And how to protect and grow your market share.
Partner loyalty is waning, across all sectors. Loyalty is hard to regain, when lost. So here’s how to tell if your channel partner loyalty is at risk.
Are you easy to do business with?
A key factor driving loyalty is ‘ease of doing business’. If you’re not easy to do business with, your channel partners will not work harder to compensate, they move on. And if you’re not measuring engagement, by the time you figure it out, you may have lost some high potential partners. Consider…
- A major wireless carrier told us that they had too many portals and resellers did not know which portal to go to, for what. And partners did not know who to call. Did they try harder – no, they found an easier path through other carriers.
- An international document management company told us their partner sales incentive programs were still being managed using spreadsheets that are passed around from department to department until eventually approved. When a reseller rep cannot quickly see that their sales have been validated for the incentive, the incentive loses its appeal. And semi-manual processes don’t scale. So this company had a potentially great program, that was only partially deployed, when we met them.
So are you easy to do business with? Dig deep. Get the answer.
More competitors want to drive more business through the channel...your channel partners
Consider the steady stream of announcements in your industry. Your competitors are reducing their direct sales force and moving business to the channel, faster than ever. If you’re in technology, look at Dell, IBM, SAP, Cisco, McAfee for example. They have all said they are reducing the number of accounts that they will sell direct and will drive more sales through channels. For example, Dell has announced a new channel program that launched Feb 1 that incents Dell Direct reps to push 200,000 direct accounts to channel partners. Your competitors will be going after your channel partners with one simple goal – get your partners to lead more often with the competitor’s brand. Is the loyalty of your partners, at risk?
Your competitors are bolstering their partner programs
Channel dynamics, go-to-market strategy and partner ecosystems have evolved significantly in recent years. Are your programs leading, keeping pace or lagging? A recent survey indicated that half of the companies surveyed are upgrading their technology platforms that power their programs. Are you working with legacy PRM and Loyalty platforms that don’t deliver on partner needs? Can you rapidly validate thousands of claims for sales incentives and update reseller sales reps fast enough to ensure maximum impact? Are your processes an administrative nightmare or streamlined to enable reseller reps to focus on selling your products to their customers. Are you motivating and reward channel sales reps for their sales activity that aligns with your channel sales strategies? We will focus on opportunity management and deal progression in an upcoming blog.
How are your partner engagement levels metrics trending?
Engagement levels are leading indicators of loyalty. Are the engagement levels of your channel sales reps increasing or trending down? Assess at the rep level, rather than the partner organization. Three ways you can measure engagement include activity levels on your portal, participation and success in training, and alignment of sales behavior with your market strategies. Look at leading indicators. Once the quarter’s done, it’s easy to compare actual to plan - but then it's history - you need leading indicators.
What are the growth trends in incentive rewards payout – in total, number of reps, average per rep, etc.?
If your engagement metrics are trending down, are your partners stepping up commitment to a competitor?
If channel partner loyalty is a risk, here are three steps you can take
- Clearly identify the sales activity required to drive your revenue plan? Think of activity upstream of the closed sale and drive partner adoption and engagement programs designed to light up the path. Drive enablement. Reward partners for their commitment. Focus on opportunity identification and acceleration, in addition to closing sales.
- Equip your Partner Account Managers with the data they need to effectively manage their partners. Give them the insights into their channel partners at the rep level. When the visit a partner with hundreds of reps, they need to prioritize their time.
- Communicate effectively to all partners – at the rep level. Your Partner Account Managers can’t get to everyone. Leverage best in class partner and loyalty platforms to ensure your reach extends to all partners. Measure impact.
Reward at both the rep level and management level in your partners. You need management buy-in, yet the reps determine which products to lead with and the reps close the deals.
Support your strategy with the optimal enabling technology, analytics that deliver the insights you need for effective decisions and strong program management and communication.
Written by Barry Cohen
Barry is Vice President, Sales and Marketing for ChannelAssist.