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How To Achieve Better-Together Partnerships

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

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