Partner recruitment should be a smooth, straightforward process. Yet so often we see vendors recruiting the wrong type of partners for their program. Resulting in partners dozing off before they’ve even properly started.
So how do you create a frictionless partner recruitment process? Start with an ideal partner profile, combine passive and active partner recruitment, keep your recruitment focused, and don’t be afraid to out-qualify a potential partner. Let’s get into it.
Designing a partner recruitment strategy
Very often channel recruitment is done the wrong way round. A partner stumbles across a deal and shows their interest in selling a vendor’s product/service. In partner world, if there’s a deal on the table, they’re going to go after it. It’s a pretty typical way to recruit partners. And it’s the exact opposite of what a successful, long-term partnership looks like.
The partner break-down
Instead of recruiting partners based on a single deal, start off by creating an overview of the top partners that you want to work with.
Break them down by segment, by vertical, by specialization. Then map the key partners into each territory
A word of warning to all vendors out there: There are some very, very successful partners. We often hear the same 15 to 25 names as top partners that you want to work with. But guess what, they are the most important partners for 500 different vendors. So, think about it. Are these really YOUR most valuable partners?
Prioritize according to the types of partners in each territory, whether they target your end-user demographic, and whether they have the right relationships. Proactively build that list, then take your message to market.
If you want the recruitment process to run smoothly. These are the three key questions you need to keep in mind:
- Which end users are we targeting?
- How easy is it to sell?
- How much money are your partners going to make?
Create your ideal partner profile
Once you have created an overview of your most valuable partners and can answer the 3 crucial partner recruitment questions, it’s time to put everything into a framework.
The ideal partner profile. Some things to consider when creating these profiles: Do I want resellers, tech partners, or system integrators? What kind of end-users should my partners focus on? What type of verticals should they operate in: education, healthcare, retail, finance?
From there on, you can get to multiple ideal partner profiles. Then have your team focus on them.
Once you start gathering data and partner insights, you can evaluate which type of partners work best for your program. Who is generating the most revenue, who can help my end-users in the best way, who is truly putting in the effort to represent my brand and business? The more you know, the tighter the profiles can become.
Passive vs proactive partner recruitment
Once you have one or a set of ideal partner profiles, you can ask partner development reps to proactively search for these kind of partners.
Of course you will naturally acquire new partners as your business grows through end-user demand. And this kind of passive recruitment is fantastic. It’s a benchmark that your end-user demand gen is working. If you’re getting lots of passive development, your marketing spend at an entry level is probably being well spent. So congratulations!
Facilitation vs value-add
Your main focus should be proactively recruiting partners. Active or strategic recruitment encompasses: Who do I need cover and understand my deal mechanism? Do I need facilitation partners? Do I need partners that can add value to my product/service? This should help you determine the types of partners you want.
The honest answer is, you need a balance.
Don’t just go and recruit facilitation partners then wonder why your end-user demand isn’t very good and you’re not generating any value. You’ll also need some value-add partners who are going to be very proactive and strategic in terms of forcing demand down the channel.
You’ll require support both from a free and removing friction perspective as from a commercial perspective.
How active partner recruitment helps passive partner recruitment
Proactive partner recruitment really benefits passive partner recruitment. Because partners are always looking at each other. Especially those that focus on similar end-users. They are part of the same deals, they’re in the same conversations.
So if you’re more proactive in the way you recruit partners based on that ideal partner profile, it will also help you recruit more partners passively. Partners that join passively are the ones getting asked about your product or seeing other partners signing on to your program.
Do this and you’ll bring together the best both sides.
The Coke-Pepsi equasion
A great example of how active partner recruitment will benefit your passive partner recruitment is the Coke-Pepsi equation.
Once you close Coke, closing Pepsi is really easy. You can say, “Hey, guess what the guys down the road just bought?” It’s an aggressive way to enter the market. Win one landmark partner and then go down the road to all their competitors and say, “Hey, did you know X partner is now selling our product because of the value that we’re bringing to them?”
It allows you to cannibalize that strategy, cannibalize that content, and cannibalize that messaging through the other types of partners. But beware of saturation. Because you don’t want to oversaturate your market in a particular vertical or a particular partner type. If partners don’t see enough value in your product, they will tune out. So keep it strategic.
Keep your recruitment focused
It’s important not to oversaturate your market. Too many similar partners fighting for a small pool of revenue and customers won’t work. You need to have a balanced partnership portfolio.
Make sure your channel team is laser focused on the types of partner you’re looking for. If you don’t have the right sales management for those partners, or if your account managers are spread too thin then you will ultimately lose all your hard-earned partners.
As we saw above, you need to make sure you’re being strategic and proactive with your recruitment. Then think about how you have designed that recruitment process. Is it easy? Is it a great experience? Proactively design the process.
Because if your new recruits don’t close a 3-5 opportunities within the first 3 months, they are at a high risk of churning.
It’s ok to out-qualify partners and “Ask for the ‘no’”
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Clarity is king! And it’s not something that should follow AFTER recruitment. Make sure you are being clear upfront. If you expect certain actions from a partner and they don’t come through, you’ll be disappointed. So don’t be scared to ask the difficult questions.
Ask for the no.
Find a reason why partners shouldn’t work with you. Because once you filter all of that out, you’re left with the ones that really do want to work with you. And they’re the ones that deserve your time and support.
How to remove friction from your partner recruitment strategy
Want to make partner recruitment a lean and frictionless process? Here’s how:
- Be crystal clear to your partners and set expectations beforehand.
- Answer the 3 crucial questions: Who will you sell to, how much will they make, and how easy is it to sell your product/service?
- Create an ideal partner profile and adjust this over time as you gain more insights into the types of partners that work for your business.
- Implement a proactive partner recruitment strategy to attract natural growth through passive partner recruitment.
- Be prepared to out-qualify your prospective partners. If it turns out that they don’t sell through the verticals, countries, or to the type of mass you need, it’s not going to work out over time.
Curious to know more about removing the friction? Our 2nd podcast episode dives into different parts of the process. From recruitment to onboarding, training, marketing, and sales. Listen below or head to Partnerships Unraveled for links to your favorite streaming service.