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Ask the Relayware Expert: John Benecke, CFO

Channel partner engagement = alignment + involvement.

Relayware Partner Relationship Management

Ask the Relayware Expert: John Benecke, CFO

On Channel Engagement

Question: How can channel managers get more from their channel partners – engage them more?

Benecke: I start with the premise that engagement is not something you can DO. Partner Engagement, like employee engagement is an outcome of high levels of partner involvement and close partner-vendor alignment.

Question: Fair point. How do you define engagement?

Benecke: Engagement is the magic that manifests itself in extra-role behaviors and extends to all forms of the partner going the extra mile, delivering the discretionary effort. You can get a sense of partner engagement by measuring those behaviors. For example, seeing how active your partners are.

Question: How do you define alignment and involvement as it relates to channel partner relationships?

Benecke: Alignment is consistency between the vendor and channel partner across a broad range of dimensions, including brand, product, pricing and the way we do business. There are lots of ways to try to determine that alignment when assessing your partner network, some of which are easy to determine…and other less so. Examples include; do you have similar business models (similar sales call points, value versus volume etc.) Are the two organizations brands compatible? Are the deals that are important to them the same deals as are important to you? Do you agree on the definition of customer success? When these answers line up, you are aligned with your channel partner.

To amplify the point by way of rather extreme example - it’s fair to say that Harley Davidson is not aligned with Dollar General. Harley Davidson would never sell its motorcycles through the Dollar General, because the two companies are not aligned in any of the ways I just mentioned.

Involvement is often the thing that people use to define engagement, often because it is easier to measure. For example - how often are your channel partners coming to your partner portal or how often are you providing them with new resources – but involvement can go much further. For example, how often are you listening to your partners? Do you have a mechanism for feedback? Are you sharing your product development roadmap ideas with them? These are the ingredients for high level of partner involvement.

Question: How should vendors go about finding deeply aligned channel partners?

Benecke: I’m not sure you can “find” deeply aligned partners. You can only find those with a high potential, but the rest is down to you. It’s like marriage. It’s not about finding the right partner, it’s also about being the right partner. It is a two-way street that requires the vendor to actively encourage involvement and ensure alignment. If either of those falls away (for example if you are not refreshing your portal content or stop listening to partner feedback, and as a consequence involvement drops), you will lose their engagement.

Question: How do you measure channel partner engagement?

Benecke: I would prefer to see people focused on measuring the inputs into the equation. After all, what gets measured gets managed, and by measuring the inputs of involvement and alignment you can get a list of actionable items that you can do something about as a business. Get those measurements up, and in turn you get engagement.

Question: Any final advice on what to do when channel partner engagement is low?

Benecke: “The beatings will continue until engagement improves.” (laughs). There is such an opportunity for businesses to accelerate their revenue growth when they have a high performing, engaged channel ecosystem. If things aren’t going well – or even if things or going okay, it means you are leaving a lot of money on the table. Your channel is a great mirror to hold up to get feedback on your business. When their performance starts to dip, ask yourself if you are doing enough to help them be successful and look how what actionable items you can do to drive engagement and unlock that discretionary effort for your customers.

For more on engagement, check out our 8 tips for Collaboration. Click here and download.

John Benecke, Relayware CFO

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