Any experienced channel executive knows that a partner’s relationship with your brand changes over time. This is based on a range of factors – a partner’s business priorities, the brand’s fit with the partner’s strategy, and the depth of the relationship between the partner and your organization. As a partner’s relationship with your brand changes, vendors must adapt to keep the relationship active and engaged.
The Pareto principle (80/20 rule) is almost universal for companies with large channel networks. It is hard to find a company’s channel network where more than 20% of the authorized/registered partners represent less than 80% of the overall business. This is because the principles of partner life-stage activation are rarely followed or implemented by all channel managers. During the initial stages, partners and channel managers are excited about future business prospects, but once it gets down to the real work of on-boarding and enablement the enthusiasm for the relationship tends to fade. This results in a very large percentage of inactive, disconnected, and non-engaged business partners. Channel managers need to guard against partners becoming disillusioned and unfocused, leading to a “partner-in-name-only status” where they only sell and register deals if they accidentally “trip” over a new opportunity. How can a channel team beat the averages and create a more activated and greater revenue contributing channel?
The biggest difference between the partner life-stage management process on the left and the partner life-stage activation on the right is the focus on delivering partner-valued support. Partners want to know how they can become more successful and profitable building their business around your brand.
Life-Stage Partner Activation are key partner-valued activities that improve activation:
- How partners stack-up vs. best practices: Partners appreciate seeing how their capabilities stack up vs. a company’s best practices
- How partners stack-up vs. peers: Partners appreciate seeing how their organizational capabilities stack up vs. their peers
- Profitability forecast: Partners are seeking a forecast and plan to maximize profits on product margins and partner-delivered services
- Custom improvement action plan: Partners are actively seeking customized action plans for improving sales, services and delivery
- Measure: Partners welcome periodic measurement and reporting to ensure that they are on track with the goals they set for themselves
Channel teams that have had the greatest success in achieving partner life-stage activation use a partner scorecard system. This helps channel managers build customized and motivating action plans for each of their assigned partners.
Below is an example of a partner capabilities https://www.codaworx.com/online-pharmacy/ scorecard that profiles a partner on key attributes on a 1-100 scale. Partners answer a series of questions organized by the categories and topics and generate a score for each based on their completion of selected tasks, processes, and capabilities.
Partners can then create their own customized improvement plan for each metric with their channel manager.
How to Choose the Right Partner Activation Scorecard Metrics:
Channel managers are typically assigned a set of partners to manage. Each of these assigned partners are at different stages of their activation lifecycle. Channel managers need to figure out the activation life-stage by partner and build a custom plan to help them improve their business.
Suggested Metrics to Consider for Your Partner Scorecard:
- Recruit: Fit with brand, align with key verticals, sales, presales and delivery staffing levels, align customer with brand targets, market position, and business strategy
- Onboard Success Blueprint: Recommended partner-delivered services, sales & presales training, delivery training and certifications, & solution pricing & packaging
- Sales Motivation: Market size assessment, profile of key brand prospects, sales incentives, market opportunity identification, competitive differentiation, & professional selling skills
- Sales Opportunity Targeting: Identification of target customer opportunities, mapping of cross-sell opportunities by account, pre-deal registration opportunity identification, merge with registered deals
- Pipeline Activation: Margin incentives to register deals, target account presentation & business case support, marketing campaign support, & lead nurture programs to advance deals
- Support Success & Profitability: Partner profitability forecasts, deal progression support services, overall process management support, & QBRs
Additional Suggested Best Practice Activation Metrics from Channel Industry Analysts: Sirius Decisions recently presented their recommendations for a best practice partner scorecard. Below are their suggestions for the ideal partner profile & activation metrics:
These 6 “C” metrics are good for partner recruiting, successful onboarding and activating partners to push your brand vs. competitive brand solutions. If your partners are compliant with all the recommended scorecard metrics, they’ll be in a better position to grow your brand.
As a channel executive, your goal is to figure out how to beat the 80/20 Pareto average for your partner ecosystem. Focusing on partner life-stage activation vs. partner life-stage management practices will get a greater percentage of your partners in a position succeed. Using partner scorecards is an excellent way to implement a consistent life-stage activation process that all your channel managers can follow regardless of their level of experience. The result will be a greater number of partners activated and invested in growing your brand.