Once you have identified your most effective routes to market and determined how many and what type of partners you need to accomplish your objectives how do you convince the right partners to engage and become loyal partners?
The importance of offering current and prospective partners a compelling value proposition cannot be overstated. And, depending upon your solution offerings and partner eco structure, more than one value proposition may be required.
The value proposition is comprised of a number of “spokes in a wheel”:
An Innovative business solution portfolio
Not surprisingly, technology partners consistently mention “innovative solutions” in many surveys as a “must have” on the part of vendors to be considered a fist tier vendor in a partner’s product portfolio. Of course “innovative” can mean many things but for most partners it boils down to:
- A business solution that solves a business problem for their clients. Forget about innovative technology for technology’s sake. The solution offered must be capable of increasing operating efficiencies, reduce cost, and enhance the user experience
- In addition, the solution offered by the vendor must be a “good fit” in the partner’s portfolio – opening new markets and providing access to net new customers while generating incremental revenues and profits
- Finally, partners prefer to do business with vendors that allow them the opportunity to provide complimentary apps and services. This is particularly true with fast growth Cloud and IoT partners
Help me sell
“Help me sell” covers a range of vendor supported and sponsored activities designed to support a partner through the entire sales cycle, from demand generation to pre- and post-sales support. We are seeing a shift in what Cloud and IoT focused partners consider to be a high value business relationship between partner and vendor compared to traditional partners. Born in the Cloud and IoT partners value sales, marketing, and engineering know how and resources over traditional partner programs such as MDF and Deal Registration.
Skilled technical and engineering resources are in high demand and hard to come by in the tech sector. The lack of skilled engineering resources is often a major barrier to a partner’s growth and success. Cloud and IoT partners consider vendor collaboration and coaching of their engineering staff as well as additional headcount to be among the most valuable contributions a vendor can make. Of course this represents a significant investment for the vendor and should only available to those partners who have a proven record of investment in the relationship and the ability for rapid growth. A joint investment plan in pre-sales and post sales engineering resources and training coupled with targeted market penetration and revenue goals are great steps towards a successful business relationship between both parties. It also behooves vendors to place less emphasis on costly and time consuming certification programs but instead measure competency in terms of business closed with satisfied and repeat customers and great customer referrals.
Rewards and Incentives
While rewards and incentives used to be focused on closing the deal, today’s incentive programs reward partner activities spanning the entire sales (and marketing) cycle from initial prospect engagement to post sales configuration and implementation. Partners are motivated to engage with the vendor, to hone their sales, marketing, and engineering skills, and to allocate and train sufficient resources to be successful. In addition, it makes sense to incent individual (sales, marketing, and engineering) employees to achieve the same goals you have set with the partner/owner. Why does such a significant investment make sense to vendors? The answer is simple. Engaged partners (and employees) are loyal and productive partners.
“Partner XP” is usually expressed in terms of “how easy is this vendor to do business with?” The “ease of doing business” factor is among the top three factors partners consider when they decide to engage with a “first tier” vendor. Keep in mind that the average partner has 6-7 top tier vendors and often does business with up to 30 vendors. Doing business with vendors is a big investment in time and resources. Vendors that make it easy and less time consuming for their partners to do business with them have a significant advantage over those vendors who do not.
So what does “ease of doing business” entail?
- An easy to navigate partner portal with targeted content that pertains to specific partners and partner tiers
- A straight forward partner program, short on complexity with clearly defined requirements and benefits
- A high degree of automation of channel operations, processes, and reporting
- Program and benefit statements for each partner via the partner portal
- A compelling value proposition put in terms that relate to the partner’s P&L
- An easy to understand directory to guide partners to the right vendor resource to gain information and have their questions answered
- Rapid response to partner queries (within 24 hours)
- Best practice use cases regarding sales, marketing, and technical/engineering support showing how successful partners operate
A holistic approach to a compelling value proposition involves the six spokes of the value prop wheel.