Maria Chien doesn’t have a reputation for pulling her punches when talking about the state of channel programs. But at the B2B Marketing Exchange at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, Feb. 24-26, the title of a presentation she’ll make there suggests that Chien, Forrester’s vice president, practice leader, channel marketing strategies, is taking off the gloves..
Kicking off the conference’s Channel Marketing track of eight presentations and panel discussions, Chien is making sure that even the most experienced channel leader understands that sea changes in the way B2B buyers shop – especially for technology products — are disrupting conventional channel paths to market. Asks and answers her presentation’s title — Is Your Partner Enablement Strategy Broken? (Spoiler Alert…It Is!)
While many channel leaders can claim a certain level of proficiency in enabling their partners’ sales staff to better engage customers, the rapidly evolving buyer’s journey requires a serious re-think of channel strategies, said Chien in a recent conversation with Channel Marketer Report. In fact, new strategies should be conceptually expanded beyond partner enablement to support what Forrester is calling revenue enablement.
The single data point that a B2B buyer on average will engage with nine different roles from first contact to contract – more when you include post-sale activity – should be enough for channel leaders to recognize that every customer-facing role at a partner organization needs to be enabled, Chien said.
“Revenue enablement is expanding traditional partner enablement beyond the sales team to include that wider swath of coverage,” she explained. “The goal is to ensure that all customer-facing roles possess the knowledge, skills and process expertise and have access to the best assets to maximize every buyer or customer interaction.”
Current partner enablement programs often fall short on delivering required results because within channel teams, “it seems to be everybody’s job but nobody’s responsibility,” said Chien. Worse, most partner enablement programs focus on partner sales, and don’t include or consider “all the other influential partner roles — marketing, presale support, even executive leadership within that partner organization –that are critical to that partner’s ability to market, sell and support supplier offerings to new buyers and existing customers.”
“If we really want to optimize and fuel the revenue engine, we need to look beyond what we’ve done in the past or how we’re doing it today, and be open to ask ‘What is a better way to do this?’” Chien said. “This is where revenue enablement takes center stage.”
A SiriusDecisions buyer study in 2019 shot up one of the red flares that identified a need to rethink partner enablement, said Chien. The study discovered that of the nine human interactions that B2B buyers experience — which typically take place with a cross-section of 11 roles –“not even half of these customer-facing roles are traditionally empowered by the direct sales enablement functions or even the partner enablement task functions. There are other influential roles across the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle that we need to empower the same way that we empower sales.”
Transitioning to a revenue enablement strategy requires a clear understanding of how the B2B buyer’s journey is evolving and identifying critical customer facing roles. “The first step in undertaking a revenue enablement approach is to identify all the potential human interaction that a buyer or customer may have with a provider organization to determine what types of buyer and customer interactions need to be supported,” Chien explained.
When vendors enable the different roles in channel teams to make customer interactions relevant to the partner and relevant to the buyer, they’re “not only going to have greater success and performance with the buyer about filling pipeline and closing business,” said Chien. “They’re also creating stickiness and engagement with their partners so that they’re seeing value beyond just vendors talking about themselves, and their products, and their programs, and their services but talking about how they maximize their interactions with your buyers to improve your performance.”
“That gets really interesting to a partner,” she continued. “It changes the dynamic. It creates that stickiness and that engagement in your program in a significant way.”
Chien will make her presentation at the B2B Marketing Exchange on Tuesday, Feb.25, at 10:45 AM.