From First Day To First Sale: Developing A Successful Onboarding Program

Jon Whitlock (1)By Jon Whitlock, VP, B2B Marketing, Kaspersky Lab North America

Partner onboarding is one of the most important steps in the channel partner-vendor relationship, and as is the case with most relationships, first impressions are everything.

A poor onboarding experience can hinder a new partner’s success, make the vendor question their investment in the new partner, or worse, both of the above. Even more concerning is that if a partner isn’t making money with you, they will look to other vendors who can provide more opportunity for success, growth and of course, cash. The key is to develop an onboarding program that will not only attract and retain partners, but will also get them up-to-date and to revenue as quickly as possible. Let’s look at the main features to consider when developing a successful onboarding program.


One of the biggest challenges with developing an onboarding program is getting partners motivated to participate, especially if you are not one of their top two or three vendors. It’s not easy to get busy partners to commit to an onboarding program, especially if the program is time-consuming or tedious. It’s up to us as partner marketers to make the program as accessible and user-friendly as possible. First, partners should be able to access the program wherever they are, from multiple devices. So whether they are in the office or on the road, the program is at their fingertips. Ease-of-use is critical to attracting and keeping more partners active in your program.

The program should also be informative and manageable, with short and easy segments that partners can complete in one sitting without demanding too much time out of their day. Mix it up with a mixture of content including video, text, webinars and even live phone calls that deliver the opportunity for partners to learn about your products and partner programs, and to engage with your teams that will ultimately help them succeed. Ensuring that it’s easy and engaging for partners to participate and complete the program is one of the first secrets to success.

Another important aspect: We’ve had great success with adding gamification to the program to make it more fun and interactive. Gamification applied to the tracking progress creates a fun and visual way for partners to track their progress, stay motivated through the process and keep their eyes on the real prize: The first sale!

Milestones And Rewards

A successful onboarding program should include clear and trackable objectives and milestones. Depending on where the partner is in the program, they should know what’s expected of them, what knowledge they will gain during each phase, and perhaps most importantly, what’s in it for them.

Not only should partners be able to track the progress they’re making, but they should receive rewards along the way that act as incentives for continuing with the program. The rewards should be targeted not only for the partner, but for their company as well. While the partner is going through the program, they can be confident that they are not only gaining valuable training, but their company is benefitting as well. Potential incentives include funds for lead generation activities or access to additional exclusive resources. Partners want to be confident that their dedication to the program is paying off. Receiving near-instant gratification in the form of rewards is a big selling point in encouraging partners to participate in the program.

Consistency And Measurability

For any program to work well, consistency is essential. The program should work for all partners and remain consistent in format and structure. After all, the end goal is the same for all partners: Get to revenue as quickly as possible. While you may have different tracks within the program for different kinds of partners (e.g. market focus), it only makes sense that the program should be consistent across all partners so that you can best meet the common goal. Consistency also is important when it comes to measuring the success of the program.

Like with any successful program, onboarding must be measureable. It’s imperative to see which partners are successful after the program and which partners may need more attention in certain areas. It’s also important to compare the results of participating partners against those that are not active in the program. A few elements that are important to measure are the number of new partners participating in the program, time to sales, partner activities, ROI and, of course, partner feedback. Tracking and analysis is a crucial step in helping enable partners and ensure their success, not only during onboarding, but after they complete the program, as well. Additionally, it’s key for internal teams so they can make tweaks to the program as necessary to best help partners at every stage of the onboarding program.
As partner marketers, our number one goal is to enable partners to start selling as quickly as possible. It’s our job to make the path from first day to first sale smooth and accessible. A successful onboarding program is vital for getting partners ramped up to start selling and will provide the necessary foundation for lasting success.

As Vice President, B2B Marketing, Kaspersky Lab North America, Jon Whitlock is responsible for driving Kaspersky Lab’s channel programs and increasing partner engagement.

Whitlock brings more than 15 years of marketing, sales and business development experience with software companies, information security services providers and national VARs and MSPs. Prior to joining Kaspersky Lab in 2012, Whitlock held senior marketing positions with Brainshark, a cloud-based video platform and CBE Technologies, a national managed services provider and information security consulting firm.



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