Channel Marketer Report


Driving Channel Success Through Increased Partner Engagement

By Veronica Brunwin, Relayware Chief Product Officer

Veronica Brunwin, Chief Product Officer, Relayware

Top channel managers are acutely aware that the Pareto Principle (often called the “80/20 rule”) applies to channel partner productivity. It’s long been known that typically 80% of business is generated by 20% of channel partners.

The most obvious effects of the 80/20 rule in a channel program are missed opportunities and deals. When your channel’s bottom 80 percent is underperforming, you have a critical issue to deal with…too much dependency on too few partners, and too much cost for ineffective partners. Additionally, your revenue is at risk if any of your top-performers turn over.

Actually, the deeper truth of the 80/20 rule represents even greater risk. Of the sales driven by the top performing channel partner organizations, 80% is generated by a only fifth of their sales professionals.

Bottom line: only 4% of all your channel partner sales professionals are driving the vast majority of all of your channel revenue.

Improving the performance of under-performing partners is key to delivering more deals and increased revenue, as well as providing more predictable business performance for months, quarters and years to come.  If you can figure out what makes these top 4% successful, you will unlock a recipe to increase revenue dramatically.

Measure Partner Effectiveness

 According to Forrester Research, partner revenue is the most common metric channel managers track. But 64% who track revenue do so only periodically. More concerning, many channel managers aren’t checking the numbers at all. An independent survey sponsored by Relayware found that 33% of channel managers never check partner revenue.

Limiting your metrics to these financial measures is dangerous for two reasons:

  • First, revenue and profitability are lagging measures. They report what partners have delivered in the past, not what they are likely to achieve in the future.
  • Second, they do nothing to help you understand the revenue potential of all your partners. In fact they biase you against investing in newly recruited partners, and those partners who have the best potential for revenue growth.

To gain a true picture, it’s essential to track more than revenue and profitability data to understand what propels the best channel partner sales professionals.

Using a well-designed PRM application, you should access many more data points about your partner community. You should be able to identify who are the high performing 4% of sales professionals, and what they do that makes them more effective. In addition to monitoring their revenue contribution, you need to track their journey and behavior.

For example, your PRM application should help you answer these questions:

  • How much of your online training material do top performers study?
  • Which product certifications have they achieved?
  • How regularly do they access content in your partner portal?
  • How quickly do they follow up on leads?
  • How often do they utilize the marketing tools you provide?

These are the leading indicators of partner success. And combined with traditional revenue measures, they offer a balanced scorecard of a partner’s current success and future potential.

By understanding how your top performers interact with your program, you can take action to connect with the remaining partners to help them grow their revenue.

Use Insight to Drive Channel Success

Energizing inactive partners can be challenging. But over the past ten years of working with leading channel programs, I’ve found the following tactics particularly successful.

First, start on the first day that a new partner joins your program. Sales professionals who go through a structured onboarding process when they join your partner program are upwards of 50% more successful than those who do not.

Create an onboarding program that’s varied and engaging. In the first month, offer a warm welcome that includes training programs about your products and how to sell them.

After 30 days, provide additional training materials while leading the partners into demand generation, either by distributing leads or encouraging their own demand generation. Make sure they understand your processes for deal registration, and the benefits of the program. And finally, communicate regularly, rewarding their activity and encouraging those who are slower to engage.

Make It Personal

Make sure each partner’s experience is personalized and relevant at all times. The foundation of today’s sophisticated channel partner program starts with an engaging and informative partner resource center. Provide a partner portal that fully reflects your brand, is easy to navigate and is full of regularly updated information that gives partners great reasons to come back and see what is new and exciting.

An engaging portal provides a place to continually interact with your partners. Frequent, relevant and timely communication makes a big difference in partner engagement. It keeps your partner professionals interested and ensures that you remain top of mind, ahead of other vendors vying for their attention.

In an independent survey of channel partner professionals that Relayware sponsored, channel partner professionals reported the top three factors shared by vendors that get it right include:

  • Have a partner portal that is “good” or “very good”
  • Do a good job of providing partner support and business intelligence
  • Provide good technical support and short response times, which drives partner loyalty

Relayware PRM channel management softwareCheck The Mirror

Make an evaluation of  your communications program a priority. Are you being proactive and relevant across the channel? Are you only communicating with the top performers? Are you only using English to communicate to a global audience? Do your efforts need to be spent on delivering a more targeted communications program with an ongoing cadence for both the A and B players?

What about certification and training programs? Have you provided and communicated incentives to your partners for taking the latest training classes? Have you celebrated certifications? What about your MDF program? Have you provided your partners with enough to make a difference and impact their sales programs?

Don’t let your partner program stand still, with antiquated practices and technology. Use the data and metrics we discussed earlier to gain a deep understanding of the tools and content that your partners find valuable within your portal. This will help you to continually refine and improve your program to make it easier to use, and more popular with your partners. By evaluating content usage, you can refine your content creation strategy to deliver the materials that partner value the most.

Today, the boards of high growth companies are increasingly turning to indirect channels to accelerate revenue growth and penetrate new markets. For some companies, the 80/20 rule may help them achieve those goals in the short term.

But to ensure continued steady and continued growth in the modern economy, it’s time to break some rules and and fire up more of your channel partners.

About the Author: Veronica Brunwin, the chief product officer at  Relayware, is passionate about delivering a great user experience to Relayware’s users.