more effective representatives for your brand with the help of these new program dashboard tools. Plus, you will have some of the most loyal partnerships in your industry.

Activate Blog

How to Plan, Manage, and Measure Strong Channel Business Partnerships

I have been looking for inspiration on the “how-to” process for building deeper channel partnerships. Specifically, I am looking for what producers (i.e., manufacturers, software companies, etc.) can do to build stronger and more committed partnerships for their channel. I decided to look at what great thinkers from today and before having had to say about how to build lasting collaborations.  Each of the influential people selected for this article were chosen because of how they have made connections and built deep and lasting alliances in their areas of expertise.

Joint business planning, scorecarding, and quarterly business review (QBR) management is the most tangible expression of how channel partnerships are built, managed, and measured today.  Those avid readers of my blogs recognize that I am a fan of defining constructs and coupling them with how to pragmatically apply them to your day-to-day activities.  The thesis of this article is that there are a set of universal characteristics to build deeper and longer-lasting channel business partnerships that can identified and codified.  This blog attempts to take that one step further by defining how to apply these commitment development practices to your channel strategy and program.  And, how more committed partnerships generate greater levels of revenue contribution from your channel.

Below are a series of collaboration-related quotes from a range of luminaries and an interpretation of how to apply each premise to help you build a stronger channel strategy.

Be Responsive

Charles Darwin, the most famous naturalist of the last 200 years, observed that responsiveness is one of the most critical characteristics of a species relationship with its environment.  The simple concept that change is constant and the ability to respond to these changes in conditions is more important than any other characteristic.  Or said differently, adaptability is the single most important factor for preserving a species’ long-term relationship with its habitat.Darwin Responsive

Just like the natural world, business environments are also in a constant state of change.  As a result, relationships with your channel partners need to be actively managed and updated based on the latest conditions.  An “Unmanaged Partner Strategy” is a formula for failure because these partnerships will progressively become further and further away from the needs of both parties.  Strong and lasting partnerships respond to inevitable changes through thoughtful business plans, scorecards and QBRs that monitor and measure goal progress and identify needed changes.  Completing this process with discipline and scale is critical to maintaining a vibrant and revenue-producing indirect sales channel.

Charles Wilson Quote

Charles Wilson was the president of General Motors during a period of explosive growth for the company during World War 2.  His mantra for inspiring workers was based on importance of hard and difficult work.  Success, he said, was highly correlated with effort and is not achievable unless individuals were willing to put in the hard work necessary to triumph.  Competitors that are not willing to put in the effort are vulnerable to a range of influences and will not achieve their full potential.

Wilson Quote

The days of “plug-and-play” partnerships with products / solutions that sell themselves are long gone.  In the early days of channel partnering with strong product differentiation and little competition, very little effort was needed to motivate and manage channel partnerships.  But with the proliferation of products, solutions, competitors, and markets, the balance of power has shifted dramatically to the partner-side of the equation.  Partners today are, by in large, sophisticated businesses with unique areas of expertise and complex needs. They are not looking for another solution to sell. They are looking for a business proposition that will enhance their specialty today.  As a result, producers need to work much harder to deliver a unique value proposition for each partnership relationship.  There is no escaping the need for hard work to build committed and revenue-producing partnerships one-at-a-time.  Only the partnerships where extra effort is expended are the ones that will generate sustainable long-term revenue growth.

Gain Perspective

If you have seen any of the blockbuster Disney animated films, you have heard Alan Menken’s Oscar-winning scores. The writer, director, composer, and producer delivered the music for The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast, and these are just a small sampling of his award-winning work.  Menken attributes a large degree of his success to active collaboration with many different parties.  This collaboration was always based on an inherent openness to hear other’s ideas and willingness to incorporate other’s input actively. The whole is much greater than the sum-of-the-parts when collaboration is at the center of the work process.

Menken Quote

The model for successful channel partnerships has changed.  No longer will a standard precious metal (e.g., silver, gold, & platinum level) partner program motivate and build deep and lasting partnerships.  Active collaboration and adaptation to the individual needs of a partner’s business is the new standard for partnering.  Building a channel program one-partner-at-a-time based on goals from a joint business plan is the method to achieve deeper and higher revenue partnerships.  This requires the use of more sophisticated partner business planning systems that are integrated into your other channel technologies (e.g., PRM, CRM, ERM, LMS, etc.) to enable your organization to implement this mass customization model at scale in a fraction of the time.

Oliver Wendell

Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr. is best known as a 30-year Supreme Court Justice who was appointed by President Teddy Roosevelt and had a reputation for pithy and concise opinions. His observation was that that when ideas are shared with others in a collaborative way, often they develop even further then they would have if never shared.  This is because new perspectives can take original ideas to even greater heights.

Holmes Quote

Partnership business planning should be designed to share as many new growth opportunities and ideas as possible. Producers need to bring new market, services, and opportunities to their partners so they can extend ideas further for achieving new growth. Take advantage of your network of strong partnerships to build more opportunities to grow your channel.

African Proverb

Business leaders, politicians, actors and activists use his quote often to inspire collaboration among their audience. There is, however, a lot of skepticism on the actual source of the quote but that does not change the meaning.  Collaboration is fundamental to achieving success in virtually every part of life.

Go Further

There is a new model for channel partnerships emerging in 2020.  One that starts with the partner, their expertise, and their strategy. This is a fundamental switch from producer-push to partner-pull.  Partners are focused not on how they can sell more of your solution; they are interested in meeting their target customer’s needs with solutions that they can deliver supported by your product. A partner scorecard process can help you identify the best fit partners based on their areas of expertise and unique points of difference. You can then match these scorecarded partner strengths with strategies you can offer to help build a strong joint value proposition.  This process has been called “solution prototyping” where your brand’s product management team designs strategies that combine both your products, along with enhanced partner-delivered services to create new targeted joint solutions for the market.  This approach has been very well received by partners because is provides a way to meet their customer’s needs with the support of your brand’s products or services.

TY Segall

Ty Segall was the adopted son of a Laguna Beach-based family where surfing and music served as early influences. Ty is a musician who collaborated with many different bands and musical genres to write and perform rock, grunge, glam rock, country rock, hardcore punk, and indie music compositions. His unique ability to cooperate in the writing and producing process made him an incredibly versatile and prolific recording artist. In interviews he described his creative process as “collaborate and yield.”

Collaboration and Leads

Your channel strategy may not go to the same place you thought it would when you got started.  If a producer organization is deeply committed to growing its channel business, your channel team needs to be open to a program that can be influenced by your channel partner’s ideas and priorities.  This may take your channel strategy down a slightly different path then you originally anticipated, but the result will be stronger partner commitment and growth potential for your brand

Simon Mainwaring

Simon was a long-time creative director at some of the largest and most successful advertising agencies before he wrote his best-selling book entitled “We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World.” Simon observed that partnerships and collaborations take public and private organizations and enterprises so much further than they can on their own. That the new paradigm for successfully growing any enterprise is through a series of carefully planned and nurtured partnerships.

Mainwaring quote

The channel has now become the most fundamental success factor for your business.  That means that your organization will be less competitive, have a weaker point-of-difference, be less able to react to change without a strong channel.  Your partnerships are the key go-to-market path to secure long-term growth and success. The development of your channel strategy and program must be resourced and supported to reflect its full potential for your business.

Sarah Maclean

I love this quote from famous and very popular romance novelist Sarah Maclean whose full-time occupation is writing about successful partnerships.  Sarah describes how strong partners share more than just a goal but a deeper set of values including equality, desire and passion.  In her many popular novels, she develops her character’s partnerships on all these levels to build deep relationships that her reader’s treasure.

MacLEan Quote

Business relationships that capture the desire and imagination of your channel partners will allow a producer to gain a disproportionate amount of their partner’s time and attention.  Fostering passion in your business partnerships through joint planning, scorecarding, and QBR management will keep your brand top-of-mind and build excitement among your partners.

Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer is a very well-known professor, reporter for the New York Times and Boston Globe, and writer that covered revolutions and social upheaval in Central America and Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East for over 30 years.  During that time, he studied organizations and governments and concluded the importance of collaborations and partnerships for creating stable alliances. These partnerships need to reflect the interests of all parties to deliver a lasting and trust-based relationships.

Kinzer quote

In a partner joint business planning process, it is critical to start with a SWOT-like (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to identify the key success factors for any joint alliance plan.  Defining the realities and interests of both parties will serve as the basis of a plan that both parties can get behind.

Bary Gordy

Berry Gordy was the founder of Motown Records and developed some of the greatest artists of his day including Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson Five.  He recognized that finding the right, often hidden talent, was the key to success in the recording industry.

Bary Quote

Your channel is one of your greatest sources of talent for your business. Your talent does not need to be within your organization to leverage it for your business. The key for identifying and activating additional talent for your organization is finding capable partners and individuals in their organization to build your reach, expertise and reputation in the market. Scorecards are excellent tools to profile and assess partners based on their expertise, experience, and fit with your channel strategy.

The luminaries selected for this article were not chosen because of their expertise in the indirect channel. They were chosen because of their know-how of alliance and partnership building. Each brings a nuanced understanding of how to deepen relationships and alliances for creating more successful collaborations.  Producers with channel programs must incorporate the lessons from these leaders to strengthen their channel.  The latest and most successful partnering model borrows from a wide range of concepts purported from these experts to generate lasting and committed relationships.

About Successful Channels:

Successful Channels provides cloud-based, 5-minute partner planning, scorecarding, and QBR tools for building deeper partner commitment levels, improve partner capabilities, and accelerate partner-led revenue.

Two 3-Minute Explainer Videos for a demo of Successful Channels Tools:


Advertise Blog

A Channel Marketer’s Fantasy: Closed Loop ROI Management

One of the biggest fears of a channel executive is making investment decisions with incomplete information on activities with uncertain forecasted outcomes. It is particularly anxiety producing to invest in marketing or sales actions, where the supplier marketer has little control over how it is planned, executed or measured. Channel executives today are being measured on the return they can generate on all channel investments and need more certainty in the way this process is managed.

Until recently, true closed loop channel investment management has been a utopian state that is simply out of reach. There has been a combination of too many uncontrollable factors and deficient business processes to make informed and confident decisions about where to invest.

Why Channel Investment Management Has Been So Hard in the Past

1) Lack of Easy to Manage Planning Process: Partner business planning, marketing planning, and performance management is frequently conducted using PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Google Docs, or on simple webforms provided in PRM systems. These disconnected and clunky process tools are difficult to manage, time-consuming, and do not provide a very satisfactory experience for partners or channel managers.

2) Lack of Consistent Outcome Forecasting Process: The only thing that is consistent about forecasting is inconsistency.  From partner-to-partner, plan-to-plan, activity-to-activity, different forecasting assumptions are made which makes it nearly impossible to make objective investment decisions.

3) Lack of Detailed / Effective Activity Management Process: Through-partner marketing activities and MDF investments are often (but not always) executed using multiple campaign systems that leads to inconsistent execution and measurement.

4) Lack of Efficient Budgeting and Funds Approval and Tracking Process: Too often, the MDF management and approval process is disconnected with the funds-management process leading to another fragmented step in the marketing management process.

5) Lack of Integration of Planning with Funds Management System: A very common issue in MDF management is the approval and allocation are disconnected / separated from the actual funds management process.

6) Lack of Integration of Campaign Outcome Tracking with Forecasting Process: Another very common issue is having campaign outcome tracking in a TCMA (Through Partner Marketing Automation System) or CRM system that is not connected with the original business and marketing planning system, with no ability to do performance to plan reporting on channel marketing investments.

7) Lack of Channel Funds ROI Calculation: Finally, there is a lack of the ability to easily / automatically provide ROI reporting on invested funds by partner and by campaign.

The channel marketing function in most companies is plagued with inefficient, fragmented systems that make investing in channel marketing programs and measuring performance and ROI much harder than it should be.  Solving this long list of issues requires an integrated workflow from beginning to end. Below is system design where all critical planning, execution, and performance management steps are part of one unified workflow.

A Channel Marketer’s Reality with Modern & Integrated Partner Planning & Performance Mgmt. Systems

Closed Loop Management

This integrated workflow of business process steps is enabled by best practice partner planning and performance management systems. These systems plug directly into PRM & CRM systems you may already have in place and complement / integrate with your TCMA and funds management systems you may currently be using.  Systems like Successful Channels along with integrations can put this workflow into action for your business and complement your current systems.

  1. The Partner Joint Business Plan: In most organizations this can be as simple as a partner commitment to increase revenues over prior year.  Or it can be a much more detailed joint vendor / partner business plan with a broad range of metrics, objectives, strategies and detailed actions for supporting the achievement of this business plan.
    • Level 1 Business Plan: A simple set of program goals and measuresMeter Charts
    • Level 2 Business Plan: A more detailed sales and profit forecastChoose Growth Plan
    • Level 3 Business Plan: A business plan with a full detailed action plan and MDF request
  2. Marketing Scorecard: Partner-led marketing campaign success is often dependent on the skills and quality of the campaigns, lists, and processes used to execute demand generation programs. Assessing your partner’s marketing capabilities and related resources is a key factor in increasing your confidence of your marketing return on investment. And the best part – they can be implemented / completed in minutes and provide a blueprint to partner success.Marketing StopLight Scorecard
  3. Marketing Plan and ROI Forecast: The next step in building a measurable marketing investment plan is to create a reliable forecast for the outcome you may be able to generate from a partner marketing investment. This is the use of a guided marketing planning process that will create reliably consistent plans, forecasts, and ROI calculations.Marketing Plan
  4. Detailed Marketing Action Plan: A connected plan that defines the activities, strategies, and tactics that are part of your plan.Alignment Summary
  5. MDF Budget Allocation and Request: As a part of the same action plan, include an MDF request complete with an ROI justification and campaign rationale.MDF Summary Report
  6. Integrated Funds Management Process: As a part of the same marketing plan and MDF allocation process, streamline the integration of requests into compliant funds management systems.
  7. Marketing Execution and Proof of Performance: Integrating your TCMA system into this workflow will improve consistency of execution and ease of measurability.
  8. Marketing Activity Tracking: The key in this process step is the integration of your TCMA activity tracking back to your marketing and business planning process. Bringing this information together is the key to a round-trip planning and performance management process.Marketing Activity
  9. Marketing Performance-to-Plan Measurement:  Once this information is together, true marketing investment ROI is possible. This typically takes two forms:
    • Direct Metrics: Marketing campaigns are typically focused on generating interest and demand for your products and services. With business-to-business marketing, many solutions have long multi-quarter / multi-year sales cycles. So, measuring sales is not always the best metric. Measures like leads, opportunities, proposals, demos, etc. are often the best direct campaign indicators. ROI can be extrapolated based on estimated close rates at each level of performance.
    • Derived Metrics: These are the ultimate results of marketing campaigns including registered deals and marketing influenced revenue. These are measured by assigning a campaign ID number automatically to responders, tracking them through the sales cycle, and reporting the results as they are generated by ID number.

This channel marketer’s vision is no longer fantasy. It is now a reality with integrated partner marketing planning and ROI forecasting tools available that hold these processes together. Successful Channels provides the tools featured in this article to fill gaps in your PRM, TCMA, and funds management systems. Successful Channels serves to tie this together in an easy to manage workflow that makes planning, forecasting, funds management and performance management a unified and simple process to manage.

Advance Blog

How To Achieve Better-Together Partnerships

Like chocolate and peanut butter or caramel and sea salt, your partnerships can be the best and the most complementary relationships possible.  Imagine if all your channel partnerships were 1+1=5 where both parties win all the time. This is not as elusive as you may think. All your partnerships can be as good as donuts and coffee, or any of these examples above if both parties are committed to each other’s success. The best way to achieve this mutual commitment is through the use of a joint business planning and QBR (Quarterly Business Review) process.  A well designed, better-together process will yield strong and lasting partnerships that are much deeper and committed and will result in greater revenue growth and mutual satisfaction.

What Factors Prevent Partnerships from Achieving “Better-Together” Status

Unfortunately, too many producer / partner relationships are not committed to each other and are more like a “wet handshake.” Producers tend to sign up too many “partners” in a desire to expand their business without really investing in them individually. Partners often signup for vendor access just in case they “trip-over” an opportunity to sell the producer’s solution, without investing in the partnership. As a result, the majority of large technology and manufacturing companies that sell through an indirect channel have 20 percent or less of their registered partnerships representing 80 percent of their channel revenues. It is not enough to just do partner business planning to change this situation. How business planning is done makes all the difference in building deep and lasting partnerships. Partnership business planning has historically not yielded great results due to poorly designed and non-integrated business processes. Most channel organizations do not take partnership business planning seriously, and provide tools and processes that are too time consuming, too hard to do well, and are not very helpful for partners or channel managers. There are a number of factors that lead to the failure of a joint business planning process between producers and their partners.

Why Many Partnership Joint Business Planning Processes Fail, and What is Needed for Success

  • Desktop Tools (e.g., Excel) vs. Integrated Applications:  Better-together partnerships build joint business plans using integrated, guided step-by-step plans, scorecard, and QBR tools that connect automatically with other systems including PRM and Salesforce
  • Lack of Integrated Performance Data: Better-together partnerships use connected systems (either programmatically or via upload) to provide performance-to-plan reporting automatically
  • Lack of Recommended Values:  Better-together partnerships use joint planning process tools that collect best practices from other plans and provide recommended values to make it easier to build a joint plan
  • Lack of Recommended Goals: Better-together partnerships recommend goals from other successful partnerships to help build smarter plans
  • Lack of Recommended Strategies: Better-together partnerships recommend proven strategies that align with selected goals to increase plan success rates
  • Lack of a Guided Work-flow Process: Better-together partnerships use a guided workflow process to help non-experts become much more competent and confident in building joint plans
  • Lack of Instant Performance-to-Plan Dashboards: Better-together partnerships use a range of instant Performance-to-Plan dashboards to allow for instant business reviews on all key metrics
  • Lack Scorecards to Assess & Capabilities and Build Custom Improvement Roadmaps: Better-together partnerships provide easy-to-complete questionnaires that build stoplight capabilities dashboards to indicate how partner’s score on key success metrics and create action plans to improve competencies
  • Lack of ability to Build QBR PowerPoints in Minutes: Better-together partnerships can access tools to build QBR PPTs to share performance and facilitate corrective action planning

All of these are attributes of a well-designed joint planning and performance planning process. How your joint planning process works is the most important factor in building better-together partnerships – not simply that “the box was checked” with a poorly designed and executed joint planning process.

The “How” is More Important than the “What” When It Comes to Joint Partner Business Planning

If you are looking to achieve wide-scale better-together partnerships in your channel ecosystem, there are five key attributes to make them as good as pancakes with syrup, burgers with fries, or hot dogs with mustard.  Your partnerships can be much deeper than those of your competitors if you define mutual commitments to each other in your business plans. We have found that the process of making these commitments and consistently executing QBRs yield a measurable increase in revenue because partners keep your business top-of-mind and tend to invest more in your brand. This results in a repeatable 10-25%+ growth rate vs. PY from your partners if the right business planning and performance management process is put in place.


Formula for achieving

The best commitment development process starts with a business plan where each party (producer & partner) agrees to growth targets that they believe they can achieve. Well defined revenue targets are based on either percent of prior year, recommended forecast from similar partners (e.g., modest, average, or accelerated recommended forecast), or a custom forecast based on other factors agreed to by the partner. This step is followed by a joint investment plan each party will make in each other’s business including money, time, resources and access.  Then, a detailed supporting business action plan can be developed from a set of recommended options to define goals, strategies, tactics, budgets, timing, and metrics for performance measurement. Partners very much appreciate when producers study plans from their other partnerships and include the best examples of objectives, goals, strategies and tactics as inline recommended options that can be selected automatically to be included in the new plan. Another important step is to help identify new end customer opportunities that can be included in the business plan. These account-level plans are typically developed on a per-salesperson basis as good fit target customers are identified.  Finally, Quarterly Business Review (QBR) PowerPoint presentations are produced automatically for the channel manager and partner so that the majority of the time is spent on discussing corrective action versus administrative data gathering and report development.

The over arching theme of this better-together partnership development process is to use purpose-built workflow tools that are integrated with other business systems to allow these steps to be completed in minutes, not hours or days. A best practice better-together planning process allows for an annual commitment development step followed by an efficient and automated quarterly performance review process.

Integrated Partnership

There are seven key tools to implement an end-to-end better-together partnership development process. These tools are separate and integrated. They don’t all have to be implemented with all partners. Some can be used as a short-form business plan for smaller or emerging partnerships and more or all of them can be used for more deeper and more important relationships. Each step plays a different specific role in the commitment development process.

The Purpose of Each Better-Together Partner Planning Process Step

1) Profile, score capabilities, and build improvement plan (partner capabilities scorecard): This first-step planning tool helps define the alignment of a partner’s business with your success requirements. Additionally, it enables a partner to build a time-bound improvement action plan complete with supporting resources – all in a few minutes.

Scorecard Summary

2) Define financial commitments (sales & profit forecast): This second step can also be the only component for your smallest partnerships.  The ability to set targets on all key program metrics (e.g., sales, pipeline, certifications, tasks, market performance, contracts completed, etc.). Both the target-setting and dashboards are setup for the partner in minutes.

Metered Charts

3) Define goals, strategies, tactics, timing, and budgets (business action planning system):  Once targets are set, this tool helps define the specific goals, strategies, tactics, responsibilities, and budgets need to achieve these targets. Of particular note is the ability to load in recommended suggestions for each action plan element to make it easier for partners to create.

Action Plan

4) Define target customers for new sales or expanding business (end user account plans): There are three types of new business opportunities that must be managed with each partner sales executive. They are registered deals, leads that are not yet registered deals but have indicated some level of interest, and account planning opportunities that are neither but are good target accounts. This planning tool provides channel managers a view of these three opportunity types together in one view to allow for a comprehensive sales review with each salesperson / sales director.

Account Planning

5) Define demand generation plans with lead, revenue and ROI forecast (marketing plan): This step allows partners and channel managers to build a detailed marketing plan complete with a lead, revenue, budget and ROI forecast in minutes.

Marketing Finnel

6) Develop a formal business justification for an MDF request (MDF Request): This same marketing plan serves as a formal MDF request process. It also includes a full MDF budgeting, allocation and approval process that integrates with different funds management systems.

7) Consistently review performance-to-plan quarterly (QBR): The main reason business planning processes fail is that QBRs are not completed or presented. It is incredibly frustrating for partners to go through the trouble of creating a joint business plan with one of their valued vendors and never see it again.  The key for a successful planning process is to have an automated QBR PowerPoint generators that will do 90% of the work preparing for the review so they actually happen.


The most important tool to build better-together partnerships is a highly efficient, integrated, and effective joint planning, scorecarding and performance management process. Building professional plans that both parties believe in build deep, lasting, and revenue-producing partnerships.  The use of these integrated tools will dramatically increase the number of high growth revenue producing partnerships for your channel.

Successful Channels Better-Together Partner Scorecard, business plan and QBR tools:

Successful Channels provides a suite of partner scorecarding, business planning, marketing planning and QBR tools that will make your channel managers expert commitment development, capabilities development, and performance management experts. They’ll be able to do much more in a fraction of the time and become much more professional and satisfied in the Channel Management role.

Successful Channels Solution

Two 3-Minute “Explainer Videos” from Successful Channels:

Advance Blog

Why Your Partner Planning Process May be a Train Wreck & How to Get Back on Track

Why do partners dread business planning with their vendor teams?  Because it is one of the most unsatisfactory, waste-of-time activities they participate in every year.  Typically, the only part of joint business planning that is “joint” is done with a vendor channel account manager.

Train Wreck

Ninety percent of the value of most partner business planning processes goes one way – from the partner the vendor.  A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a well-respected partner executive.  I asked him a few questions about partner business planning:

Gary: “Do you do joint business planning with all of your major vendors?”

Executive: “Yes, ad nauseum”

Gary: “Why that response?   Wasn’t the joint planning useful?”

Partner: “All of our major vendors arrange business planning work-sessions as a requirement of our ongoing relationship.   Funding, rebates, marketing, and other support elements are discussed and planned in each joint planning work-session at the beginning of their fiscal year. The problem is that, more often than not, the vendor rep is missing key information about our relationship including LY & YTD sales, rebates earned, and our performance on other key program elements. Additionally, we rarely have quarterly business reviews (QBRs) throughout the year and we are almost always in the dark about where we stand with our vendor’s programs. What is the point of going through all this trouble to build a plan and establish program goals when they are not measured and tracked?”

Gary: “I can see that this is a major point of frustration with your vendors. How would you recommend your vendors change their planning and performance management processes to make them more valuable for you?”

Partner: “First of all, come prepared with all the right data that is necessary to build a meaningful plan.  Second, make it a joint plan where mutual goals are shared, and mutual commitments are made to each other to support the achievement of these goals.  And finally, conduct regular business performance reviews where we discuss each party’s performance-to-plan achievements. “

This brief interview highlights a high level of frustration coming from partners that are required to participate in poorly designed planning processes from their vendors.  For most vendors, partner planning is not working well to meet either their goals or the goals of their partners. Here is a list of the six reasons partner planning and performance management is failing you.

Six Key Factor

The good news is that none of these barriers are insurmountable and all can be addressed with tools and systems that are commercially available today. At Successful Channels, we know that channel managers and partners that build plans using our professional, guided, and integrated joint planning & QBR tools generate between 10-25%+ growth vs. prior year. Partners will participate earnestly in this commitment development process with their vendors because they receive immediate, measurable value from the joint planning exercise. They know that their efforts will be rewarded with regular (monthly, quarterly) performance to plan reviews with their partners.

Join Planning Process

Putting these principles into action is possible with a professional partner planning and performance management platform. Here are some examples of guided planning process exhibits from these systems to simplify, streamline and add value to both CAMs and partners.

Partner Performance Scorecard:  This is an example of a one-page partner performance summary on all key program dimensions. This is an excellent tool to conduct a partner business reviews at any time online or export to PPT.

Partner Performance Scorecard

Partner Capabilities Scorecard:  This is a 5-minute tool to assess your partner’s capabilities, score each success attribute on a 1-100 scale and build a customized action plan for improved partner performance.

Scorecard Summary

Partner Sales Planning and Process:  Build a 1 to 3 year product-level partner sales forecast using three optional methods. Estimate a percentage of prior year sales for products sold in the past, pre-packaged (recommended) forecast for new products, or build a new custom forecast for your product – all in minutes.

Business Plan

A Partner Marketing Planning Process:   A tool to help partners build ROI-based marketing plans with full lead-waterfall forecast, revenue, budget and ROI estimate.

Marketing Calculator

A Partner QBR PPT Builder Tool:  Channel managers can instantly build a QBR PowerPoint presentation where plan and performance-to-plan data is automatically integrated and can be annotated for finalizing the review

Partner QBR PPT Builder

You can make your partner planning and performance management process run like a Swiss high-speed train system – on-time, efficient, and highly effective and motivating to your partners.  The time to walk away from Excel-based partner planning processes that are not guided, not integrated, and deliver little partner value is now.  Tools to automate and streamline your partner planning and performance management processes are available and easy to implement.


Architect Blog

Less is More when it Comes to Partner Business Planning and QBRs

Every channel leader is looking to generate greater commitments from their business partners, resellers, and agents to invest in and grow their brand. The challenge most channel teams struggle with is to build a partner’s enthusiasm and energy behind a sales and growth strategy to build business.img1

The best place to start to achieve this goal is to understand the motivations and priorities of your partners. About AuthorBen Wightman, head of data strategy at Dentsu Aegis Network Asia Pacific, completed a study of partner motivations which are worth keeping in mind to build a partner commitment strategy.

10 Things resellers want from vendor programs (CRN March 2016 – Ben Wightman)

  1. More margin, more rebates
  2. More demand-generation support
  3. More sales support
  4. Better market differentiation
  5. Better communication
  6. More technical support
  7. Less program complexity
  8. More and better training
  9. Cross-sell, upsell and renewals support
  10. Joint annual go-to-market planning

There should be no surprises here, but it is important to work with your partners to demonstrate how each of their goals can be met. Number ten on the list above, joint annual go-to-market planning, is an excellent way to organize the partner engagement and commitment development.  The problem is that most partner business planning processes are too time consuming, not integrated with data, and not very satisfactory for either partners or channel managers.   Additionally, quarterly business reviews (QBRs) are labor intensive, inefficient, and rarely completed with most partners.

The New Model for Partner Business Planning and Commitment Development

You may be tempted to try and measure everything with your partners, and with good intentions.

After all, if you can’t measure it you can’t improve it (Peter Drucker), right?  Beyond just closed-won revenue and your sales funnel you probably want to dig into key revenue drivers like lead generation, Market Development Fund (MDF) usage, account mapping, rep and SE training, goals, win rates, new customers, installed base refresh, cross-sell, service renewals, etc. etc.

Best Metric

However, your partners are busy, and you are just one of many vendors in their portfolio. They’re also sales people, so you’re taking their time away from selling – they need to see the value in the business planning process.

An ideal partner planning process serves the needs of you and the partner, allowing both of you to walk away with simple, achievable goals for the year, as well as a roadmap of how you are going to achieve those goals together.

Less is More

Align your partner’s goals with the critical goals of your business.

Less means your partner stays engaged and understands the plan. Start by developing a framework for a plan that can be summarized in a few bullet points. Your partner and your sales people are more likely to understand simple high-level goals vs. being in the weeds….

Example: Partner A

Goal: Grow revenue 20%

  • Maintain a quarterly funnel of $10M
  • Close 40 net new customers this year
  • Get 5 SE’s certified on new solution by June 1

What do you need to know to support that simple plan?

Required Partner Planning Metrics

These are critical metrics to consider for gaining commitment from your partners to invest in your brand:

  • Revenue and funnel history and goal
    • Planning at the top line is fine if buying patterns at a more detailed level (product, solution) are uncertain
  • New customers, existing customer upgrades and cross-sell
  • Account planning: Track progress on current opportunities and plan to target new accounts
  • Rebate attainment, incentive payouts, MDF and/or coop attained: Are there other monetary goals that motivate the partner?

Optional Partner Planning Metrics: Pick the best, delete the rest

  • Market share: What is your share of the partner business?
    • Allows you to know your growth potential (TAM)
    • Are you financially important in their overall business today? (Don’t expect a partner to spend a lot of time on you vs. another brand that is 10x or 100x bigger)
  • Leads & opportunities: How many leads did they bring you and how many did you bring them?
  • Margin: If the partner will participate, this can be more important to them than revenue.
  • Training: How many certified engineers does the partner have on staff?
    • Not all vendors need this or have this program
    • Less formal, ad hoc non-certification training may not need to be tracked in business planning

Start with top partners:  The more significant the relationship the more your partners and your channel team is willing to invest in building a meaningful joint business plan.

  • Key growth partners, keep it manageable for initial planning as well as check-ins and QBRs
  • Frequent monthly reviews (or more) on current pipeline
  • Monitor and reach out monthly on exceptions where goals are in danger of being missed
  • Quarterly QBR to review goals and progress
    • Make adjustment to quarterly pacing as needed
    • Review account targets, progress, add new and delete targets
    • Ensure quarterly changes still roll up to annual goal
    • Identify unmet partner needs and act
    • Collaborate on a plan to address unmet partner execution

Cadence Plan

Planning with reps instead of partner executives?

Some leading companies are setting business plans by not only by partner account but also by individual partner sales representative.

  • Who are your key reps or evangelists?
  • Focus on those that have a strong belief in your portfolio, understand a key vertical market/industry or know where to find a competitor’s customers
  • Selling your portfolio makes them a significant amount of money

Keeping it simple is even more important at the rep level

  • Select 1-3 metrics to manage
  • Less info collected allows for planning with more reps
  • Design with the intent that planning will be done over the phone
  • Tools that your reps and partner reps can access daily to see their progress
  • Top priority for the partner rep: How much can I make?
    • Second priority: How much will my employer make?
    • Reps are generally paid 15%-30% of the partner margin
    • Show how much they can make selling your portfolio based on expected margin plus additional incentives (SPIFs)
  • Spend MDF with them to help them achieve their goals

Partners are in favor of doing joint partner business planning because they understand that this is a commitment to each other’s success. Partners want to do plans that will be measured and reported throughout the year. This is all true if it is simple, requires little to no work to prepare, and provides updates based on progress throughout the year. Partner business planning, done simply and effectively, will generate higher growth partners, more committed to your brand and help you achieve your annual sales targets.

Attract Blog

RIP Platinum, Gold, and Silver Partner Programs – the New Model is Here

Channel partners have proven to be remarkable change-agents, both in front of their customers and inside their own businesses. Thinking about the amount of churn over the past 35 years can be downright dizzying.RIP Partner Program

Starting from the first disconnected PCs to the recent highly-publicized ransomware attacks, channel partners have transitioned their skills to dozens of new technology opportunities. At the same time, they have transformed their business models from resell, break-fix, installation, and maintenance, to solution providing and recurring managed services, among others.

Article Author

The one thing that has stayed relatively constant over these decades is how customers decide and procure technology. Led by CIOs and IT departments, channel partners and vendors have fine-tuned their product and messaging mix to capitalize on this customer buying journey. Over the past couple of years, driven by the cloud and the growing acceptance of SaaS business ecosystems, this journey just took a significant turn.

Line of Business Executives are Influencing and Making the Majority of Technology Decisions

Forrester is reporting that 65 percent of technology decisions are influenced and/or made by line of business executives. These leaders of departments such as sales, marketing, customer experience, finance, operations and human resources are increasingly taking ownership of their own digital transformations. In fact, it is predicted that this number could rise to 80 percent by the year 2020.

Buyers For Business

What may be even more interesting is that 29 percent of these technology decisions have no involvement whatsoever by the IT department. The line-of-business executives are building the solution without internal help and in many cases are using external talent to advise on things like security, backup, compliance, disaster recovery, etc. They are also using their own money. Fifty two percent of business executives are using business-unit budgets to buy technology as opposed to assigned technology budgets from IT departments.

Buyer Shift is Creating a Huge Opportunity for the Channel

The new buyer is also creating massive channel opportunities – just not where we thought. 58% of business executives are significantly involved in deciding and hiring third party services firm to implement and integrate these projects into the back-end of their company. Because 73% of B2B buyers prefer buying cloud solutions directly from the vendor, we believe reselling technology and taking a front or back-end margin will soon become a relic of the past.

This Shift Has Led to the Creation of a New “Shadow Channel”

Business leaders are clearly looking for full-service solutions and are putting together the resources and teams to make it happen. They are increasingly relying on a new set of influencers or “shadow channels”:

Your Channel

  1. SaaS consultants and implementation partners. Thousands of new partner companies have been created to add value around SaaS platforms. These are line of business experts who understand cloud-driven best practices and have gone deep with very few vendors. Examples of ecosystem players include Salesforce in sales, Marketo in marketing, NetSuite in finance, and Workday in HR. Unlike traditional channel partners, many of these ecosystem partners are pure-play with only one vendor and have developed deep integration skills into multiple back-end systems.
  2. Industry-based professional services firms. In an effort to expand their own businesses and offer a full-service suite in front of the customer, many ancillary service or consulting companies supporting nearly every industry are becoming technology companies. Accounting, legal and marketing firms are examples of industry-specific professional services firms that are quickly transitioning to software and IT services companies. By the year 2020, more than 80 percent of accounting and marketing firms will be indistinguishable from traditional IT channel partners. Legal is slightly lower at 55 percent, but still heading the same direction.
  3. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). There are thousands of software companies that have been built inside large SaaS ecosystems. They add value to business leaders as they take generic platforms and customize them to their sub-industry, segment, or geography. Some of these companies are unicorns – valued at over $1B in the market – and focus on adding tools, customized workflows and specialized industry solutions. In many cases, they are focused on recurring software revenue and provide services for free.
  4. Born in the Cloud. With a business model tuned to project-based revenue, these firms add value to business leaders by providing back-end integrations, security, backup, disaster recovery, compliance, and a host of other critical services to make a complete solution. They don’t tend to participate in standard vendor channel programs and prefer incentives that don’t require them to resell or accept customer payments.
  5. Start-ups. Looking to disrupt traditional industries, the B2B startup community has found business leaders to be receptive to hyper-targeted products that are focused on specific business problems. These business leaders tend to be less risk-averse than IT departments and be willing to test products that are specialized around their business objectives. There is a massive funding and support structure built for these B2B start-ups including angel networks, venture capital and private equity.

Traditional Partners Must Adapt or Perish

Traditional partners are facing challenges breaking into the new decentralized line of business buyer. This includes an inherent weakness in marketing skills. As the book “The E-Myth” masterfully outlined, most SMB channel partners are technicians at heart and haven’t focused on the sales and marketing skills required to scale their business. Now that there are ten times the buyers at each customer, this weakness will be amplified. Many vendors are also guilty of focusing only on the IT buyer and have a serious visibility problem with the new buyer as well, assuming their products and services are even relevant in this new world.

Traditional channel partners can also suffer from lack of sophistication. About a decade ago we started a march towards specialization. The secret to success was becoming verticalized in certain markets and industries. The new buyer is looking for a level of hyper-specialized skills around business outcomes. In this new world, “vectorization” is now required which means having skills germane to the line of business itself, customer size and segment, sub-industry, geographic nuances and business technology application and how it integrates with the organization as a whole.

Finally, traditional partners may not have the will to change. This industry is about 35 years old, and most of the traditional channel started their companies in the 1980s with IBM, Apple or Compaq or in the early 1990s with the rise of Microsoft. It doesn’t take long at an industry event to see that the aging channel is not being replaced by millennials. In fact, IT does not rank in the top 10 of desirable industries for college grads today according to CompTIA. After surviving all the technology and business model twists and turns, and with 40% of the channel planning retirement in the next 7 years (CompTIA), there may be a lack of energy or enthusiasm for this latest curveball.

This is more difficult than adding a new technology practice or specialty to the line card or changing a business model. Working with a completely different buyer, with different preferences, motivations, requirements, and levels of influence will profoundly challenge the channel like nothing before it.

The new “shadow channel” has emerged as a response to this change in business buyer behavior.  This means that many traditional IT-centered partners are becoming more and more out of touch with biggest growth opportunities for the brands they represent.   IT-centered sales strategies are yielding increasingly lower returns for partners because their target buyer is out of the loop for many / most business service and technology buying decisions.

Channel Managers are the Key for Opening Up the Shadow Channel for Brands

Channel Managers hold the keys to the kingdom in the rapidly evolving traditional and shadow channel market.   The traditional precious metals (Platinum, Gold, and Silver) programs are simply obsolete, not motivating in the new market, and not aligned with new classes of partners.  The new channel program model must be based on the development of mutually agreed upon goals where both the partner and vendor needs are aligned.   Channel Managers play a key role in working with partners of all kinds to help define their needs, create joint business plans, scorecards, and action plans to achieve these mutually agreed upon goals.

Channel Manager Model

Joint Partner Business Plans Replace Platinum, Gold, and Silver Program Structures:

The adage of “applicable to everyone but relevant to no one” applies to dated “precious metals” partner programs.  These programs are simply not flexible enough to help manage and motivate partners of all types.  The new joint business plan partner program model helps partners establish their own program goals that are best aligned with their priorities.   The result is a set of much more committed partners that are motivated to succeed.

The key to success of this new model are trained and enabled channel managers that can serve as business growth and capabilities consultants to partners of all types.   A channel manager’s role must be a business advocate for their partners.   The needs of traditional and “shadow” partners are simply too diverse to rely on the old Platinum, Gold and Silver program structure.

The New Channel Manager Management Process:

The new joint business planning-driven partner program management structure requires that channel managers complete a range of steps to more effectively manage their territory and assigned partners

Annual Channel Manager Planning Activities:

  • Profile & scorecard all current traditional partners: Complete an annual profile and capabilities scorecard of all partners to determine ability to support IT and functional buyers
  • Build joint business plans and performance targets with all traditional partners: Collaborate to set partner-specific sales and pipeline targets based on their capabilities, market and current opportunities
  • Inventory all new potential “shadow” partners that can deliver more growth: Complete a market analysis to identify complementary, functionally-focused new partners that can bring in new classes of clients
  • Profile and scorecard all new “shadow” partners to build a capability plan: Profile new partners to determine strengths and focus enablement actions to improve performance
  • Build joint business plans with new shadow partners: Based on the partner’s scorecard, build a joint business plan that sets sales and pipeline targets and support plans with each new shadow partner

Monthly / Quarterly Planning & Performance Management Activities:

  • Monthly Business Performance Review: Once joint business targets are set, use a one-page Partner Performance scorecard to do performance-to-plan and pipeline-to-target reviews with partner monthly or more frequently
  • Monthly Account Planning Review: Collaborate with partner sales executives to review both pipeline deals along with account planning activities to identify potential cross-sell opportunities for your brand
  • Quarterly Capabilities Scorecard Review: Update the 5-minute capabilities scorecard to track a partner’s improvement progress and refine their action plan
  • Quarterly Business Review (QBR): Complete a comprehensive partner QBR every quarter or 2 times per year depending on size and potential of the partner

The generic “precious metal” partner program structure and level targets simply does not work for a growing inventory of traditional and new “shadow” partners.   What does work is a scalable and customizable joint partner planning and performance management process where partner goals are aligned with their priorities and market focus.   Achieving scale with this channel management process requires the use of automated tools to streamline and guide the process of joint partner business planning and performance management.

Channel organizations will become even more dependent on highly-trained and enabled Channel Managers to lead the partner commitment and capabilities development process.  The battle for growth will be won on-the-ground, in the territory, working with partners of all types to help them achieve their jointly negotiated goals.   Channel organizations that will win in the future will invest more, not less, in their Channel Manager team to help them better align partner goals with your brand goals.   The shadow channel is coming out of the shadows and will be displacing much of what we recognize as the traditional channel.   There is a potential “land grab” happening in the channel with new classes of partners and brands that pro-actively position themselves to support this market shift will find themselves outpacing the growth of their peers that are slower to adapt.

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