What is Channel Enablement Strategy?
Everyone wants to feel important, looked after, and celebrated for their strengths, right? It’s an innate desire that we all carry inside of us.
You can think about your channel partnerships through this lens as well. Channel partners don’t want to be overlooked when it comes to your strategic decisions. It’s important to consider their role, needs, and abilities throughout and long after the onboarding process. There is no one-size-fits-all for channel partner success, and these relationships need to be nurtured to flourish.
This is where channel enablement strategy comes in—a niche topic that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues. How can you empower, educate, and enable your channel partner towards success? In this article, you’ll learn about what channel enablement is, get an overview of its benefits, and empower yourself with the knowledge to create your own channel enablement strategy.
What is Channel Enablement Strategy?
Channel Enablement Strategy is the process of equipping your channel partners with the tools they need to successfully sell your product or service. Channel partners, whether they are resellers, affiliates, or referral partners, need to know how to articulate the value of your brand and proactively solve issues that may arise within the channel.
Since channel partners are like an extension of your sales team, and critical to helping you increase your revenue, you’ll want to ensure they have everything they need. This is where channel enablement strategy comes in. Following channel partner recruitment and channel partner onboarding—as pictured in the image below—a solid channel enablement strategy will include all of the training and resources you need to set up your channel partner for ongoing success and growth.
It can be tempting to focus your efforts on the first two stages and expect partners to be more or less self-sufficient after they have been onboarded. But, thinking about your partnerships in the long-term and investing in them strategically can increase partner engagement and decrease partner churn over time.
Why is Enabling Channel Partners Important?
It’s important to enable channel partners because they are your allies and can help you increase your revenue and your reach. Without channel enablement, your partners may stall in their efforts and become discouraged. This is not a good use of your time, energy, or resources, like market development funds (MDF), for example.
Increasing your partner’s efficiency will set them, and you, up for success. Taking the time to craft a channel enablement strategy that is attentive to your partner’s abilities, needs, and goals is a worthwhile endeavor for all involved. Investing in your channel partner’s capacity will help both of you in the long run.
Common Channel Enablement Strategies
While your channel enablement plan may not include all of these components, you can start by focusing on a few key areas and building out your strategy from there:
- Training: Make sure your partners are well-trained on your product or service offerings so they can effectively educate customers and prospects. You can automate this training so that your partner feels both autonomous and supported. This will also help you scale your program in the long run.
- Sales: Your channel partner’s sales team needs to understand how their role fits into the overall business strategy—and what value each individual brings to the table—so they can be successful when interacting with other partners or prospective customers in their respective channels (eCommerce, telesales, etc.). They also need access to tools like PRMs so they can record customer information, register deals, and track their progress. Recent industry insights suggest that building your enablement program for salespeople, not just marketers, is a key best practice for channel enablement.
- Partner Relationships: Nurturing your existing relationships with your channel partners also aids in their success. Listen to them, and develop a thorough understanding of their needs and goals. Make sure you also take the time to give them one-on-one attention, especially top-performing partners.
- Marketing: Studies show that 84% of partners don’t have a dedicated marketing resource. It’s important for your marketing team to support channel partner sales teams by providing them with relevant content about products, services, and solutions that align with what you sell; this will help ensure that your partner has all the materials they need to effectively represent your brand.
Focusing your channel enablement strategy in the areas of training, sales, partner relationships, and marketing can help you equip your partner for success.
How Channel Enablement Impacts Partner Relationships
A good channel enablement strategy will help you attract new partners, train them, and support their ongoing success. Make sure that your partner understands all of the tools they will be using. You can automate the training to empower partners in the onboarding stage. You can (and should!) also create ample opportunities for your partner to give feedback. These channel enablement strategies promote channel partner engagement and create conditions for high-quality partner relationships.
If your partner feels as though you are invested in their ongoing performance—and that you’re not leaving them to completely fend for themselves after onboarding—they are more likely to stay engaged and bring more value to your business. This is how a solid channel enablement strategy can positively impact your partner relationships.
Channel Partner Enablement Examples
Channel Partner Enablement can take many forms, depending on your partner’s particular needs and growth edges. For example, your partner may have limited marketing experience and a small online presence. In this case, it will be important to meet your partner where they are at and craft an enablement strategy tailored to the digital-first selling environment.
Here are some more concrete examples of ways you can enable and empower your channel partner:
- Automate training and provide plenty of opportunities for partner feedback throughout the lifecycle of the partner program
- Offer incentives and rewards beyond deal compensation
- Include partner teams in sales enablement meetings
- Create co-branded content
Automation and Training
Automation of training is the use of technology to reduce time spent on training, make training more engaging and effective, and ensure consistency across your partner programs.
Automation can be as simple as a video-based learning platform that allows you to publish new content on an ongoing basis. For example, Kiflo PRM allows you to upload videos as assets in an easily accessible content library for your partner. This type of automation makes it possible for your channel partners to access new information quickly and easily, so they don’t have to wait until the next scheduled training session begins.
As you develop your channel enablement strategy, keep in mind that you need to keep training fresh by updating content regularly.
Understanding the Tech Stack
Apart from ensuring that your partners are well-versed in your current tools and technology, it’s also important to keep them in mind when you're developing or adopting a technology solution. Consider how the technology solution meets the following:
- Partner-centric: It's important for your technology solutions to be designed for the channel and its specific needs.
- Easy to use: Partners are more likely to adopt a solution if it is easy for them to learn and use.
- Solves problems: Solutions that solve real business problems help partners sell your products or services more effectively, which increases sales velocity across the channel.
Feedback and Partner Relationships
To improve channel relationships, you need to seek feedback from your partners. It's an obvious point, but worth stating: the best way to understand how your partner thinks about working with your company is by asking them for their thoughts and opinions.
But, what should you ask them?
As a starting point, it's important that all channels receive feedback—not just the highest performers. By soliciting feedback from all partners, even those actively disengaged in a relationship, you can get a better sense of what's working well and what isn't.
You might find that there are problems with one particular aspect of the relationship (e.g., training) but not others (e.g., support). Or perhaps there are issues specific to certain types of customers or regions where they operate (e.g., compliance).
As you are scaling your partner program, it may not be possible to check in with each partner individually on a regular basis. Designing and distributing a partner survey is a great way to check-in with everyone at once. Depending upon the structure and goals of your program, you may distribute this survey monthly, quarterly, or yearly.
The Importance of a PRM in Channel Enablement
A successful channel enablement strategy requires careful planning and communication across all departments within your organization. It also requires selecting a solution to distribute training content that supports automation and enables feedback collection from partners.
Here are a few ways PRMs are awesome for channel enablement:
- A PRM is the point of contact between partners and your organization.
- PRMs are the link between partners and your organization's sales team.
- They can house training and marketing materials to orient new partners on company policies and procedures.
Basically, a PRM is a nucleus for information and training. PRMs can help you reach your goals for partner engagement, which in turn supports channel enablement.
A strong channel enablement strategy is an important part of any company’s overall growth. Enabling channel partners will help you increase your profits and market reach.
With that in mind, it’s important to develop a strategy that brings your partners into the fold and helps them succeed. When you empower, educate, and support your channel partners, it will have a positive impact on their satisfaction and your bottom line.