William Gilsing, VP of Global Channel Strategy, hawkeye Channel
The emergence of cloud-based solutions and the recurring revenue model has altered partners’ business models and what it takes for them to be successful. Vendors are finding it’s more important than ever to employ a best-in-class methodology to ensure they’re recruiting and onboarding the right partners — the partners equipped to thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace.
Whether they’re recruiting new partners due to recent attrition or evaluating existing partners to gauge future performance, we’ve found that profiling success in the age of channel transformation hinges on the following five best practices.
1) Identify, onboard and retain the right partners — ones with the attributes to grow a cloud solutions/services business.
Vendors should start by creating an ideal partner profile comprised of attributes they have determined to be important to succeed in their channel program. Without a clear understanding of which partner attributes comprise the “ideal” partner, vendors will have difficulty identifying top producers.
An ideal partner profile must be updated at least once per year because the right types of partners are changing with the channel. Attributes that were once key, such as on-premise technical support, are fading. However, the following five traits are common to partners who will be successful in the “new channel.”
2) Implement a quantitative profiling methodology based upon best practices to rank existing and prospective partners in a consistent manner.
Vendors should create a score sheet to collect objective data about partners by first gathering the key attributes they identified when developing their ideal partner profile. Then divide each one into smaller sub-attributes that comprise each individual attribute. Once this is complete, they compile all sub-attributes and attributes into a format they can use to evaluate partners.
We suggest score sheets with a maximum partner score of 1,000. Partners should be stack-ranked from high to low, with 650 being the lowest score of interest. Anything less than 650 isn’t worth considering for inclusion into the program. This profiling method will provide a highly targeted group of candidates.
As the industry changes, a vendor’s business model and solution offerings also need to adapt. So too should their scoring parameters and the types of partners they pursue. Vendors would prefer to simply create a partner score sheet once, evaluate partners before onboarding and then be done with the process, but that’s far from reality.
3) Provide guides to ensure the partner profiling implementation team is well trained in the execution of the profiling process.
We often see vendors giving the responsibility of profiling to their PAMs or CAMs because they have in-depth knowledge of partners from having managed relationships with them and they are typically one of the few available resources. This group is a great choice for a “profiling team” — but they still must be trained to use the profiling score sheet effectively. Vendor-provided guides should be given to the profiling and channel management teams to walk them through the process of collecting the data and interpreting the results.
4) Integrate partner profiling value scoring worksheets with a CRM/PRM platform to create one common partner database containing key data and attributes.
As a best practice, all partner data should reside in a central database, typically in a CRM/PRM environment. Every vendor has a CRM platform — SFDC, Siebel, SAP or Dynamics CRM — where they store information like partner ID, revenues, certifications, etc. Establishing a “single source of truth” for all channel related functions is relatively starts there. Tracking all relevant partner attribute data on the same CRM platform will enable them to quickly access partner data, which will expedite future profiling activities and simplify the process.
5) Prevent PAM/CAM subjectivity from creeping into the evaluation process.
Vendors may want to “hide” value scores from PAMs or CAMs conducting the partner profiling interviews to prevent them from “gaming the system.” While often unintentional, PAMs and CAMs can have a subjective view of specific partners due to long-term work relationships that may taint the scoring process.
Successful profiling is dependent upon a quantitative methodology and a profiling team that remains objective. Creating a level playing field for all partners makes it possible to accurately compare scores partner-to-partner. If subjectivity leaks into a scoring methodology it will taint the data and may deliver partners that are not the best suited for the programs.
In this day and age, when partner attrition is high due to channel transformation, it’s important to work with partners most suited to sell and service your products. Following a quantitative value-scoring methodology enables vendors to identify partners who will take their channel programs to the next level and significantly impact revenue. We have found when vendors apply these insights to their channels, they are able to fill their programs with the right partners who possess the skills and competencies necessary to succeed today.
In his position, William Gilsing leads client engagements in channel strategy and channel program development efforts. Gilsing has more than 20 years of experience working with technology clients on partner strategies and programs that increase indirect sales and deliver maximum ROI on channel spend. His experience includes strategic engagements with Microsoft, Symantec, Seagate, Skype, SAP, Cisco, Lexmark, and many others. Prior to his consulting career, William held middle and senior management positions in marketing, product marketing and merchandising with Egghead, Sharper Image, Duty Free Shoppers and GAP.