Once you have recruited partners that fit your ideal partner profile, it’s time to sign the contract and… Put into effect your solid, 4-tiered business plan of course! Because leaving newly recruited partners to their own devices is asking for trouble, or at least, sketchy returns.
You need a solid onboarding process before going after that first sale. That means getting the entire organization on board. In this article we’ll be going through the four parts of the puzzle that will help your partners get a clear and solid path.
Onboarding new channel partners
Where would Apple be without its high-performance processors, sleek design, and brilliant brand? It’s not (just) about product sales. It’s about the entire organization supporting the vision.
The same goes for newly-recruited partners. You can’t just send them to independently create demand. You need to support them from all sides through a business plan.
Signing a contract is easy. Onboarding and enablement is where the tricky part starts and where we need to start removing friction. If designed right, your recruitment process is based on recruiting a limited amount of partners that will bring in real value to your offer.
Key questions you need your Channel Account Managers (CAMs) to answer during onboarding:
- How will you help them close that first deal?
- How much money they are going to make?
- What does the business plan look like over the first 12-24 months?
- How will you add value to their growth over a long period of time?
- What is the marketing strategy?
- What does the price list look like?
- What is the strategy?
Only when a CAM really understands this flow and been taken through the entire onboarding process in detail, step by step, can they be successful leaders to their partners.
Get the entire organization on board
Onboarding is not a single-silo event. It’s a four-piece puzzle that should fit together perfectly and includes: sales, marketing, technical, and operations. They all need to be involved before a partner is let out into the world. Each should start on day 1 of signing a partnership agreement, and run parallel to each other.
We’re going to break down each part of the organization that you need in place to have a successful onboarding.
How do you work operations into your business plan?
Operations is a crucial step in your onboarding process, unfortunately it is often overlooked.
Before starting, ask yourself: Do partners have everything they need to be able to close the deal: procurement flow, legal, and contracts? Is there anything that could potentially stop them? Don’t forget that laws, rules, and regulations differ in each country.
If you are running your channel mostly via distribution, they will handle most of this on your behalf.
Then it’s time for the practical stuff.
Are they signed up for the partner portal? Do they have the price list? Have they done a dummy deal through their systems to see whether everything works? There’s nothing worse than a salesperson counting on a deal at the end of the quarter, and then finding out that there’s a flaw in the operational system.
So better to get the dirty work done first and make sure it all works.
What kind of technical support do you require?
What do you need in the way of technical support for a partner to start making sales? What do you need pre-sales? Post sales? Is there a clearly defined Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
Partners love to understand who they can go to with questions, when they can expect support or help when they are stuck or things aren’t working as expected. If partners aren’t particularly happy with a vendor, it feels as though SLAs start falling out of place. If things start to become particularly difficult, salespeople will think “I’m not going to push water uphill, this is too complicated.” So it’s really important to have the technical team bought in pre-and post-sales.
Technical team as an introduction to an organization
One thing that is often overlooked is how a technical team can get you an introduction to a coveted organization. Whether that’s to introduce yourself to new end-users or new partnerships.
There’s a much higher chance of CEO buy-in if you can convince the technical team your product/service will make their lives easier. Because nine times out of ten this is where some budget can be found. Some technical partner relationships are 20, 25 years old. Once you’re part of their ecosystem, it’s very difficult to be separated again.
Why having a defined marketing strategy is critical to your success
Questions you need to ask yourself when it comes to marketing:
- Are we marketing to end users?
- What collateral do we need?
- What are the goals?
- What are the objectives?
- What timeframes do we need to achieve those goals in an outbound email campaign via social?
- What does that look like?
Start with generating demand through a 12-week marketing plan. Define how you will target end users, your vertical, your message, and your segment. Build that and start taking that to market.
Get marketing bought in early. The more you can streamline and automate your processes the better.
Abandon the idea that you are simply pushing your own marketing messages through your partners then getting them to act. Instead, focus on creating a pull effect together. End-users come to partners through demand generation. They will start asking questions about the joint value proposition and your positioning in the market.
This way, you are incentivizing your salespeople (and even technical people) to know more about the product/service they are selling. Because they will want to be prepared when talking to end-users.
The easy part?
For a lot of the channels, sales is actually the easy bit.
Some key things you need to consider here:
- What relationships are we building?
- Define the current and desired key end-users a partner speaks to
- Build a low-hanging fruit plan then work your way up the tree
Why you need to have a four-point business plan in place
Everything we discussed above, from Operations, through Technical, Marketing, and Sales should be clearly defined in a business plan. All too often, channel leaders only focus on sales.
Great channel sales managers (CSMs) feel responsible for their partner onboarding. They can truly be the holy grail in small partner relationships. A CSM can come in and really evaluate the partner landscape. If you’re missing two or three parts of the business plan, they’ll find them, fix them, and hopefully triple your sales overnight.
Accountable vs. responsible
Now you have a business plan in place – or have identified which parts of your business plan you need to work on. Determine who will be held responsible. There’s a lot of talk about a lot the difference between accountability and responsibility.
The CAMs are responsible for making sure it happens. They will hold people
within the partner team, and people within their own legal teams accountable for making sure that success happens.
But the CAM has to understand that they are responsible for sales, marketing, technical, and operations because they are responsible for the partner.
It helps to have the entire onboarding process fixed in a platform or in a portal. Where you can follow the steps together with your partner. Not just from a vendor perspective, do it together.
Deliver constant growth through a value stack
Salespeople and CAMs that love the entire value stack are going to build such a great and tight relationship with the partner while removing friction.
The four points you need to focus on from day 1 are:
- Operations: are the contracts signed, have the legal and financial team been involved, do all the systems (portals, platforms, CRM, deal reg.) work properly?
- Technical: is the technical team aware of the support they are required to provide to partner pre- and post-sales?
- Marketing: Is there a solid demand-gen process in place, are there assets, a joint-marketing plan?
- Sales: How will the first sale be approached, what is the low-hanging fruit, which end-users should be focused on first?
Implement these four from the start in parallel and watch your onboarding deliver consistent growth.
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.