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Ask the Expert, Gawain Claridge

The age old question “Which partners can deliver the growth I need?” is still important today

Relayware Partner Relationship Management

Ask the Expert, Gawain Claridge, Relayware VP of Cloud and Customer Service

On Channel Partner Programs Today

Question: What are the most common issues that you see channel managers facing?

Claridge: Once we have installed and deployed a customer’s channel program management solutions, my team and I ensure the health of their program over their lifetime with Relayware. I have been with Relayware for 10 years, and there are several issues that we see over and over.

Firstly, onboarding problems are fairly common – getting partners up and running. There is always tension between keeping the process light and capturing as much information as you can about the partner.

Also, channel partners are not necessarily IT savvy, even if they are working in the IT vertical. This creates snags for our customers.

Another always-present issue is the churn of both channel account managers as well as channel partner professionals. Once someone with knowledge and experience leaves, the company must train someone new. Re-initiation and education are never ending.

Question: What are your suggestions for addressing these issues?

Claridge: Education never ends. Keep reminding people how to accomplish tasks, keep educating everyone. Also, make the processes simple, so that onboarding is practically self-explanatory.

Question: What is the largest aspect of channel programs that you’ve seen change and evolve?

Claridge: What our customers need in terms of channel partner engagement has really changed. For example, incentive programs used to be very hot and important. Customers were very focused on helping their partner accrue points that led to prizes. Today, it’s all about rebates and cash on cards. These programs are managed very differently than they used to be.

Another big difference we see is that the size of the vendors that are engaging with channel partners is shrinking. It used to only be the big companies that were using partner relationship management (PRM) software, and even then it was typically only in the IT vertical that were looking into the systemization and automation of channel program processes. Today, mid-range, hyper-growth companies are using us to engage with their channel partners earlier in their own growth lifecycle and in a more mature way.

One other huge evolvement over the years is the way social media has become an essential ingredient of channel partner engagement.

Question: Over these years, what’s stayed the same?

Claridge: The partner portal is still the centerpiece of vendor-partner engagement. There was a brief moment when some companies deemed the portal “old fashioned” and tried other ways of connecting with partners, but that didn’t last. And today, everyone realizes that a channel program needs a partner portal, especially as the partner portal is available on every device.

Also, channel managers have always struggled to identify the good partners – which ones are worth the time and investment and will grow as a result. The key is identifying the middle-performing channel partners who have the greatest potential to become high-performing partners. Historically, people looked at deal registration value but this only identifies your current star partners, not your rising stars. Through the portal, channel managers have access to more advanced measurements to determine the partners with the best potential. Who is visiting the portal, who is getting trained and certified, who attends events and webinars, who downloads the product guides, cheat sheets and battle cards. This larger picture enables vendors to better identify the partners who are doing okay and with only a little more will be doing as well as their best partners. I just realized that answer was really more about what has changed to deal with the age old question of “which partners can deliver the growth I need?”!

Check out our Channel Management in the Era of Social Technology white paper. Click here and download.