With spring finally here, most of us will be attempting to deliver on important goals that come around this time of year. There’s the spring cleaning to be done for starters, and that term shouldn’t only apply to your house, yard, and garage. Businesses need a spring clean too.
For example, if your company is using Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, now would be a good time to review your practices and find out what other support features you could be offering to your channel partners. PRM can be a critical tool for your success, but only if you’re making the most out of it.
Use It for Training
Your employees each bring something to the table that is unique to their skill set, but unless you’re taking the time to invest in how they’re carrying out their duties, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when they fall short of expectations.
This is equally true where your channel partners are concerned. You need to invest time and money in ensuring they understand how to effectively sell your products and services. At the moment, you may be relying on your channel partner to do this themselves. After all, don’t they have as much to gain?
Unfortunately, this may lead to inconsistent results and an overall inability to measure which partners are taking the time to be properly trained. Make relevant training documents available to them through your PRM and alert them whenever you add or update relevant content. This way, you can be comfortable that your partners’ employees are prepared as well as your direct sales teams.
Customize Through Segmentation
The more channel partners you have, the better, right? That may depend on how well you have diversified your indirect channel by industry, product specialization, region/territory, partner type, etc. Are you segmenting these channels correctly?
Without proper segmentation practices, you’re expecting that each partner will function just like the others. These are unique businesses, though. That’s one of the advantages of working with them. Once you have an understanding of how to maximize what each partner offers, you can deliver the content and tools that are specific to their needs.
Assess Your KPIs
Another area to re-evaluate during spring cleaning is the key performance indicators you’ve set for your partners. If you haven’t created these yet, now’s the time.
Depending on where you are in your channel partner program, your KPI will more than likely dictate what is important to you. If you are in the process of building or refining your channel program, you may be more interested in seeing how many partners you have signed up and the degree to which they are successfully accessing the PRM system for the basic training and onboarding material. If you are really focusing on improving the performance of a robust channel program you may have KPI more specific to motivation and sales results through metrics like participation in incentive programs, MDF requests, and of course sales-related results.
We caution our customers to focus too heavily on sales results alone since these are a lagging indicator of partner success. Sometimes it is the early engagement, a successful onboarding period, and access to relevant training and marketing material that are the most important to keep on your radar.
Looking for Feedback
Of course, this is a two-way street. If you’re constantly demanding more from your channel partners without ever giving them your ear, don’t be shocked when you see them lose enthusiasm.
Ideally, you should be looking for feedback from your channel partners at least on a quarterly basis. However, you should always encourage their input in an ongoing basis when analysis shows something out of place in their performance, or a sudden improvement in their output. Ask them: what’s working well, and what’s not?
An annual survey is another way to consolidate feedback from your partners that can be shared across your channel to help identify areas for improvement.
In either case, make sure your spring cleaning involves opening the lines of communication with your channel partners. Always encourage honest feedback. You don’t want to find out down the line that the only thing standing between you and improved channel performance was the inability to listen to your partner’s needs.
Spring cleaning may sound like a simple chore, but if you treat it right, it could be one of the most important times of the year. Using partner relationship management software isn’t enough all by itself. Instead, adapt a solid strategy, be open to ways to improve, and take your partner's feedback into consideration as you move forward.