How to Support Partner Innovation and Why You Should

The needs of customers are constantly changing and partners need to keep up. They need to redefine their offerings and even create new ones. As a vendor, you are more experienced in creating new offerings and your partners are going to look to you for advice and support. 

Giving your partners the support they need creates value for both you and your partners. By helping your partners expand their offerings, you can get more industry coverage than you had previously. You may also be able to expand into new markets. You’ll also create lifetime value for your customers which will keep them coming back. 

How to support your partners

Partners need a lot of things to innovate and expand their offerings. They need money to fund innovation, people to help them innovate, and a lot of knowledge, especially if they’re creating a new product. You’ve gone through the whole process of designing, creating, and launching new products and are the best to help your partners undergo that process themselves. You may even have the budget to help fund their innovation efforts. 

Here are 3 ways you can help your partners innovate.

  1. Create a partner innovation program

Similiar to how startup incubators and small business programs provide resources, money and technology to support startups and small business owners, partner innovation programs are designed to support partner innovation in the same way. These programs may offer business development support to help partners market their new offering. They may also offer technology such as specific software or a sandboxed development environment to help partners develop their new offering. 

  1. See your partners as individual businesses

We’ve talked before about treating your partners as individual businesses. By not treating your partners as an extension of your business, you give them space to grow their capabilities. This lets your partners develop offerings that complement and grow your industry coverage. Also, your partners may develop offerings that allow you to expand into areas that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to expand into otherwise. 

  1. Create a community 

Unlike your partner innovation program, this community will be for you, your partners, your customers and anyone else who works with you. Use this community to start and follow discussions on best practices, common problems people encounter in the industry and things that people wish they could do with their current tech. 

As you and your partners listen and participate in these discussions, you can trade ideas with each other and see what solutions you can come up with. You can then use your partner innovation program to support your partners as they develop these solutions and bring them to market. 

Helping your partners develop new offerings and solutions to current industry issues benefits both your partner and you. These new offerings and solutions can provide more value to both current and new customers ensuring that you’re always top of mind for them. They can also help you gain more industry coverage than you would had otherwise. 

Three ways you can help your partners expand their offerings are by treating them as individual businesses, creating a community for them and others and by creating a partner innovation program. By treating your partners as individual and independent businesses, you give them the space and freedom to develop new offerings that complement your existing ones. By creating a community for them, your customers and other people who work with you, you and your partners get a space to share new innovations, best practices and to listen to common problems that inspire you to create new offerings. Finally, by creating a partner innovation program, you provide your partners the knowledge and support they need to create and bring their new offerings to market. 

Why is GDPR important to the Channel?

his post is part of a series in which we explore how GDPR affects the channel especially when using marketing automation tools. As we’re not legal experts, please consult with your own legal experts for specifics about your situation. 

Why we’re still talking about GDPR

In the past few months, numerous companies have had their security breached and their customer’s data privacy violated. Authorities are cracking down hard on companies who can’t secure their customer’s data and companies are finding that they need to update their data policies and rethink the way they gather and collect data.

While this is great for the consumer, it’s difficult for companies to actually do. It’s especially tricky in the channel space as more than one company handles a consumer’s data. Vendors, partners, and data processors such as marketing automation platforms all share consumer data. Each of these parties must comply with data protection regulations such as GDPR. 

GDPR is the most prominent of these regulations and can be tricky to navigate, especially as it applies to anyone who does business with anyone in Europe. We’ve created a series in which we explore how GDPR affects the channel, especially when using marketing automation tools.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Act protects data belonging to European citizens and residents. It applies to any company that obtains and/or handles personal data belonging to these citizens and residents. This includes processing, storing, and transferring data as well. This is true regardless of where the company is located. So a software company in the US that handles European personal data would still have to comply with GDPR even though they aren’t located in Europe. 

Under GDPR, personal data can only be processed if any of the 6 specified criteria are met. For the channel, those criteria would be

  • Consent has been given
  • Processing data is necessary for the performance of a contract 
  • Legitimate interest

Consent

Like a medical consent form, the consent form for data collection must explicitly state why you are collecting the data, what it’s for, how it will be stored, and for how long it will be stored. This consent must be obtained from anyone whose data is being collected. For the channel, consent must be obtained from the customer/prospect, the partner and the vendor if using a data processor, an entity that processes any data you give it according to your instructions. An example would be Mailchimp who processes your contact lists and sends emails to those contact lists.  

Once consent has been obtained, it must be stored by everyone who interacts with that person’s data. For the channel, the vendor, the partner, and the data processor must keep the consent authorization for their records. Consent must also be renewed on a recurring basis and may be revoked at any time. 

Data Processing 

Under GDPR, data processing includes collecting, recording, storing, etc…pretty much anything you do with data would be considered data processing under GDPR. Examples would be

  • Collecting emails for a mailing list
  • Storing IP addresses for security purposes
  • Storing contact information in a marketing automation platform

Data processing must occur for a specific purpose such as collecting emails for a newsletter mailing list. You can’t just process data for whatever reason; it needs to be specific and clearly defined when asking for consent. 

Legitimate Interest

This is when your personal data is used in a way you would expect. The data collected for this purpose should be necessary for the organization to collect and the benefits of processing it should outweigh the risks. 

An example of this is someone uploading their resume to a job board such as Indeed. In this case, the person who uploaded the resume can expect recruiters, hiring managers and anyone else looking to fill an open position to contact them based on the information provided in the resume. 

Why is GDPR important to the Channel?

Under GDPR everyone who handles the personal data of European citizens and residents must obtain explicit consent in order to use, process, store, or transfer the data. In the channel, there are typically 3 parties involved in obtaining, using, and storing this data. They are the vendor, the partner, and a data processor such as Hubspot. All 3 of these parties must obtain consent from the prospect/customer. This obtained consent must be stored in each party’s records. This means that consent must be obtained from all 3 parties even though the vendor may not even be located in Europe. 

GDPR is tricky for the channel as obtaining explicit consent means that customer/prospect information has to be shared between the vendor and the partner. This is a large concern when using a through-channel marketing automation system as the partner will be sending the vendors’ campaigns to their (the partner’s) mailing lists. Currently, most marketing automation platforms that the channel uses don’t have the network/software architecture necessary to properly separate the partner’s data from the vendor’s data. This data separation is necessary to be GDPR compliant and since most platforms don’t currently have the separation in place, they run the risk of noncompliance. 

What are the consequences of a GDPR violation?

The penalties for violating GDPR are steep. Fines can be 4% of annual global revenue or more than 20 million euros which is roughly equivalent to $24,000,000. These fines are determined by a number of factors such as whether or not the violation was intentional, how soon it was reported, and whether or not the fined company cooperated with the authorities. 

Since data in the channel is handled by more than one party, it’s possible that if one party such as a partner is found to violate GDPR, the other parties such as the vendor may also be violating GDPR. This is why it’s important to ensure that all parties involved are GDPR compliant. 

How do I know if my partners are compliant?

It’s not just you who has to be GDPR compliant, but your partners too. Rather than leave your partner to navigate GDPR compliance by themselves, you should guide your partners through the process of becoming compliant. 

  1. Be on top of regulatory changes

Make sure to keep up to date with any GDPR and other regulatory changes and inform your partners of them in a timely manner. Be sure to check in with your partner at regular intervals to ensure that they remain compliant. These updates can be sent in your regular newsletter. 

  1. Rework your partnership agreement

Your new agreement will need to include a data-sharing clause as GDPR requires any data sharing to be disclosed to the consumer. This clause should outline what data will be collected, how that data will be used, and how it will be stored. It should also state how long the data will be held for and how it will be removed from both parties’ systems.

  1. Educate partners  

There’s a high chance that none of your partners have lawyers on hand to help them figure out how to be compliant. You should educate your partners on what GDPR is, how it affects them, and what the consequences are for violating it. Make sure to share material like checklists that will help them be compliant, host webinars, and provide additional support and training when necessary. 

  1. Establish compliance procedures and metrics

Make sure to lay out some metrics and procedures so that your partners can show you and others that they are GDPR compliant across all their platforms. These procedures and metrics will establish an audit trail that you and your partners can show the authorities if necessary. 

  1. Know when to let the relationship go

It sucks, but sometimes your partners may not want to be GDPR compliant. If that’s the case and you’ve tried everything to make them see that it’s necessary for their business, then it’s time to let them go. There are steep fines for noncompliance and if your partner gets fined, you might get fined as well. This is the last resort step. 

Conclusion

GDPR is the most prominent data protection regulation that affects a large number of companies. Everyone who handles the data of European citizens and residents must comply with it or risk being fined up to 4% of their annual global turnover. Under the regulation, companies must obtain consent to handle a consumer’s data. They must also have a data policy that lays out how they will collect, use, share, store and destroy the data that they obtain. 

For the channel, the vendor, partner, and data processor (ex. A marketing automation platform) must be compliant. Each party must hold a copy of the consumer’s consent and have a data-sharing agreement in place. Vendors can help their partners become compliant by educating partners and establishing compliance procedures and metrics.

Meet Us at the Channel Partners Conference and Expo

The Channel Partners Conference and Expo is happening next week, November 1 – 4 in Las Vegas. For 25 years, the conference has been bringing the latest trends in the channel, new tech, and new ideas that are poised to disrupt the industry. With more than 250 channel vendors attending and a long list of sessions with some of the biggest names in the industry, there’s a lot you can learn. 

Who we’re excited to hear

With a lineup of more than 100 channel experts hosting keynotes and conference sessions, there’s a lot to choose from. Here’s who we’re looking forward to hearing from. 

LinkedIn: The Ultimate Social Media Tool For B2B Marketing

We all know social media’s important. Who among us isn’t on LinkedIn these days? But are we using it to its full potential? 


That’s why we’re excited to hear from Matthew Solomon, Channel Halo’s CEO, on how to use the full potential of LinkedIn for marketing. He offers advice on how to curate and build relationships and how to find the right buyers. This is a good session for both you and your channel partners to attend.

Cybersecurity in a 5G World

Cybersecurity is a hot topic these days and organizations are increasingly looking to boost their defenses against cyberattacks. We’re looking forward to hearing AT&T’s Theresa Lanowitz talk about how organizations are moving to 5G while also increasing their cybersecurity. She also discusses the results from AT&T’s Cybersecurity Insights Report which states that 94.5% of organizations want help in moving to 5G and increasing their security. 

This session is a must for MSPs or anyone else interested in cybersecurity.

How to Keep Customers Safe and Operations Running in a Post-Pandemic World

There’s a lot going on in the world today and the threat of disrupted operations hangs over all of us.  Speaker Jasmina Muller, Everbridge’s VP of Global Channel Partnerships, joins panelists Cheryl Neal (Tech Data), Janet Schijns(JS Group), and Paul Spencer (T-Mobile) for a discussion on how channel leaders can keep people safe and operations running during times of disruption. They’ll also discuss how automation solutions can help organizations rapidly respond to disruption and keep operations running. 

This is a must for anyone who doesn’t want their operations to even blip during times of disruption.

Who we’re hoping to meet

There’s a lot of people we’re hoping to meet at the conference, you included. We’re really excited to meet anyone interested in growing with their partners and would love to talk to them about using automation to help that growth. If you’re one of those people, let our team know through the official conference app or through our calendly here

We’re really excited about this conference and hope to see you there. If you can’t make the conference, keep an eye on the Channel Partners website for highlights. If you want to meet us, but have something else planned next week, our clalendly has other dates available. 

2 Problems Deal Registration Creates

In our previous post, Deal Registration, the good and the bad, we explained deal registration as a way for partners to share leads and deals they have been developing for their vendors. That registration lets partners claim a lead for a set period of time and prevent other people including their vendor from stealing the lead. Once that period of time has expired the lead opens back up. If the partner hasn’t managed to win over the prospect by that point, everyone else can start selling to them. 

It’s supposed to be a way to minimize channel conflict, but sometimes it creates problems instead. This happens because when partners fill out a deal registration form, they don’t have any visibility into what the vendor does with that information. One problem is that the vendor could hand that information over to their direct sales team and have them go after the deal. Another problem is that two partners could have registered the same deal. This is more of a problem for the vendor than their partners, but it’s still a deal registration problem. 

Problem 1: The direct sales team

When a partner registers a deal, the vendor gets notified. Normally, what happens is the partner gets a period of time to close that deal or work that lead without anyone else interfering. However, sometimes the lead decides to check out the vendor’s website and gets themselves on the vendor’s marketing list. 

In this scenario, both the partner and the vendor’s direct sales team fight over the lead. The vendor then has to decide who should pursue the lead. If they upset their partner, their partner may stop engaging with them and stop giving them leads. On the other hand, if they upset their direct sales team, their team loses confidence in them and may walk away. 

Then there’s the lead. If the lead has a frustrating experience because both the direct sales team and the partner are talking to them, they’ll go to the vendor’s competitor. They’ll probably also write a review online telling people about their experience causing the vendor’s reputation to slip. 

Vendors try not to let this happen, which is why they require the lead to be registered in the first place. When the lead is registered, the vendor can then check to see if the lead is already in the system. If they are, then the vendor tells either the partner or their direct sales team to stop pursuing the lead since one of them has already talked to them. 

For more about the direct sales-partner conflict, read: How to make sure your direct sales don’t collide with partner’s deals

Problem 2: Which partner gets the credit for a deal?

Sometimes a vendor has two of their partners register the exact same deal on the exact same day. In that case, the vendor is unable to tell which of their partners was first to register the deal. 

Today, most deal registration forms only note the date that the deal was registered on. For most cases this is fine, but it causes a problem in the scenario above. Since the vendor doesn’t know which partner registered the deal first, they have to pick which partner gets the credit and the commission for the deal.

The vendor has to decide who to give the deal to based on a number of factors such as who is more likely to close the deal, what’s best for their prospective customer, and their relationship with the partners involved. Considering these factors will help the vendor make a decision. 

Factoring in who is more likely to close the deal will provide the best chance of success at winning the deal. Keeping what’s best for the customer in mind will remind partners of what’s important and prevent them from promising the customer things they can’t do in an effort to look better than the other partner. Finally, considering the vendor’s relationship with each partner will help the vendor keep the partner’s best interests in mind. No matter what the outcome, partners are more likely to respond favorably if the vendor demonstrates that they have the partner’s best interests in mind.

Other tools the vendor can use to make a decision are conflict resolution strategies. If the partners find out that another partner is competing for their deal they won’t be happy and conflict occurs. The vendor can use conflict resolution strategies such as sticking to policies and procedures and moving things forward when none of the other strategies work. 

Following policies and procedures means that vendors have a guide on what to do if two of their partners register the same deal. At the same time, the partners have an idea of how the vendor made their decision. This helps prevent the vendor-partner relationship from being damaged as partners understand that the vendor made the decision independent of what that relationship looks like. 

For more about how to handle two partners registering the same deal, take a look at our post: 2 Strategies to Resolve Deal Conflicts Between Partners

Conclusion

Deal registration is a useful tool for letting partners lay claim to a lead and gives them the best chance to win that lead without anyone else interfering. However, deal registration can also cause problems. Registering a deal alerts the vendor to a potential lead. The vendor can then hand this lead over to their direct sales team bringing the partner and the direct sales team into conflict. Two partners can also register the same deal putting the vendor in the position of having to choose who gets commission for the deal. 

2 Strategies to Resolve Deal Conflicts Between Partners

Having a relationship with your partner is like having a relationship with your significant other. It’s stressful when you have conflicts and those conflicts aren’t always as simple as who was supposed to walk the dog. They’re more complicated, can involve multiple people, and don’t have a solution that makes everyone happy. 

Here’s a scenario. You’ve got two partners. Both partners have been in your partner program for a while. Partner A is a highly engaged partner who registers a large number of deals with you. Partner B is not as engaged and has only registered a few deals since the beginning of their contract. 

Today, both partners have registered a deal for the exact same company. What do you do? Which partner should you give the deal to? Should you give the deal to a partner? What factors should you consider? What conflict resolution strategies should you use?  No matter what happens, one of your partners is going to be upset. This is the type of conflict that can make or break your relationship. 

This is a common channel conflict scenario. Knowing what factors you should consider and what kinds of conflict resolution strategies you can apply will give you more tools to make your decision. 

Factors to Consider

  1. The customer 

How much you focus on the customer will depend on what type of partnership you have. If your partners are just selling to your customer and the customer is coming to you for product support, then you’ll want to make sure that your potential customer doesn’t get frustrated with you and your partners. 

On the other hand, if your partners are the ones selling to and servicing your potential customer, then you’ll want to remind them that the potential customer should be their priority and that winning over the customer is what they should be focusing on more than the conflict with the other partner. This will matter more in a scenario where your potential customer is contacted by both partners and both partners are letting their feelings get to them and may be promising the customer things they can’t do just to make themselves look better than the other partner. 

  1. Which partner is likely to get the deal

Some of your partners have a better chance of closing a deal than others. They could have a better sales team, a personal connection to the customer, a better offer than another partner, ect…You want to give the deal to a partner who’s more likely to succeed in landing the customer. 

  1. Your relationship with your partners

Is there a way you can make both your partners happy and possibly strengthen your relationship with them? Perhaps you can give both partners the commission from the registered deal while letting one partner have the customer. 

What really matters is demonstrating that you’re working with the partner’s best interests in mind. If you give the deal to one partner, help the other partner (the one you didn’t give the deal to) find another customer. Share a few leads with them, offer your support, whatever you do make sure the partner knows you’ve got their back. 

Conflict resolution strategies to apply

  1. Be consistent with policy and procedures

You  probably have policies and procedures outlined in your partner program for situations like this. Those will provide a useful guide as to what you should do. Being consistent with these policies and procedures ensures that even your partners who aren’t in conflict know what the basis is behind your decisions. It also may lessen the chances of hurt feelings as partners know you’re making decisions based on policies and procedures regardless of your actual relationship with them. 

  1. Move the process along

Sometimes your partners will get stuck on a certain point. Perhaps they’re going back and forth with you about who got to the customer first or that they can provide better service than the other partner. Whatever it is, being stuck on that particular point will not help the process along. 

If the process drags on for long enough, it will start to take time away from more important business activities. This is the point where you step in and tell your partners that you can revisit the point at a later date or that there’s some policy that requires things to be the way they are. This strategy shouldn’t be used at the very beginning of the conflict, but instead should be used if it appears that the conflict is going to continue over a long period of time. 

Conclusion

Conflicts with your partners aren’t easy to solve, but there’s two strategies that you can use to try and resolve the conflict. First, be consistent with your own policies and procedures. These help guide you in making a decision and may reduce hurt feelings as your partners know how you’re making your decisions. Second, move the process along. This is another good strategy as the conflict can drag on if your partners get stuck on a particular point. If it drags on for long enough, it’ll start to take time away from more important activities. These two strategies will help prevent the conflict from dragging out over a long period of time and may help lessen any hurt feelings that inevitably come with the process.  

Why you should survey your channel partners

Your channel partners aren’t your customers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send them the occasional survey. Partner surveys can be a great way to see how your partners feel about you, your product and your partner program. They can also be a good way to refine your partner profile and get some insight on which kinds of partners are the best for your program. They can also help you get an idea of how partners are navigating events such as the pandemic or regulatory changes such as GDPR. 

Reasons to survey your channel partners

 Like surveying your customers, there’s many reasons to survey your partners. Here’s 3 important ones. 

  1. To see how they feel about you

Are your partners happy with you? Are there things you could be doing better? Asking your partners will help you spot any issues before they arise and you can fix them before they lead to larger issues. 

  1. To see how they feel about your product

Your partners are selling or servicing your product, so getting their feedback lets you know what issues customers run into when using the product. That feedback can also suggest new features for you to add in your next product or your next product update. 

  1. To learn more about them

You may already have this information from your initial talks with them, but it’s worth revisiting. How many of your partners were able to hire more employees? How many of them are able to forecast their sales for the next quarter? Knowing more about your partners will help you determine the amount of support they need. It’ll also help you build or refine your partner persona. 

What to do with your partner’s responses

The partners who take the time to write detailed responses to your questions are going to be more engaged than the partners who just give you a star rating. But, both types of partners are going to be more engaged than the partners who didn’t respond to the survey at all. Make a note of this as you can add it to the rest of your partner engagement metrics. 

When you sort through the responses, make a note of what types of things come up frequently. Do 45% of your partners lack a sales process? Then it might be time to organize a webinar or another type of training on how to create one. Do 85% of your partners say they’re happy with the incentives you give them? Great! You don’t need to do a thing. Knowing what comes up frequently allows you to adjust parts of your partner program if necessary. It also lets you know what you’re doing well and can help you learn how your partners are keeping up with your industry. 

Sharing these results with your partners and letting them know how you’re using the results will help you be transparent with your partners. They may even offer some suggestions as to how to improve things and offer suggestions on things you didn’t ask about in your survey. 

How often should you survey your partners

You can’t just survey your partners once and be done with it. You should survey your partners over a period of time to see how engaged your partners are, to be able to spot any trends that occur and to see what effect the changes you made had on your partners. 

How often you send a survey will define its length. If you’re sending a survey every quarter then it will be shorter than a survey you send every year. You don’t want to send long surveys very often as your partners will get tired of filling them out. 

Here’s 3 best practices for sending surveys. 

  1. Make your surveys easy to answer

Don’t just give them a question and expect them to write an essay. No one has time for that. Instead give them multiple choice questions, ask them to rate something on a scale of 1-5 or ask them to agree/disagree with a statement. 

  1. Send them frequently, but not too frequently

Time is valuable and no one wants to spend it answering surveys. Make sure you’re sending surveys on a frequent enough basis to be able to spot trends. But at the same time make sure they’re not frequent enough to annoy your partners. Annual surveys would be the sweet spot here as you can make them strategic and pass the results along to your executive team. 

  1. Make your surveys anonymous

This doesn’t mean you can’t gather demographic information about your partners. It just means that you shouldn’t ask them for specifics such as their company name. Anonymizing surveys is the best way to get honest responses. People are more comfortable giving feedback, especially if it’s negative, if they know you won’t know who they are. 

Conclusion

Surveying your partners is a great way to see how engaged they are. It’s also a good way to see how they feel about your partner program and your product. Using the data you get from the responses to your survey, you can spot trends and see how many of your partners may need additional training on your product or additional sales and marketing support. Surveys should be sent consistently and should be quick and easy for your partners to fill out. 

Speaking of surveys, we’d like to introduce to you xAmplify’s new survey feature. Integrated with the rest of our platform, you can automatically send your partners a survey without having to configure a new tool. Survey data is automatically collected and generated in an easy-to-read report that you can share with your team. Schedule a demo to learn more.

How to Quickly Ramp Up a New Channel Manager

The relationship you have with your channel partners is the backbone of your partner program. Having a good relationship means that both you and your partners are invested in each other’s success. As a result, you and your partners are equally involved in driving that success. 

So what exactly is a channel partner relationship and how do they work? And what happens when your current channel manager leaves? How do you ramp up your new channel manager fast enough?

The channel partner relationship

Channel partner relationships are mutually beneficial relationships. Your channel partners market and sell your products to their customers. You get more market share and revenue without having to invest in hiring and training new people. Your channel partners get more customers and revenue by selling your products, offering related products and services or by doing both. These partnerships allow both you and your partner to grow.

These relationships will look different for each company and for each channel manager-partner pair involved, but they all have some things in common. These are actual relationships with actual people. 

First, your channel partners aren’t a faceless company that you can ask to sell your products, but are actual people with their own interests and motivations. You have to get to know your channel partners on a personal level. Due to current circumstances, this relationship building will look different than in the past, but there are still ways to get to know your channel partners. Events such as virtual happy hours and virtual coffee meetings can help you get to know your partners better and start building a good relationship. 

Second is consistently supporting your partners. Some channel managers schedule weekly check-ins with their partners while others do one every two weeks. Those regular, consistent check-ins allow you to catch up with your partners, answer any questions and resolve any issues. Sometimes, this also involves your channel managers sitting in partner’s sales meetings and helping to assist in forming a sales or marketing strategy. 

As you can see channel partner relationships take a lot of work. Once you’ve built that relationship with your channel partners, you have to maintain it. 

But what happens if your current channel manager leaves? Your partner may not want to work with a new channel manager, may think that the previous channel manager was better or may even follow the old channel manager to their new company. Your new channel manager will have to start the relationship from scratch. 

What happens when your current channel manager leaves?

For many people this is a familiar scenario. Your current channel manager found a better opportunity elsewhere, went on maternity leave, moved to a different part of the country, got promoted, ect…whatever the reason, you now need a new channel manager.

 Here’s the problem. 

Your new channel manager won’t know how to work with your partners from Day 1. They’ll need some time to get up to speed. But, you and your partners don’t have that time. So how do you ramp them up quickly? 

How to quickly ramp up your new channel manager

You need a process that’s both efficient and comprehensive. This will minimize disruption and ensure a smoother transition from one channel manager to another. But what do you need in this process? Building relationships takes time and effort but there are a few things you can do to bring your new channel manager up to speed.

  1. Understand the partner

 The very first thing your channel manager has to do is understand the partner. They need to know the partner’s strengths and weaknesses, what products they offer and their history. They also need to know what kinds of opportunities the partner wants and any issues that could prevent them from capitalizing on those opportunities. 

Your new manager should spend as much time with the partner as possible in order to understand them and their business. This can be through having regular conversations with the partner or shadowing them during their day to day. This gives your partner a good first impression of your new manager and gets their relationship off to a good start.  

  1. Have consistent partner expectations

Share your partner program information with your new manager. Ensure that they know what your company expects from your partners. What are your metrics to measure partner engagement? How do you track those metrics? Share that information with them. Doing so brings your new manager’s expectations in line with your partners and minimizes any confusion that may occur. 

  1. Give them their partner data

Unless you assign your new manager a new partner, you’re giving them a partner who’s been with you for a while. What campaigns did that partner run?  How many times did they meet with their previous channel manager? Do you have a history of their activities that you can give your new manager? Your new manager will need to know all of these things. Make sure to give them access to this data. This will allow your new manager to familiarize themselves with your partner’s history with your company and see how they can help your partner succeed. 

  1. Communicate your expectations for them

While you have to ensure that your expectations for your partners are consistent and communicated to your new manager, you also need to communicate your expectations for them. How many partners will they work with? Are they expected to help recruit partners? What type of guidance will you give them? You probably went over this in the hiring process, but it doesn’t hurt to go over it again. 

How xAmplify helps ramp up your new channel manager

xAmplify is a PRM+TCMA platform. It has all the features you’ll find in your typical PRM combined with the automation features of a TCMA platform. 

The platform tracks your partners’ activity within the platform and with our new team update, makes it easier to ramp up your new channel manager. Your new manager will be able to see your partner’s history with you and get a sense of their strengths and weaknesses. 

When you ramp up a new channel manager, you can ease the transition by giving your new manager access to the same information that the previous channel manager had. This can be done by assigning the new channel manager to the same group as their predecessor. The new manager will then be able to see the partner’s history on the platform and any notes that the previous manager had taken. This will get them up and running. 

Schedule a demo to learn more.

Conclusion

Channel partnerships are mutually beneficial relationships between you and your channel partners. You get to expand your market reach and gain revenue while your channel partners get more customers and revenue. These relationships are also personal relationships between channel managers and partners and take time to build. 

When channel managers leave, it’s difficult for new managers to rebuild that relationship. It also takes time to ramp them up. To make that process faster, you need to ensure that your partner expectations stay consistent. You also need to make sure your expectations for your new channel manager are communicated clearly. Finally, you need to ensure that your new manager has access to all the necessary information and systems they need to get up to speed. 

Do PRMs Still Work for Today’s Channel Landscape?

In our previous post, we talked about what PRMs were and the benefits of using them. However, with the channel landscape changing, do PRMs still give you the same benefits or is it time to try something different? In this post, we discuss how your partners actually use PRMs, the challenges of the modern channel landscape and what tools your partners might need now. 

How PRMs are actually used

When you check your partners metrics in your PRM do you notice a trend? Are your partners excited early and logging in frequently but then dropping off? Have they complained that your PRM can’t find information, there isn’t anything new, implementing marketing plans is challenging? For a lot of vendors, this is a familiar scenario. 

PRMs are meant to improve your partners’ productivity as they provide the material needed for partners to sell a vendor’s product. But in reality, partners spend hours trying to find the material they need and even more trying to figure out what they should be doing with it. 

The modern channel landscape

The channel landscape has come a long way since the 1990’s. Products take less time to implement and partners are starting to switch from being resellers to managed service providers, who offer support and best practices for their customers. These providers become consultants for their customers, providing information about the products their customers are interested in and helping them find the best fit for their needs. 

Customer demands are changing at a rapid pace and the successful companies are the ones who can keep up. This involves actively collaborating and eliminating friction areas with partners to seize new opportunities, drive growth and generate revenue.

The easier companies can make marketing their products for partners means greater activations and more companies selling their products and services. Key ways they can do this by co-branding, co-selling, complete marketing plans and automation. A typical PRM just isn’t designed for this type of collaboration. 

Going beyond a PRM

Today’s companies need to use platforms that are intuitive and easy for their partners to use. It needs to have the best features of a PRM, while making it easy to market and co-sell. This tool is a combined PRM and Through Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) platform.

TCMA platforms enable companies to send campaigns and other marketing messages through their partners instead of just handing the messaging to partners and expecting them to figure it out for themselves. These platforms let companies easily and quickly collaborate with partners as partners can add their own material to their vendor’s campaigns. They also allow partners to easily leverage their own networks through the integrations they offer. 

A combined PRM and TCMA platform enables partners to find everything they need in one place. It contains both the benefits of a PRM and the automation of a TCMA platform enabling a partner’s workflow to be seamless. Partners get to learn about their vendor’s product, then use that information to better market their services in co-branded campaigns.  

Here at xAmplify, we were partners once. We thought PRMs were outdated and weren’t designed for how channel partnerships were evolving. That’s why we built xAmplify.

Our platform offers

  • Cross channel and partner activity tracking

Our platform provides detailed and comprehensive analytics on how your partners are using marketing campaigns and the downstream metrics for those campaigns. Plus you get to compare activity across partners. 

  •  Co-branded campaigns 

When you send your campaigns through your partner, our platform automatically inserts your brand and your partner’s logo into video, email, social, event and landing page campaigns. 

  • Seamless syncing with Salesforce

Leads, deals and activity automatically syncs your CRM without any manual entry or customization. 

To learn more about our platform, schedule a demo

Conclusion

PRMs have their place. They’re excellent for storing marketing and sales materials and training partners. They are not designed for the future of the channel sales. PRM +TCMA platform is designed for evolution. These platforms are built for collaboration, marketing and sales. 

Two Ways to Minimize Channel Conflict

Channel conflict is common. It happens when a partner or vendor’s interests come into conflict with another party’s interests. This is seen when one partner tries to poach another partner’s prospect, when pricing differs, when one partner finds out that the other is getting a better deal from their vendor, etc. While channel conflict won’t disappear, deal registration and other methods can help minimize it. 

Prospects are potential customers. They bring the money while partners and vendors offer a product that solves an issue they have. Prospects are so important that people fight over them constantly

Partners usually find prospects through their own network, through referrals, through their own marketing and through other sales and marketing techniques. However, it’s common for two or more partners to go after the same prospect. This often leads to channel conflict. 

What is Channel Conflict?

Channel conflict occurs when two or more partners bring the same prospect before the vendor. Who does the vendor give the commission to? Is the vendor’s direct sales team also after the prospect? How is the vendor supposed to navigate this? It’s complicated and there are no easy answers….if there even is an answer. 

So what do you do? Aside from trying to solve channel conflict, you can try to prevent it. But like trying to solve channel conflict, that’s also incredibly difficult to do. However, instead of trying to prevent it completely, you can try to minimize it. 

P.S. For more on Channel Conflict, see our previous post, Channel Conflict: The Ultimate Standoff – Can It Ever Be Solved?

Deal Registration and Transparency

While channel conflict won’t disappear completely, there are two ways to minimize it. 

  1. Deal Registration

Deal Registration is an important part of how partners make money. It’s a way for them to share leads and deals that they’re developing for their vendors. This process minimizes channel conflict because once a deal is approved, the partner has a certain amount of time to work the deal without interference from anyone else. Once that period of time has expired, then that lead is available for someone else to work. 

This process works because vendors can enforce that period of time. If another partner approaches a vendor with the same deal, the vendor can easily check to see who registered the deal first. The vendor can then enforce consequences for the partner that didn’t register the deal first. These consequences can range from the loss of money to ending that partner’s relationship with the vendor. 

  1. Transparency

Partners talk to each other. They compare notes. They talk about you. It’s in your best interest to be transparent about who you work with and why. 

Transparency involves clear communication. Communicate with your partners on a regular basis. Make any restrictions you have on region, market, product adjustments, etc….clear. Be clear about your expectations for the relationship and your goals for the partnership.

Communication is key to a good business relationship and channel partners need to trust that they’re playing on a level playing field. 

Transparency also applies to data. Do you know what your partners are doing with the content you give them? How many campaigns are they sending out? What are the open rates? 

Knowing this type of data will ensure that you know how engaged your partners are and which partners may need more support. You’ll be able to see which partners are registering the most deals, sending you the most leads and if they’re not a top tier partner, you  may decide to move them up. You’ll also be able to determine which partners need additional training in your product. If some of your partners have downloaded your quick start guide 10 times, then it might be time to schedule an additional training session on the product. 

You’ll be able to predict how specific partners will handle specific types of campaigns. For example, your partner on the East Coast gets good results with the video campaigns you send them while your partner on the West Coast handles email campaigns really well. In this case, you’ll want to give more of your video campaigns to your East Coast partner while giving the email campaigns to your West Coast partner. 

Knowing how many campaigns your partners have sent out, their open rates and other associated metrics gives you greater insight into what your partners do with the content you send them. This enables you to make better, more informed decisions and allows you to understand how your partners market your product. 

Conclusion

Partnerships are critical to your business and it’s important that your channel partners have a clear understanding of what markets and geographic boundaries and other qualifications they might be working under in representing your brand.

It’s imperative that you recognize that keeping the channels of communications open with your partners is essential. Establishing guidelines and setting expectations will go a long way in minimizing partnership conflicts. At the end of the day, treat your partners with respect, settle disagreements quickly and fairly and you’ll find that these actions will improve your relationships and business. 

Keep It Simple for Partners

Channel partners are typically small to medium sized businesses that don’t have the resources that a larger company would have. Partners wear multiple hats in their company. They sell, support, and help make sure customer satisfaction is high. Like most small business owners they are stretched thin while working hard to run and grow their business. In contrast, vendors are typically larger companies and have the resources and expertise to easily leverage their networks to market and sell their products. 

All too often, vendors will hand their partners marketing content and leave them to figure out the rest. Partners don’t have the time to figure out what to do with the material with all the responsibilities they have. Partners can help you scale, but you need to make working with your business simple and easy for your partner. 

Ways to keep things simple for partners

Easier Access to Training Materials

Give your partners easier access to your training materials. Did you send them a Dropbox link to all of your training documents?  Did you send them an email with links to training videos on YouTube? If your training materials are in multiple places, your partners will lose them. That’s why it’s important to consolidate all of your materials in one place such as a PRM. A PRM is designed to store all of your material and resources in one place. Your partners will be able to easily find the document they need or the video they want to send a prospect instead of having to sort through their email to find an attachment or a link. 

Provide Resources

It’s also important to give your partners resources that benefit them. Like you, your partners are constantly looking to improve how they do business. Give them resources on how to market on Instagram, on how to claim their business on Google. By giving them these resources, you’re showing that you’re showing them that you care about their business which leads to better relationships with your partners.

Clear Messaging

Also don’t forget to be clear and consistent with your messaging. Your partners need to know exactly what they can expect from your partner program. They need to know what happens to their leads once they hand them over to you. If you don’t give your partner this information, they won’t trust you. If your partners don’t trust that you have their best interests in mind, they’ll go to your competitor. 

Your messaging about your product also needs to be consistent. You can’t give one partner completely different product messaging from another. There will be some variation in your messaging due to region, language, ect…but the key points of the message should remain consistent among your partners. 

Remove Obstacles

Finally, one of the best ways to keep it simple is to remove any obstacles that could prevent your partner from selling your product. Give them sales decks, product demos, ect. This makes it incredibly easy for your partner to start selling your product right from the start. 

Key Points

  • Give your partners one central place where they can access all of your resources
  • Give your partners resources that benefit their business
  • Communicate with your partners 
  • Remove obstacles allowing your partners to immediately start selling

Example: Nextiva’s CoNEXtion

Nextiva an award-winning cloud-based communication company with more than 100,000 customers relies heavily on partnerships to do business. To keep it simple for their partners, they launched Nextiva CoNEXtion Partner Demand Suite for their self-service partners. This suite contained everything their partners needed to sell Nextiva’s products such as a marketing automation tool, marketing strategy tips, and more. 

The suite made it easy for Nextiva’s partners to find what they needed. They were immediately able to start generating demand and deals. Partners were able to understand how they fit into Nextiva’s marketing strategy and how they would benefit. 

In addition, Nextiva’s channel marketing team wasn’t overwhelmed with requests for help as they had been previously. They could focus their efforts on continuously engaging their partners and helping them follow up after their initial campaigns had been sent. 

For more on how Nextiva kept it simple for their partners, check out our case study.

Conclusion

Keeping things simple for your partners lets them start selling immediately. It also improves your relationship with your partners and makes their lives much easier. You can keep things simple by communicating your terms clearly to your partners. You should also keep your product messaging consistent. Finally, giving your partners plenty of resources and keeping those resources in one place is essential. 

xAmplify’s through-channel marketing automation helps keep things simple by combining all the features of a PRM with an out-of-the-box marketing automation platform. Our platform makes it easy for your partners to share your content with their prospects in just a few clicks.

Schedule a demo to learn more.

Free Book, No Catch, Limited Quantity

Ronnell Richards’ Shut the Hell Up and Sell book helps business owners learn effective and innovative sales techniques. He also discusses the lessons he has learned during his lengthy sales career and how anyone can level up their sales game.

Great resource to share with MSPs, Resellers and other Partners.