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Partner Enablement: Leveraging Partner Channel Program

Partner enablement is crucial in a partnership program as it ensures that partners have the necessary resources, knowledge, and support to represent and sell a company's products or services effectively. It creates mutually bonding beneficial relationships, enhancing partner competency and aligning their efforts with the overall business goals, creating a strong, successful, and profitable partnership program.
Partner Enablement: Leveraging Partner Channel Program
Published on
March 4, 2024

KaraLynn Lewis is an experienced partnerships and business development professional and Founder & Principal Consultant at Partnership Advisory. The company helps businesses leverage their ecosystems and grow revenue through strategic collaborations. Partnership Advisory aids in developing strategic partner programs that add value to the business and partners, forging key relationships with ecosystem players, and boosting revenue from the partner community.

In this interview, KaraLynn dives deeper into the intricacies of partner enablement, its effects, and its benefits for your partnership program.

KaraLynn’s View on Partner Enablement

KaraLynn views partner enablement as a hierarchy of needs, similar to Maslow's pyramid of needs that leads up to self-actualization. There are basic requirements that need to be fulfilled for a partner to be effective, such as understanding the platform, being able to explain it, and demonstrating its value to customers.

She also believes that the true value of a partner lies in their ability to be innovative and creative, to see opportunities that vendors may not be aware of, and to make the platform better through their insights.

This level of partnership enablement is challenging to achieve but can be game-changing for both vendors and partners.

To use KaraLynn’s words:

“I like the pyramid of needs that leads to self-actualization. For example, partners should be educated about your platform, be able to explain it, and give a demo. Those are the basics. But the next levels, the creativity and innovation aspects, are really where that pie-in-the-sky-enabled partner comes in. We can look at partners as an extension of our employees. Therefore, having the sales ability to support customers and the ability to make modifications on the platform just like our employees, as well as additional skills that come from outside our organization, is the perfect mix to help the customer be successful.”

How To Ensure Partner’s Adoption and Engagement

Channel partner adoption is a critical aspect of any successful channel partner program. To ensure that channel partners are fully engaged and committed to the program, it’s important to use your PRM system or company product and keep it top of mind.

To encourage channel partner adoption, it is important to make the company’s product system a central part of the program. This means actively promoting it to channel partners, emphasizing its benefits, and making it easy to use.

Another key aspect of channel partner adoption is providing ongoing support and training. This includes regularly updating the product system with new resources, incentives, and training materials. It also means being available to answer questions and provide guidance as needed.

As KaraLynn notes:

“Many vendors drive adoption successfully by embedding the product into the partner's stack. Companies do this by requiring that the partner is using the platform. I'm not a super fan of requirements and forcing things on partners, but I do find having those kinds of internal processes where the product is top of mind and baked into their everyday processes can be helpful if relevant. That can be really helpful for ensuring that it is top of mind. Partners are, and they're going to be able to see how it works.”

Onboarding Partners: Remove All Friction

Partner onboarding is a critical component of any successful channel partner program. To ensure that new partners are quickly integrated into the program, it is important that the onboarding process is frictionless.

A frictionless partner onboarding process means that it should be easy, streamlined, and efficient for new partners to join the program. This includes providing clear instructions, easy-to-use tools and resources, and minimal bureaucracy.

One way to ensure a frictionless partner onboarding process is to provide a clear and concise onboarding checklist. This checklist should outline all the steps required for partners to complete the onboarding process, from signing up to accessing the resources and tools they need to be successful.

Another important aspect of a frictionless partner onboarding process is to provide partners with access to self-service tools and resources. This means giving them the ability to access training materials, support forums, and other resources without the need for constant interaction with the program managers.

KaraLynn emphasizes the importance of removing the friction:

“This is actually something that I recommend doing with all partners, and not necessarily expecting the top of the aforementioned pyramid when they're just starting out. A partner, especially an agency, which is often a smaller business, has a lot of people doing a lot of things. They're not necessarily focused on being creative around your solution unless it's already a critical part of their business. That’s why when you're working on onboarding with new partners, it has to be friction-free.”

Best Practice Partner Program

Partner programs often include two common partner types that work within their channel partner program: technology partners and service partners.

Technology partners are companies that offer complementary technology products or services that can be integrated with a SaaS platform. These partners help to enhance your offerings and provide additional value to customers.

Service partners provide professional services such as consulting, implementation, and support to customers using a SaaS platform. These partners help to ensure that customers are successful in using your products and services and can help drive adoption and revenue growth. Partners can also provide other services, such as building custom integrations between one platform and other software systems used by customers. These integrations can help to streamline workflows and improve productivity, providing additional value to customers. These integrations can also be great seeds for technology partner relationships!

According to KaraLynn, an important goal of your partnership program is to provide customers with a superior and smooth experience using your product, regardless of the other technologies they might use. Partners can also assist the customer in working with your tool and give them the extra support they might need to optimize their experience.

Exploring the Iceberg to Find Leverage

The iceberg effect is a common occurrence in partnerships and collaborations, where companies and individuals only have a surface-level understanding and usage of a platform or solution. This also applies to partners who may be introduced to a platform for a specific purpose, and their knowledge may not extend beyond that initial use case.

According to KaraLynn, to address this issue, companies need to focus on enablement as part of their partner program. By showing partners the full range of applications and capabilities of their platform, they can help partners become experts in the solution and drive greater success.

However, some partners are diamonds in the rough, who not only use the platform creatively but also teach the company more about their own products. They can provide valuable insights into the platform's capabilities and configurations that the company may not have even imagined. It is essential for companies to recognize and nurture such partnerships to leverage their full potential and gain a competitive advantage in the market.

“I think that it's common to often see partners who are not aware of what the platform they are representing is fully capable of. It's always a bit of an iceberg effect. And that goes for partners and customers. The customer might use it for a couple of different work processes, but there's so much under that water level that they could be leveraging that they're not necessarily. This can be the case with the partners as well.”

Partner Enablement & Partner Re-Enablement: Test, Refresh and Adapt

In the world of partner management, it's not just about getting partners on board but also about keeping them engaged and successful. That's where partner enablement and re-enablement come into play.

By testing, refreshing, and adapting the program, you can identify successful partners and their commonalities and use that information to create an ideal partner profile. Additionally, sharing knowledge and success stories among partners is a powerful way to enable and motivate them.

To quote KaraLynn:

“You do see those commonalities among different types of partners that are successful, and you also see the reasons why they're unsuccessful. In our network, we see that the partners are interested in the same sort of use cases or their customers are buying or using SaaS products for the same reasons. This is also a great strategy for enabling partners. If one partner finds a great use case or is having a lot of success with a certain use case, then it's very likely that another partner with that same profile would also have similar success or be able to help their customers with those use cases.”

How to Scale 1:1 Meetings with Partners

When it comes to partnering with other businesses, striking a balance between personal connection and scalability is key. While it's tempting to create standardized materials that can be easily disseminated, building relationships with partners and understanding their unique perspectives is crucial for effective collaboration.

KaraLynn says that through one-on-one channel partner meetings, you can learn about market trends and customer conversations from their partners, which can inform the development of clear and repeatable propositions. By creating customized materials with individual partners, companies can then repurpose those resources for wider distribution, benefiting the entire network.

“I find it very important, especially at the beginning, to be one-on-one and on the ground with your partners. The reason for that is you also are learning a lot from them. You can't necessarily just say, “This is what our partner proposition is; go sell that to customers” and expect high engagement.”

The Role of Content in Partner Enablement

In partner enablement, content plays a crucial role in educating and supporting partners to sell and market a product or service effectively. Good content can help partners understand the product's features and benefits, the target audience, and the messaging that resonates with customers.

Providing partners with a variety of content, such as case studies, webinars, and sales materials, can help them to better understand the product and build confidence in selling it. You can also use content to communicate changes or updates to the product and to share success stories or best practices from other partners. Ultimately, well-crafted content can empower partners to effectively represent the product or service and drive business growth.

“Content that can be repurposed is always a smart move, but that presents the challenge of personalization and fitting it to a partner use case. The next step is where we actually start creating content that's really tailored towards the partner network at large, as opposed to individual customer use cases.’’

Using Partners as Case Studies

According to KaraLynn, when working with partners, it's important to find ways to leverage their successes and use them as case studies to benefit other partners. However, this can be a challenging task, particularly when it comes to scaling and prioritizing the information obtained.

Nonetheless, serving as a knowledge conduit and sharing information in an organic manner can be a useful approach. By having open conversations with partners and exchanging information, you can help identify valuable insights and opportunities to replicate successes across your partner network. This can help partners learn from each other and ultimately drive greater success for all involved.

“As far as scaling it to the partners, I think that that's also where we can fit into the role of a knowledge conduit. On a call with a partner, they might say, “Oh, this worked really well for our customer,” and then it's almost like word of mouth between us. We go back and have that discussion with other partners; “have you seen this with your customers?”.  That can sometimes make light bulbs go on, and then that partner will take it forward.’’

Partnership Community

Partnerships are not just about two parties collaborating but also about building a community. The value of community in partner enablement is becoming more apparent as partners can exchange ideas, share their experiences, and learn from each other.

Partner events and other activities can provide spaces for partners to connect and create relationships. Also, partnering with one technology can open up access to a whole community of other partners and solutions, leading to a network effect that benefits everyone involved. As partnerships evolve to become more than just two-way collaborations, the potential for community-driven growth and innovation becomes even greater.

“It’s really cool to see not only the value for the customer but value for the partner community created by the relationships that are between partners of partners.”

Partner Enablement Challenges and Pain Points

As KaraLynn noted, enabling partners to effectively use and sell a tech platform can be a challenging task. Even with the best resources, training materials, and onboarding processes, if partners don’t adopt a specific platform or engage with the enablement process, success is unlikely. This challenge is comparable to the adoption of a new technology platform, where adoption is a key metric for success.

The role of enablement in this process is crucial, as partners need to be knowledgeable and engaged with the platform. However, maintaining partner engagement can be difficult, as interests and platforms are continually changing.

The relationship between the platform and the partner is also critical, and vendors need to understand that materials produced for customers may not be suitable for partners. Partner marketing needs to be differentiated from regular marketing, as the materials that partners need may be different from those produced for customers. So, vendors have a responsibility to listen to partners' needs and provide the appropriate resources to enable them.

“You can invest so much on onboarding your partner and getting them excited, but if they aren't adopting or engaging and understanding your platform, then the sales don't come in. The customer doesn't get that value. Enablement is the key part of fixing that. The partner needs to be knowledgeable about your platform, which means they need to be enabled, but they also need to engage in that content on a regular basis because, of course, things are always changing, and the interest level has to be kept high.”

Key Takeaways: KaraLynn’s Advice for Creating a More Successful Partner Enablement Strategy

Don't Underestimate the Innovation Value from Your Partners:

“Don't underestimate the innovation value your partners can bring, and try to encourage that wherever possible.”

Don't Expect Your Partners to Proactively Enable Themselves:

“Don't expect your partners to proactively enable themselves. That's definitely an important thing.”

Keep It Frictionless:

“Make it as easy as possible for your partners to enable themselves and to share and help others along the way.”


Partnering with other organizations can be a powerful way to drive business growth and achieve success. By prioritizing partner enablement and creating mutually beneficial relationships, you and your partners can leverage your collective strengths and better serve your customers.

Are you interested in learning more? KaraLynn is available to discuss how you can improve partner enablement, develop partnership strategy, or expand your program. Reach out to Partnership Advisory today and boost your company's revenue with a properly set and effective partner enablement program.

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