10 Things Your Channel Partners Aren’t Telling You
You've probably heard the statistic that 80 percent of partnerships fail. However, people still sign up for channel partnerships because they offer amazing advantages—but only if you get the basics right.
And in today's vast partner industry, there is a lot to grasp. In fact, even seasoned members of the partnership ecosystem find themselves scratching their heads about how to keep partners active and engaged.
The question is, how confident are you that you are receiving all of the information required from channel partners to improve your program and business?
In this article, we will give you insight into the critical feedback partners likely wish they could give you, and how you can rectify these pain points in your program.
Importance of Channel Partner Feedback
It all starts and ends with channel partner feedback.
When you take a step back from everything and solicit feedback from all partners, including those who are disengaged, you can get a better understanding of what's working well and what isn't.
And partners who feel that their suggestions and insights are valued invest more in your company's success and actively work to implement and share best practices that will advance it.
All of this fosters a culture of improvement and raises the overall standard of your company.
The Channel Partner Feedback You’re Not Getting
Sometimes, channel partners don't tell you everything or may not even have an opportunity to give you feedback. It could be because they are too busy, so if you aren't actively encouraging this kind of feedback, it probably won't happen.
Or it could be that a foundation of transparency and collaboration has not yet been built into the partnership, making it difficult for them to tell you exactly what they need.
If you're struggling to get meaningful feedback from your partners, it likely means there are bigger problems at play. Here are some of the most common feedback channel partners give (or not) to their channel managers.
“Your partner strategy is incoherent.”
Incoherence happens when the underlying objectives of the partnership, which serve as the narrative for the partnership strategy, are fundamentally at odds with the goals of each partner.
To keep your company from developing incoherent strategies, start by creating a shared and comprehensive understanding of the company's and partnership's goals. Also, help partners understand why you want channel partners and how your partners will collaborate with your sales team.
For example, what types of channel partners does your strategy focus on? What is there to gain from the relationship? How will other departments and initiatives, such as sales and marketing goals, also be aided by the partnership?
Remember that cooperation within a partnership is collaborative; it will be successful if the partners share a strategic vision, pursue compatible goals, and are all on equal footing.
“Your onboarding is confusing and time-consuming.”
A well-organized partner onboarding process is critical to any successful partnership because it allows you to familiarize your partners with your business and brand to achieve mutually beneficial results.
However, if partners have difficulty understanding or completing your onboarding process, the pipeline will be halted, and the entire partnership will be doomed to fail because partners won't know what to do to succeed.
As a result, it is best to design a well-thought-out partner onboarding process that speeds up the process, simplifies data collection, and can be partially automated, consistently replicated, and used by partners at their convenience.
Finally, remember that transparency is critical in the partner onboarding process because it lays the groundwork for data-driven insight that will drive your efficiency for years to come.
“I can tell you only want me to make you money.”
We all want to increase sales, but keep in mind that partners don't want to be treated like cash cows, and we assume you don't either.
Remember that each partnership involves complementary skill sets, shared resources, and the idea of growing together to achieve a larger goal, which is why determining the value each company brings to the partnership from the start is critical to avoid partners feeling like just another transaction.
And most importantly, it's about providing a better experience to their existing customers.
Start by giving your partners the right tools that can help them improve customer health and advance their key objectives. Each partner is unique and will have a different experience, so be sure to tailor the partner's experience to each partner.
“You treat us like customers.”
Customers and channel partners are not the same things.
Customers should be treated with the same respect and care, yes, but the ultimate goal is to provide a solution, not actively participate in their wider business objectives.
Partnerships imply cultivating a long-term relationship rather than a short-term one, and there is much more collaboration on the product roadmap.
This means that by focusing on the short term and accelerating the partnership and program processes needed to form a strong partnership, you will create many disconnects between your two companies and ultimately damage the partnership.
To avoid this, make sure to check in on partners on a regular basis, invest in their growth and sales processes, and find ways to collaborate to find and implement strategies to improve the partnership.
“Your requirements, rewards, and benefits are not clear.”
Clarity, consistency, and comprehensibility. These 3 Cs can make channel partnerships as simple as ABC.
Channel partners play an important role in increasing revenue for a company. In addition, a well-designed partner program with clear requirements, rewards, and benefits can help partners stay committed to the company for a longer period of time than a hastily planned one for quick money.
To assist you in this, ensure that you have comprehensive metrics and reporting capabilities that allow you to review your program over time and see if what you're providing is clear, concise, and understandable for your partners.
"I can't get a hold of you."
All relationships have their ups and downs, but having a good communication style can help you deal with disagreements and forge a stronger, healthier partnership.
A successful channel program depends on communicating with your partners on a regular basis. Your partner will appreciate not having to constantly check in with you for updates and will feel more confident that you have their best interests at heart.
That is why companies must foster trust and open lines of communication with their partners and suppliers to ensure smooth operations and sustained growth, to improve sales or performance while also increasing the positive partner experience.
“I can never find the right tools.”
The ideal partner is motivated, trained, invested, capable, and incentivized to help your business grow. An effective enablement strategy is a way to get your partners to this ideal level.
Demonstrating your understanding of their business and needs, and organizing your enablement tools around your partner's wants and needs, is a great place to start.
It's crucial to have tools specifically designed for each partner's needs and will help them get quantifiable results. To do this, provide partners with tools, such as a resources page or training page, they can actively use while selling, servicing, and marketing.
Finally, make sure the tools are easy to find and use.
“Your partner application page doesn’t explain your program.”
If you've ever wondered what the secret to a successful partnership is, one of them is seamlessness. The more easily partners can join, participate, and find resources at their own pace, the more encouraged they will be.
A partner application page is where potential partners go to check out if they want to apply to the program. It's important that this is clear and appealing to attract the right partners and scale the program.
This also affects how quickly they receive assistance and to help you accomplish this, ensure that:
- Your partner application page contains all of the program's details.
- All of the tabs are easy to find and understand.
- The help center is updated with all the frequently asked questions and as much information as possible.
“You’ve become complacent.”
It may sound like a dream to be in partnership cruise control mode, but in an industry that is constantly changing, you must make sure you are always one step ahead.
To stay ahead of the competition, you need to focus not only on the expectations of your current partners but also on the trends of the larger partner ecosystem.
Ensure that you are educating your channel partners on best practices and looking for ways to improve in areas where you can expand your partner network and capture more market share.
“You’re uninterested in our business.”
Always keep in mind that channel partners are more than just a number. As a result, you should make every effort to make your channel partners feel understood and valued.
As Sara Nigro, Global Customer Marketing Manager at Directive, explained in her Greatest Minds in Partnerships interview:
“We want to make sure that we have a solution for them at every phase of their growth strategy. The last thing I want to do is bring on a partner and not be able to make ourselves more dynamic together.”
Understand your partner's business, profitability model, customer base, products or services, and assist them in understanding your side of the business. This will strengthen the relationship between the two organizations.
How to Incorporate Partner Feedback into Your Partner Program
The purpose of incorporating feedback into your partner program is to identify breakthroughs, work together to solve issues, and direct future development.
This is arguably one of the most important steps in partner management.
However, since feedback is communicated via email and/or phone calls, the feedback process can occasionally be complicated. In addition to taking a long time, this has the potential to cause the information to be overlooked.
Here is where software can be useful.
PRM software can facilitate dialogue between you and your partners, allowing them to share their knowledge, feedback, and valuable experience with you.
Additionally, you can monitor your partners' activities and achievements as well as the areas of your program where the majority of your partners cause bottlenecks. This will enable you to identify the problem's source and determine how to fix it.
Finally, remember that a successful channel partnership depends on clear and consistent internal communication about how to treat channel partners.
Finding new partners is the "easy" part; all of the efforts should be focused on assisting partners in succeeding. The best method for winning your partner's trust and commitment to your brand is to bring them value first.