The Four Pillars of Outstanding B2B Channel Partner Management

Page 1

A Gorilla Corporation Company

The Four Pillars of Outstanding B2B Channel Partner Management Getpartnerpulse.com 

Mike Englander Channel Partner Business Development www.getpartnerpulse.com


Introduction

“Just because you wear three watches does not means that you know the exact time” Colette Marin-Catherine

I like this saying as it reminds me of a friend of mine who loves to play golf. When he plays, he wears two different brands of GPS distance watches and before every shot he religiously calculates the exact distance to the flag and then, to top it off, will often ask me what my GPS distance watch tells me. You know what? His handicap is 32 and does not get any better. So, is he focusing his efforts on the wrong thing? Does having this data improve his performance and if not, why not?

Well, I see it so often when people voice to me their concerns about how busy they are and that they do not have the necessary time to do the important things that will make a real difference to the sales results that they are responsible to bring in. However, management will tell them, ‘it’s not my problem’ and will believe that it is just another excuse for poorer performance. So, what can be done about it? Here below is my recipe based on years of experience of doing it both well and badly.

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Pillar 1 – Knowledge I think it is like that, I believe that is OK, I expect this is true

The only valid reply to a question or thought is I know it is like that. How do you know it to be true? It’s because you have asked the relevant questions to the people who have the knowledge and responsibility for giving you that piece of insight. However, this is not so easy when dealing with Channel Partners who you can influence but not order to do anything. Remember, your job in managing these channel partners is to make them successful in their businesses by virtue of selling your products as well as making them happy. Only then will you be successful and happy.

So, what is it that you need to know about your Channel Partners? Initially, you need to find some good ones and be certain that you have chosen the correct partners that will help you grow your business in line with your management’s expectations. Next, you have to know that they are fully onboard to be able to sell successfully for you in their given territory. Then you need to know that they have all the motivation to do so and lastly you need to know that they are performing in an optimum way, identifying any areas of improvement that are necessary

Sounds all very simple especially if you only need 5 channel partners to make it happen. But what occurs if you have 500 or 5000? Well, you will use the old 80/20 rule; 80% of my revenue will come from 20% of my channels so let’s focus time and resources on these 20% and voila, all is good. Wow, might be OK for today’s situation if you take a snapshot view of your present marketspace but what happens tomorrow? Business is fickle, dynamic and can shift quickly to areas that you are not necessarily prepared for or perhaps due to an influx of competition that is always on the horizon.

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Pillar 1 – Knowledge I think it is like that, I believe that is OK, I expect this is true

Murphy’s law states that there is a good likelihood that this shift in business emphasis will come from your 80% long tail of channel partners where you make little to no efforts and therefore have little to no knowledge of what is happening. Result? If you are lucky, this will only be a business opportunity loss of sales growth that you will miss out on as some of those smaller channels become bigger and potentially more important to you than your today’s 20% are. Worse still, this new trend might eat into your 20% and begin to erode your overall sales performance. Either way it spells trouble. There is no excuse for not knowing, at all stages of channel engagement, what is happening with all your partners, but this needs to be accomplished in a cost effective and channel-friendly manner. This is what a good Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform is designed to give you. Thus, allowing you keep the pulse on your total marketplace and most importantly giving you the time to focus on those businesssignificant activities where they will have the largest impact that will enable you to meet or exceed your sales targets both today and in the future.

First recipe ingredient: Use PRM to improve your base of Knowledge

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Pillar 2 – Understanding You need to Know so that you can Understand

Good Data is essential to have. Too many companies store their data in silos and spend little to no time in analysing and understanding the shared, collective value of data that they possess. Effective use of data can therefore be a key differentiator versus your competition. But it is not enough to just have the raw data. We need to turn raw data into market meaningful information. Your task then becomes one of understanding the insights gleaned from the information and using your business intelligence to gain an advantage on your chosen markets. Being faster, different and distinctive versus your nearest competitors will allow you to win more business.

So, how do we use this fact when managing Channel Partners? Managing through channels is relationship-led and therefore the data gathering must result in a Relationship Rich Database (RRDb). This tends to favour qualitative versus quantitative data variables. There exists a fundamental distinction between these two types of data. Quantitative data is information about quantities, and therefore numbers, and qualitative data is descriptive, and regards phenomenon which can be observed but not measured, such as language.

In fact, what is needed is a Balanced Scorecard approach to understanding the dynamics in your channel partners. As stated previously, we need to ensure that we select, onboard, motivate and manage our partners. So, the Scorecard should lead us through a series of logical gates, like we do with a CRM sales funnel, taking us on a journey from uncertainty to that of RRDb driven activities that ensure a win/win environment.

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Pillar 2 – Understanding You need to Know so that you can Understand

An example of this approach would be to firstly set up your initial Scorecard, collecting partner insights and segment, track and score your total network (Knowledge). Next, do baseline measurements and look for the opportunities for growth, creating an overview of the opportunities in your partner network. After that, measure the results and follow-up on your actions, converting data into insights (Understanding) and then expand into focused activities to support your efforts.

This is what a good Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform is designed to give you Allowing you keep the pulse on your total marketplace and most importantly giving you the time to focus on those business-significant activities where they will have the largest impact that will enable you to meet or exceed sales targets both today and in the future.

Second recipe ingredient: Use PRM to improve your base of Understanding

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Pillar 3 – Relationships Relationship comes first; business will then naturally follow

A simple truth: people like to buy from people. People enjoy buying from people that they know, they like and most importantly they trust. Trust is the foundation that all relationships are built upon and your job is to create and maintain an atmosphere of trust between your organisation and that of all your chosen channel partners. Again, not an easy task to achieve if you are time pressured and resource challenged.

The relationship that you need to strive for is one of mutual respect. This starts with an emphasis on under promising and over delivering on all interactions with you. So here again, we need to understand the nature of the present relationship with each channel partner and have an action plan to improve or maintain it. The Balanced Scorecard is the best tool for this, ensuring that you can structure your Quarterly Business Review meetings to give maximum impact and attention to the partner’s concerns. A simple traffic light system that will pick up on qualitative signals of changes in the relationship that could lead to a deteriorating sales results and/or

decrease in their engagement on your chosen promotions, new product introductions and other time critical activities. Be proactive so that small perceived issues do not become large problems in the minds on your partners. This is what a good Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform is designed to give you. Allowing you keep the pulse on your total marketplace and most importantly giving you the time to focus on those business-significant activities where they will have the largest impact that will enable you to meet or exceed sales targets both today and in the future.

Third recipe ingredient: Use PRM to improve your base of Relationships

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Pillar 4 – Communications Everything good is created by Communications Everything bad is caused by Communications Communication is such an important but underrated subject. Its natural right? I mean we communicate all the time in so many different ways today, emails, SEO, web meetings, webinars, etc. Your job is to effectively communicate with all your channel partners so that they have a clear view and message that appeals to them, motivates them and assists them to succeed in building their business via selling your products. I was always told that when dealing with a market, you need to think global strategy but act with local implementation thus bringing you closer to the real market needs (segmentation), whilst helping in the best possible way your sales channels sell for you and therefore achieve a superior sales performance. For the direct selling world, Account Based Marketing (ABM) allows you to focus communications to individual target decision makers. However, for the indirect selling world, Through Channel Marketing (TCM) wins every time. Comarketing between you and your chosen channel partners in a co-branded format allows for this perfect mix of global strategy and local tactics.

But to make this a reality you need to apply this for 100% of your partners not just the chosen 20%. How to make this happen if you have a relatively large number of channel partners to care for? What is vital is to employ appropriate automation of key processes in both marketing, lead routing and deal registration. What could this look like? Firstly, you need to create personalised, local campaigns and follow-up marketing collateral. This in order to enable your channels to campaign as professionals, whilst maintaining centralised corporate control on brand identity. Next, create and fill a Partner Portal and give access to your channels. This brings a closeness and life to your TCM by personalising your channel homepage and allowing privileged partner access. Then, deliver expert marketing communications support and Market Development Funds (MDF). Lastly, feed them regularly with the results from your lead generation programs in an automated and simple process so that they can follow-up on these targeted local leads in a speedy and quality manner.

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Pillar 4 – Communications Everything good is created by Communications Everything bad is caused by Communications Provide a vibrant marketplace with support and streamline measurable marketing performance and MDF to stimulate and motivate your channels to work with you and not with a competitor because they have a bigger change of doing more business with you and it is better and fun for them to do so. Top performance, hassle free, easy. This is what a good Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform is designed to give you. Allowing you keep the pulse on your total marketplace and most importantly giving you the time to focus on those business-significant activities where they will have the largest impact that will enable you to meet or exceed sales targets both today and in the future.

Fourth recipe ingredient: Use PRM to improve your base of Communications

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Conclusions

“If you boil PRM down to its essence, what you’re left with are very effective applications that streamline how indirect channels are created, managed and harvested for maximum returns. PRM is full of applications that deliver value quickly and in hard dollars.” AMR Research

Gartner Research: PRM shows unmatched ROI. Question: Have you received demonstrable ROI from your deployment?

YES

NO

PRM

66%

34%

CRM Sales Suites

48%

52%

Gartner Survey, n=54 sales organizations implementing sales applications, December 2002

Incentive Compensation

55%

45%

Gartner Survey, n=25 sales organizations implementing sales applications, December 2002

Sell-side Commerce

50%

50%

Gartner Survey, n=52 sales organizations implementing sales applications, December 2002

Direct Sales

45%

55%

Gartner Survey, n=38 sales organizations implementing sales applications, December 2002

Sales Configuration

39%

61%

Gartner Survey, n=95 sales organizations implementing sales applications, December 2002

PRM = partner relationship management CRM = customer relationship management ROI = return on investment

The simple fact is that good PRM is already being applied to indirect B2B selling situations across multiple industries and multiple geographies. PRM is flexible to accept future changes in market conditions. Start small and then grow it in your organisation, or via a trusted, certified full-service provider, depending on what your dynamic market needs are now and in the future.

www.getpartnerpulse.com


About the author Mike Englander spent all his career in international B2B sales, marketing and business development, and is today putting this good experience to bear on helping companies who sell via indirect sales channels. At Partner Pulse, he focuses on two main activities. Firstly, onboarding a quality network of Channel Sales Partners in different geographical territories. Secondly, ensuring that these channels are successful in providing their clients with value added solutions built on the Partner Pulse platform modules, notably the unique Dynamic Scorecard. Website: getpartnerpulse.com Linkedin: mikeenglander

www.getpartnerpulse.com


Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.